Tuesday, April 2, 2013

MTT Strategy - Early Stage: Tight is Right

Now that there's just a little over two months before the WSOP begins in Vegas this year, it's time for this lazy bug to get a little more motivated, organized, and, well, busy. I've decided to play in the $1000 NLHE Seniors event, which kicks off on 14 June at the Rio. The key to going deep in this tournament, me thinks, is playing solid, ABC, mistake-free poker. Don't get stupid or tricky.

 Uh, sure. That's easy to say. I know what "stupid" poker looks like, but just what the hell does "solid, ABC, mistake-free poker" actually mean?

 The answer, of course, is that it depends. In an MTT, the correct strategy strongly depends on the blind structure, the payout structure, and of course the opponents you play against (especially as compared to your own skills and abilities). It also depends on the current stage that the tournament is in.

The $1K Seniors event starts you out with T3,000 in chips and the blinds at a relatively low 25/25:

WSOP 2013 $1K Seniors NLHE Event, modeled in DD Poker
What this structure means I will begin with 3000/25 = 120 big blinds, which isn't technically deep stacked, but it's certainly a very playable stack size. Further, the blinds increase moderately slowly. These two facts in turn mean that a) there's plenty of time to wait for cards in the early stages; and b) there's plenty of post-flop poker to play. In other words, the trick seems to be to wait for good, solid playable hands in position (and fold lots of the marginal hands, even in position) and then bet them hard preflop, but really slow down and apply REDi postflop.

I also have really taken to heart Phil Gordon's advice that I mentioned here, in which he points out that stealing with hands as strong as ATo in the early stages of a deep stack event isn't really worthwhile. Similarly, Big Dog Pocket Fives, a big winning MTT coach, also believes in solid ABC tight poker early in big MTTs, with very little if any stealing and essentially no blind defense.  Fellow poker blogger Memphis Mojo, who has played in this particular WSOP event before, has echoed similar thoughts to me, stating:

With this structure, it's a huge mistake to make moves [early in the tournament]. Steady poker is the way to go. When I played, they had nearly 4000 entrants, so the winner got in the $650,000 range for first. If you make it to the second day, it's different.

Now, I'm not advocating playing the part of a super-nit in the early stages, but I think I am definitely advocating a somewhat tighter than normal (for me) approach to the game early on. Said another way, there is little upside, but lots of downside to getting too frisky on day one.

All-in for now...
- Bug


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