Sunday, May 26, 2013

Brokos v. Snyder, the Rematch

Just to confuse myself a little more in the run-up to the WSOP, I'm re-skimming Arnold Snyder's thought-provoking The Poker Tournament Formula II: Advanced Strategies, which is an excellent book about deep-stack MTT play. As I've mentioned before on this blog, Snyder turns conventional MTT strategy wisdom on its head in a number of ways, including a rejection of ICM, standard early survival strategies, and the actual $-value of tournament chips. I'm not 100% convinced of 100% of Snyder's advice, but I still highly recommend the book for anyone who feels their MTT game is stuck in neutral. This book definitely will make you think, especially when it comes to strategies on how you should be using your chips during battle.

And speaking of chips, one of the things that Snyder talks a lot about in the book is his classification of five distinct phases of a tournament:
  1. Stack Building. This is probably the biggest single departure from standard advice in a big PF MTT. Most experts (see this recent post here) tend to think of the early stages of a tournament as primarily a "survival" period. Snyder (and some pros like Erick Lindgren) take exception to this approach, instead advising active chip accumulation "while everyone else is sleeping at the table."
  2. The Minefield. Snyder says that the tourney field gets drastically thinned out during this phase (which in a $1K prelim event like the one I'm playing in starts around level 2). Short stack players start shoving all-in, often on stone-cold bluffs, and desperate players start calling all ins, often with marginal hands in a do-or-die attempt to double up. Snyder writes that this is a terrible time to have an average stack (or lower), especially if you go card dead. He also writes that this phase "lasts a hellaciously long time" in a deep-stack event. In a sense, Snyder advocates just surviving during this phase, keeping up with the blinds, and trying stay out of trouble.
  3. The Bubble. Snyder's main advice here is "start seriously accumulating chips again". He says that because so many players are just trying to squeak into the money at this point, and are "survival oriented," it's a great time for chip building. You do, however, have to watch out for the desperately short stacks, as they will still be in minefield mode and are willing to call shoves and 3bet AI more lightly.
  4. The Money. Per Snyder, this is a combination of Minefield (i.e., for the short stacks, who have made it into the money and now want/need a double up) and Bubble play (i.e., for the medium stacks who are trying to survive up through the pay-out structure into the higher prize money). Snyder advocates strongly that you pay very close attention to stack sizes and "desperation" levels of your opponents during this phase. Snyder's main philosophy for this phase is "Screw the next pay level. Go for the big bucks," which I think means it's OK to gamble it up a bit, as your goal is to make the final table.
  5. The Final Table. Snyder's advice for this phase (for those lucky enough to have made it this far) is actually akin to what the Guru used to teach his students for single table SnG strategy: Take the hill. I.e., because the payout structure is so weighted toward the top end, making even a one place higher finish is worth doing. Playing to win matters, but survival is also paramount until you're in the top 3 or 4, at which point you need to go for broke.
What's fascinating to me about this is how out of synch Snyder is with conventional tournament advice early in a tournament. Guys like Brokos advocate survival early on with a continual and gradual ramping up of both looseness and aggression; Snyder however says accumulate chips early on, then slow down, then ramp up, then slow down, etc.. Here's a little graphic I ginned up to illustrate:

I am still planning on employing Brokos' early stage conventional advice, but there might be something to how Snyder shifts up and down gears later in the tourney that is worth adding to my plan. Dunno for sure.

In any case, if you get a chance, I highly recommend Snyder's book, which is available both in print and electronic format (I actually own both versions). For what it's worth, here's a link where you can read further reviews about the book: The Poker Tournament Formula II: Advanced Strategies.

Oh, and WSOP is now less than three weeks away...holy crap.

All-in for now...

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