Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stupid/System 011: Atypical Poker Tournaments

Note: This post originally appeared in Full Tilt Poker's Poker From The Rail blog. It's reprinted in full on The_Goat_Speaks for the first time, in order to A) allow readers whose work blocks Tilt to read this very important groundbreaking work, and B) make it look like I'm posting without actually doing any work.

Anyway, go to Poker From The Rail, even though you will run into a lot of my poker writing there It's good, it's fresh, it's organic, and it is reasonably priced.

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Not all tournaments are created equal. This may come as a surprise to some of you that haven’t been playing Texas No Limit Hold Them for as long as I have (since 2005), but it is true. I mean, sure, yes, you may well be familiar with the typical, meat-and-potatoes garden-variety online poker tournament, where the leisurely fifteen-minute blinds and the 1500 starting chips allow for lots of advanced play (like the min. raise, the triple check-call, and the early position limp). It’s quite possible, I admit. Oh yes. I admit it.

But did you know that there were a whole other variety of tournaments out there for you to sink your fangs into, if you are a wolfman, or possibly Dracula? Even if you don’t have fangs, you can still easily play any number of tournaments whose differences from the norm result in novel changes to structure and optimal strategy in this game we love. [1]

What are these types? You know, I was hoping you’d ask me that. Let me go read some poker books, and then I’ll tell you.

OK, I’m back. Here is a complete listing of the atypical tournament types, along with a few notes for optimal play.

The Turbo. This is a hold ‘em tournament in which the blind levels go up much faster. In fact, every five seconds, somewhere in this country, a blind level is going up — a sobering statistic unless you are drunk on tequila, in which case God bless you. Have you ever been at a tournament, bored and wishing that you could be in that magic part of the tourney in which you might plausibly call off all your chips with Ace-rag without being called a bad name? Good news! This tournament starts there. A lot of people disparage turbos, saying that they are nothing but coin flips, but the truth is that if you are a top player, you can use your edge to lose a lot of money really quickly. Optimal play: A lot of people will recommend that you do something called “opening up your range” [2]. That’s fine, but my recommendation to you is probably a little different than that. I think that, given how quickly you see people bust out of these things, you’d do a lot better to just fold every single hand and try to see if you can squeeze into the money by doing nothing. As I write this, I’m furiously buying in to hundreds, if not thousands, of turbo tournaments, and then just closing the window. I’ll just let those tables do my earning FOR me. It’s flawless. Get in on this!

The Rebuy. In most hold ‘em tournaments, if you lose your chips, you’re done. In a rebuy, it’s quite the opposite. You can just buy right back in! This is an awesome thing. What this basically means is that a rebuy becomes an endurance competition much like that found in Stephen Kings novella The Long Walk, since the only reason to stop playing is if you get too tired to go on or run out of money. When these things get heads-up, they can go on FOREVER since there is a lot of money on the line. [3] Many times these matches are only resolved when one of the players dies from hunger. Optimal play: Obviously, I would bring some Red Bull, a sandwich, and something to relieve myself in. Also, clear your calendar for a few months.

Short-Handed. This is a hold ‘em tournament for dwarves. Those stubby little fingers need specially-sized chips. Optimal play: First, be a dwarf. Then, master hold ‘em. After that, this should be pretty easy.

The Satellite. This is a tournament where the prizes are not cash, but rather entry into a larger tournament. It’s a cheaper way to try to get into one of the large buy-in tournaments. Optimal play: All in every hand. Scare people. Yell while you do it, this might help.

The Matrix. In this kind of hold ‘em poker tournament, you have to learn to become absolute master of your surroundings before grim men in matching suits and sunglasses come and shoot you into raspberry jelly. Then you learn to fly and the next two movies just absolutely suck. [4] Optimal play: The first thing to realize is that the world around you is an illusion. Then, become aware that there is no spoon. Then I’d probably use a lot of aggression near the bubble.

The H.O.R.S.E. This is a hold ‘em tournament that isn’t even hold ‘em. I don’t really know what’s going on, but I’d use the horse to ride right out of Dodge. Sometimes the best hand doesn’t even win, and this isn’t even Ultimate Bet. Optimal play: Are you kidding me? This isn’t even Hold ‘Em! WHY WOULD YOU PLAY THIS? ARE YOU MENTALLY ILL?

The Knockout. This is a hold ‘em tournament where you get a little bit of money every time you knock somebody out of the event. I’ve tried petitioning to collect the bounty on myself many times, to no avail. That’s just a travesty. I mean, if I call all in on the river with nine-high and nothing else, who should get the credit? Me or the other guy? It’s discrimination against call-tards, I tells you. Optimal play: Take any chance, no matter how statistically improbable, to bust somebody. The bounty pretty much means you’re priced in. Remember, tournament chips just represent fake money, but a bounty is REAL money.

The Mookie. This is just like a hold ‘em tournament, but Ace Jack never loses. Optimal play: Don’t know about you, but I’d really play Ace Jack like a LOT.

The Shootout. This is a poker tournament that is played heads-up all the way through. I don’t need to tell you that this is fantastic, since your goal in an MTT is to get heads-up, and you’re already there. Frankly, I don’t know why anybody plays anything else. You’re guaranteed second place money, and that’s the worst-case scenario.

The Fiesta Bowl. This is a hold ‘em tournament where everybody plays until somebody has all the chips, and then two first place prizes are assigned. One is determined by a computer algorithm that takes into account such details as your performance in other unrelated tournaments, your shoe size, lifetime bass fishing results, and ability to swim. The other is just a vote by the rail and other poker writers. After that, corporate sponsors get all the money. Optimal play: I’d try for the votes. Just really be a popular guy. Nobody knows what on earth that computer program is doing.

The “Live” Tournament. Poker isn’t just a game that’s played on the internet anymore! Its popularity can really be tracked by the number of “live” tournaments that have sprung up in recent years, which allow the players to actually face each other in real life and use real chips just like the ones you see represented by pixels online! There are a number of complexities to this, but most people agree that it is really nice not to have a chat box at the final table. Will “live” poker last, or just be another passing poker fad, like hologram sunglasses or Jamie Gold? Only time will tell. Optimal play: Don’t look for the slidebar when you are making a bet. This is known as a “tell”. Also, in live poker, it is considered a bad idea to offer to fight somebody who has just won a pot off of you, unless you are bigger than them.

The Short-Handed Knockout Turbo Rebuy. This is illegal according to the Geneva convention, because the only reason for it to exist is to screen a nation’s citizens. Anybody who signs up for this is fit only to be sent across live minefields to “clear” them for the army. That’s why “sappers” uses the root word “sap”, by the way. It’s knowing little facts like this that ensure that I continue to make the big [5] bucks. Optimal play: I would dodge and weave a lot while crossing the mine field, and keep your distance from everybody else.

Now that you know all of the varieties that are available to you, what are you waiting for? Try them all! Get the commemorative plates!

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[1] Poker.
[2] This is an old Texas term, meaning “get more head of cattle.”
[3] Poker trivia: The first WSOP Main Event was a rebuy that started in 1970, and is still going on between the estates of the players involved.
[4] Seriously, what the hell was that? Those were the satires of the original, right? They wasn’t the true sequels, right?
[5] Medium.

[© 2008 Julius Goat. Cover Image by Mookie “Big O” Pokeroom]

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