Poker Words - A Poker Blog

Mostly a recount of my poker exploits along with a bunch of random other stuff just for fun.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Using Odds in Tournament Play

Every once in while, I check Google news to see if there are any main stream poker articles that haven't already been picked up by the other bloggers. For some reason earlier this week the results included this article written by Phil Helmuth from Card Player magazine's 2002 archives, and I thought it was interesting. In the article Phil talks about a specific hand in the $10,000 buy in World Poker Open event. In this hand he had KQs and flopped an open ended straight flush draw. He calls a small bet, then decides to fold after getting raised all-in. Before folding, he calculates that he is probably ahead in the hand, and that worst case he is an 11-10 dog, to win the hand and at best case a 3-2 favorite. So why lay that hand down? He got a pretty good chance at doubling up, why not take a shot at it? Nearly every pro on hand was surprised by his lay down, and claimed they would have all called the hand.

Phil goes on to explain that he didn't want to risk all his chips and tournament life on a draw, unless he was a much higher favorite. He figured it was still relatively early in the tournament and he had time to wait for someone to make a mistake. Shortly after that hand he goes all-in preflop with KK against QQ, and doubles up, then goes on to place 17th overall.

The lesson here is that even though you may be the favorite in a hand, that doesn't always mean you should make a call in tournament play. In a ring game, when the pot odds are in your favor, you can make this call every time. If you lose, you can always dig back into your bankrole to buy in again. In the long run, you'll end up ahead. In a tournament setting, if lose this bet, you are busted out of the tournament, and you don't get a chance to let the odds swing back in your favor. You're done. You have to consider if the chance of doubling up is worth not just losing the chips you bet, but your entire tournament stake.

This is probably something that I need to be more aware of in my play. In a number of my recent tournament losses, I have correctly put an opponent on marginal hands when they go all in. Usually, it is when someone is short stacked, and they just took a bad beat or lost a huge pot. They'll go on tilt and go all in with just about any face card. So, I've been calling in this situation, and usually end up being the favorite in the hand. The problem is that all too often, I end up losing this battle, and putting myself in a much less favorable spot in the tournament. I'm finding out the hard way, that it's not always worth it to keep the short stack honest when he tries to steal some blinds. If I'm just patient enough, sooner or later, he'll make a mistake and push all in when I am a much higher favorite, and since I'm the one with the chips, I can afford to wait for that time.

On the other side of this, you can't always wait until you are a 4.5:1 favorite like Phil did. Sooner or later the blinds are going to get you. The later it gets in a tournament, and the fewer chips you have, the less able you are going to be to wait for the perfect hand.


At 3:05 AM, Blogger John Stephens said...

Before you go all in, its good to know whether the odds are stacked against you.
Thanks for sharing.
poker tips


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