Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book it, Snyder

As I wrote here, I've decided to start re-reading Arnold Snyder's book The Tournament Poker Formula 2, which focuses on larger buy-in, higher PF tournaments like the WSOP MTTs. I did just that on a recent airplane flight I took across the Pacific. The first time I tried reading this book, I found it a tough go because Snyder stands conventional wisdom on its head, and asked the reader to abandon a lot of ideas that I, frankly, had previously fully embraced and believed. In a sense, it was hard to let these ideas go, keep an open mind, and really read Snyder's words.

But this time I think I'm able to keep that open mind, and, frankly, I'm becoming a convert. Like his first book, this is an excellent, thought provoking book that marches to it's own beat. Snyder isn't afraid to call other poker authors out by name (e.g., David Sklansky) and argue that they're completely wrong in their analyses of poker tournaments, especially when it comes to chip-EV (cEV) and the whole Independent Chip Model (ICM) approach to developing a tournament strategy. I have to say I was skeptical about these claims at first, because, well, we're talking about David Freaking Sklansky. How can he possibly be wrong? 

Snyder contends that thinking about the cEV of a tournament chip is silly.  Assigning a monetary "worth" to each chip can lead you to erroneous conclusions that hamstring you from accumulating those chips. You become more focused on conserving your stack than building. Instead, Snyder argues, you need to think of tournament chips as "ammunition," which means that the more of them you have, the more can do with them. If you've got only one bullet, you have to be really careful with it, and use it only in the best possible situation. But if you have two bullets, suddenly you have two or more options at your disposal, so it's more valuable to gain chips than conserve them. In other words, a bigger stack allows you to cbet, bet for info*, fire multiple barrels, etc., which in turn means you can use more of your poker skills than if you have a shorter stack. He calls this concept "chip utility," and the logical conclusion of assuming this is that a chip won is worth more than a chip lost. This is obviously the opposite conclusion if one employs the ICM approach to MTTs.

Snyder also draws clear distinctions between cash and MTTs, and thinks that "math heads" as he calls them don't appreciate this fact enough, and that they spend too much time focused on pot odds and such, instead of focusing on chip utility and the desperation factors of your opponents.. He also says there is a difference between poker skills and tournament skills that matters a lot in these analyses, and writers like Sklansky and the authors of books like Kill Phil don't fully understand or appreciate these differences.

I'm only four chapters in, but by the time I return home early Saturday morning I will have finished this book. I enjoy having my personal envelope pushed by writers like Snyder, and this book is thus far chock full of gold.
All-in for now....
*Snyder also argues against another long-held belief of this Bug that betting for information is OK. While I still don't believe it's a valid reason to bet in a cash game, Snyder does make a reasonable argument that in tourneys it's fine to do. I'm still not fully sold on this one, but I am thinking... and this is always a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Eric Lindgren on TV ask out loud (after another player moved all in over him) was he getting 2:1 if he called. It turned out he was, so he called and lost the pot. WRONG question. The right question is if I call and lose, what will my stack look like. If I fold, can I still win the tournament. These are the proper questions.