TOURNAMENT THEORY: Extending the Hand

One of the smartest offhand comments I’ve ever heard about poker came from my friend Mario Silvestri III. Old-school grinders will probably know him by another name – Pwnasaurus. Discussing poker one day he leaned back, reviewed a hand, and said, “I guess with low-stakes players I’ve always wanted to extend the hand.”

The words really stuck in my craw as I went throughout the day. It was one of the most perfect summations of No Limit Hold ‘Em I’d ever heard. It explained to me why I was always so eager to take weaker players to a flop. It makes perfect sense really: as you get deeper in the hand your experience and study is going to make your edge considerably greater. Your newer opponents have likely memorized some opening ranges. They know how to continuation bet the flop and get it in with a flush draw and top pair.

But what if that top pair becomes second pair on the turn? What if the flush draw doesn’t come in, and their equity is halved? Well, now they have a much more difficult problem. Imagining how your opponent’s range has been affected by a flop, turn, and varying bet sizes is much harder to compute when you’re starting. The river further complicates matters. All of this only becomes more daunting when you have to figure out how your equity goes into the calculation.

People generally make two mistakes on later streets if they’re ill-prepared: they call too much or fold too much. In previous sections we discussed what bets could be the impetus to both overreactions. What we should discuss here instead is how many people are actually weaker players on later streets: the vast majority of tournament poker players come up online in faster-paced tournaments. Their stacks rarely afford them the chance to play complex turn and river situations. From lack of practice they find themselves confused and defaulting to either “call” or “fold.” Find out which type of player they are. Disciplined regulars have made it a practice not to make big mistakes. Flashes in the pan, young men, and egotistical players never want to be shown up.

Create psychological profiles for all your guys. This is not easy. You need to make friends at the table with different players. If you’re online you need to keep a varied social circle. When you’re not playing try to understand as many ethnicities, nationalities, age groups, and personality types as you can. In order to find what page your opponent is on you must know what story they are living.

When you get to higher stakes and start playing with some players who have incredible talent postflop the strategy changes dramatically.

If you are playing against a great player it is advisable to make them fold

early. Tighten up, don’t let them corner you on later streets, and spring the trap in a spot where most people would never expect you to be bluffing. One great example of this is when the tightest player at the table cold 4-bet bluffs: the first aggressive reg opens, the second one 3-bets (having completely forgotten about the nit pipsqueak behind them), and then everybody runs like hell when the rock puts in a decent bet.

Another play we discussed previously was when the board comes three-to- one-suit. The first aggressive regular bets with too much of his range, the second one flats with third pair or better, and then when the “nit” check-raises big they both fold even their top pairs.

When there is a tight player at your table pay attention to him. What bets does he make that everybody runs from? Take those plays and use them. You already have a few examples above. Make your own list with those two ideas at the top, and steadily add to it.

Furthermore, what are the mannerisms that let you know a tight player is a tight player? In my experience, many come dressed well. Wealthy businessman often have money because they are so frugal with it, but they dress for success in their profession and carry that attitude to the felt. They line their chips in exact formations. They are well groomed. They make a big show out of folding constantly, because they want you to think they are less scared than they are. The really aggressive players fold as soon as they can, because they want to dispel their image.

Imitate the recreational players. I won a live tournament once dressed like a rich kid. Eventually people figured out I was a professional, but the number of people who folded to me before that was staggering.

If you’re playing online always pay attention to what your statistics say of you as a player. Many professionals only have time to look at the statistics they have on you that day. Most of them won’t have previous hands on you. If your readout lists you as a 12/10 with a 3% 3-bet then start taking advantage of your image and make some big bet bluffs. Have fun with launching the “sneak attack.” Don’t be imitated. It is a game after all.

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