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/Apr/2015

The Chipleader and I

By: Andromeda284 @ 17:19 (EDT) / 457 / Comment ( 0 )

Within the casino walls of the Binion’s Horseshoe, a major poker tournament was taking place. This tournament was the World Series of Poker, and the year was 1982.
It was at this main event that a ‘highly respected, upper-limit’ poker player from San Antonio (Texas) made his mark in the history of poker: after losing a pot due to what seemed to be an “all-in”, Straus realised he still had a single $500 chip left!
Not only was this main event not over, but he made his way to the final table and won! That poker player was Jack Straus, a ‘chip and a chair’ was all he needed, and the rest as they say, is history!

 

The way in which a tournament begins doesn’t necessarily determine how it will end. When participating in MTTs, the goal is always to win 1st place. In 1982 Jack Straus has shown us that every chip counts, and this is applicable even today – from the micro-stakes tourneys to the most prestigious main events, those chips are the tournament ‘life-line’ and most importantly, the chip leader can change at any moment!

In a recent MTT I played, I managed to maintain an average stack size until at the late stage where I made a significant error which cost me a large percentage of my stack – basically, I was the short stack again!
However, with a little bit of luck and with some skills and concepts I’ve learned through PSO, I fought my way to the final table, but finally faced the one opponent I feared the most: The Chipleader!

The Road to the Final Table


Luckily, The Chipleader and I only crossed paths at the final table. Until then, during the early stages of this MTT I remembered the importance of discipline and patience as I took quite the standard approach:
1. Play tight
2. Observe table to identify patterns/tendencies of opponents
3. Keep open raises and bet sizes standard
4. Make notes on opponents if I think the information will help me later
5. Be aware of blind levels, stack sizes, average stack size, position etc.


In game, I tried to put into practice some of the concepts I’ve learned here in relation to playing as a short stack. One of the resources I have found particularly useful for my own development in poker is the Library feature here. An example of a useful session is “Managing Medium to Short Stack in MTTs” by Dave (TheLangolier): https://www.pokerschoolonline.com/articles/Session-13-Managing-Medium-to-Short-Stack-in-MTT-s

It is generally advised to adopt a push/fold approach when short stacked as this is the most efficient way to proceed and is the standard convention. I think that only having the option to fold or shove when short stacked helps to make decisions easier. However, choosing the right situations and opportunities is the challenging part!

This leads to my next point:
 

Choosing the Right Spots


In this MTT trying to maintain at least an average stack size, looking out for opportunities was a major factor in recovering from the ‘danger zone’ and accumulating chips. To help me select the right spots, I paid attention to the action on the table when not involved in a hand. The observations I noted were any betting tendencies and opponent’s hole cards when at showdown. This helped me determine their general playing style and get an idea about their range. This information helped me later to choose which players to enter a pot with or which ones I could exploit etc. Noticing which opponents folded frequently to 3bets or c-bets was also a significant factor in helping me to deduce when to bet or re-raise even if I didn’t have a great hand.

In addition, I looked out for unusual actions from players I had observed. This helped me to decide whether to make a call or raise where I would have otherwise folded. For instance, one of my weaknesses has been to fold to river bets, not knowing whether they really have something or not. By paying attention to bet-sizing, betting patterns, I have found these situations easier to deal with.


Minimising Mistakes


Poker is also about making the least possible mistakes. In order to do this, I ensured that throughout this MTT, when I wasn’t short stacked, I was keeping my bet sizes standard in order to conceal strength. Previous mistakes I’ve made in MTTs include limping pre-flop, not recognising strength by opponent’s betting patterns therefore ‘cold-calling,’ alternating between passive and aggressive lines, and playing too tight resulting in blinding down. Reviewing past hands and MTTs has helped me identify these weaknesses and produce an action plan in order to avoid them in the future (or at least try).
Each player has his/her own weaknesses and is therefore subjective. The advantage of reviewing past hands and MTTs is that in doing so, weaknesses or ‘leaks’ can be identified and put right.

Recovering from errors:


In my opinion, poker players are simply quite amazing; however they are not Super Man or Wonder Woman. Even poker players are only human, and humans make mistakes. If the mistake does not cause the end of our tournament life, then it’s vital to be able to recover from the error and at least try to continue the climb to the final table.


In the example below from this MTT I have made some (costly) errors, such as calling an “all-in” on the flop. Calling all-ins is another weakness which I am trying to overcome, however for now it still seems to be a recurring issue. Despite these errors, I still had approximately 20BBs which is approaching the ‘danger zone’ but not bad to work with.

Full Tilt NLHE, 25/50 Blinds (5 handed). 

MP (147), Button (857, Me SB (1925), BB (400), UTG (1465)

Preflop: My starting hand is  Action is: x2 folds, Button raises to 150, I call, x1 fold. 

Flop: Pot is 350, community cards are , there are 2 players, I bet 150, button raises 707 and is all-in, I call 557.

Turn & River: Pot is 1764, turn & river cards are 

Total Pot is 1764.and is won by opponent who had: 

 

Vis-à-vis


We started this final table with a variety of stack sizes – the smallest was 9BBs and the largest was none other than The Chipleader himself with 64BBs.
As for me, my performance went from bad to worse as after the fluctuations in stack sizes during the final table I literally lost more and more chips until I only had 6BBs left.

Yet there we were, face-to-face (or perhaps I should say “avatar-to-avatar”) heads-up. The Chipleader and I were the only players remaining. Of course, at this stage The Chipleader was a major threat! Nevertheless, even chipleaders can make errors and have tendencies which can be exploited.

After replaying the heads-up play in this MTT, I noted the following adjustments which helped me to defeat this super-villain:
1. Open with a much wider range
2. Take more aggressive lines
3. Being patient when choosing the right spots & looking out for opportunities to double up
4. Looking out for unusual action from my opponent.
5. Once I accumulated some chips so  that there wasn’t a significant difference between our stack sizes, I still only decided to enter pots where I was willing to go ‘all-in.’

 

Stay Focused, Stay Positive, Stay Strong!


Hopefully, in the future as I improve my poker skills I will make it to some more final tables.
During MTTs when errors are made sometimes it is difficult to recover especially if the mistake has cost us a large proportion of our stack.
Despite this,  it’s never too late to rectify a mistake, so never give up!
If ever in doubt, just remember Jack Straus who played his way to victory with...a chip and a chair

Until next time! 

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