Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Turbo MTTs: Staying Alive

I won another one of those 90 seaters on Tilt, which keeps me on my 15% win rate as well as a pretty sick 4 for 5 at final tables. It's a good run, and it has actually given me the sad delusion that I know what I'm doing in these things. If this continues, you may just keep getting the juice from my mind grapes on the topic.

So here's a thought: In a turbo on any of the poker sites, the conventional wisdom is to play a bit looser. The idea is that the blinds and antes go up so fast, it is best to get lots of chips or go home. The other idea is that everybody else is playing so loose that you should expand your range similarly to stay on top of your opponents' K2 pushfests.

I think this is true to a point. However I'd like to propose something a little bit different, at least on the double-stack tournaments that Tilt is running.

I think you should play tight for the first six levels or so, in fact just as tight as you would normally if your name were (say) Dan Harrington or (say) Poker Peaker. This is not to say that you should try to fold to the money, by any means. Still play based on position or odds, sure. But don't just take a poke with your KT because you've seen the donkey push with T7o. Wait. Play very few hands for the first hour.

The reasons are simple:

1) If everybody is playing loose, then you are likely to get paid just fine with your big pairs. There's really little reason to worry about getting a tight table image.

2) You have the ability to consider hand ranges? Cool. That doesn't put you alone in this group. But if you have patience? Oooh, now you are probably unique. Cultivate the habits nobody else has.

3) This is the big one: In the early to mid levels of a tournament (and especially in a turbo), survival is more important than chips.

Now, here's what I am not saying. I'm NOT saying that you don't greatly increase your chances of winning if you can amass a big chip stack. However, I most certainly AM saying that the bigness of a chip stack is a relative thing, and its value is very much on the sliding scale. An early chip stack is just not something that justifies risking early survival with the marginal hands you'd be playing if you widened your range. What's comprises a huge early chip stack? 7K? 12K? Great, so lets say you fall into that by skill or luck. By the time you near the bubble, that's simply not going to be much of a stack at all. In fact, you're probably going to have to put all your chips in the same as the player who has been patiently folding.

Here's another thing I am NOT saying. I'm NOT saying that you should continue this conservative attitude indefinitely. In fact, the only reason this would be worthwhile advice is if you: Think you can figure out when the blinds and antes are large enough to make your opponents tighten up, and shift gears accordingly. When you're down to 2 tables, you are going to want to have the skill to make weaker players pay with your aggression, and the luck to survive the inevitable confrontations. But you're not going to need that much more luck if you only have a little over your 3,000 starting stack than the person who is sitting on 8,000. 8,000 can crash and burn real quick, or can turn into a monster in a few hands late in a tourney. 3,000 can do the same. Obviously, eight is better than three, and you should play for chips throughout, but with only 90 runners to play through, you can find yourself pretty deep simply through patience and with a decent chance to make some noise.

What do you think? Have you found better results by loosening your range early in a tournament with wild play?


pokerpeaker said...


Julius_Goat said...

Heh. Sorry, Peaker. It is what it is. I did mean to at least thow you a link since I was calling you a tighty.

But I also put you in the same boat as Dan Harrington. That's something, right?

pokerpeaker said...

I'm OK with being compared to Dan Harrington.

yestbay said...

I agree that staying patient early is an optimal strategy in those tourneys. I will limp with drawing hands and small pairs a bit more often because of the deep stack, since there are the increased chances of getting paid off if you hit. Otherwise, I am probably as tight as, or tighter than, Peaker.

A lot goes back to the old adage, play the opposite of your opponents. If they are loose, tighten up. If they are tight, loosen up and go after them. This seems to work fairly well for me in the turbos.