Monday, April 8, 2013

Golden Guru Game Guidance

The Guru flew into town from the Philippines for a short visit this week (and boy are his arms tired). I had the opportunity to catch up with him this afternoon for an hour or so at a local coffee shop before he jets back out. As is usual when the two of us get together, we covered a lot of ground, from politics to corporate greed to welfare to friends and families. Included among all the topics was, of course, some poker talk. Specifically, the Guru gave me some advice for the upcoming WSOP:
  1. Look Left. Serendipitously, Andrew Brokos did a piece on this very topic recently (here). The Guru's own reasoning is that the action upstream of you is finished by the time it gets to you. I.e., you can slow down and replay it in your head once the action gets to you. The players to your left, however, haven't yet acted, so focus on their body language and any other tells you can pick up. Figure out what they're going to do. Stealing from those to your left can significantly chip your stack up, so focus on them.
  2. Fry the Fish. The idea with this one is to really focus on identifying the fish at the table, and then work on attacking them. "It doesn't matter where they sit," the Guru said, "steal from them." This advice compliments some podcast material I've been listening to lately, in which the general advice is to a) spot the fish; b) identify what kind of mistakes they're making; and c) exploit those mistakes over and over again until they change their habits. 
  3. Stay Ahead of the Blinds. Tight is right, but do not over do it. You need to stay ahead of the escalating blinds at all times. Be aware of when the blinds are going up and what your own M is and will be. Again, this echoes something I've read again in writings by Matt Matros, who has repeatedly said that the secret to winning a big tournament is simple: "accumulate chips." Sounds so simple, eh? Seriously, this also lines up with Snyder's advice on getting your chips into play and building a big stack so that you can have full chip utility. There is no greater MTT sin than getting blinded away.


  1. So I know this isn’t your most recent post, but that last sentence in this post has stuck with me, “There is no greater MTT sin than getting blinded away.”

    I feel that this is my biggest problem. I don’t have huge problems identifying good spots to bet/fold, etc, but where I do have problems is being “card dead” (to use an overused term).

    Do you have any advice, strategy books/articles that might help in this regard?


  2. Patrick, I've actually been working on a short piece that covers this exact topic, which I'll probably post later this week. (I'm about to take off on a 2-week long biz trip, so it'll be at least a few days for me to recover from the jet lag and get back into it... sigh)

    In any case, I think the most important thing is to keep track of your current M (or, what I do, just the number of big blinds in my stack). At a minimum, I'm forcing myself to do this every time the button passes me in live games, plus every time the blinds go up. Online, I have my HUD configured to show my M, so I know it precisely at all times.

    The second part of all this, of course, is to then start making moves before you get too desperate. My own rule of thumb is when I'm under 20 big blinds, I start opening up my range, and when I'm under 10, I'm actively looking for spots to get it in with good equity and/or good fold equity.

    Note, too, that I'll also post a little Bug Tip later this week on a Phil Gordon hand in which he's down to 8 big blinds and decides to *wait* for the blinds to go up. It's a weird one, but it actually makes some good sense.