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Climbing The Ladder

Where I'll post my journey from Chump, hopefully, to Champ
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I thought I'd start a series to pass on any knowledge that I've learnt that has helped my game. To make things easy for you this series will only be covering things that I'm confident are correct.

The first entry in this series is on Poker School Online's Open Skill League, or the OSL for short. Now I don't claim to be any good at winning money from poker, and one look at the Premier Skill League table shows you how badly I'm doing in there. But my record in the OSL speaks for itself. 3115th from just 15 tourneys in December, followed by 2 consecutive top 200 finishes in January and February respectively. There is where I'm successful, and now I want to pass on everything I've learnt so far.

#1 - Forget everything you know about poker

Okay maybe not everything,  but forget what you know about how to make profit playing tourneys.

In a standard tourney the majority of the payout is at the Final Table, especially the top 3 places. The profitable players take the risks to build up a large stack and the amount of money they make from making a Final Table far outweighs the loss from missing out on the money a couple of times, and they make more profit than the regular min cashers as a result.

In the OSL though, in fact in all 3 PSO leagues, using that strategy is suicide for your chances of topping the leaderboard. In these leagues, the aim is not to build up chips, but to survive as long as possible. Every place higher up you finish is good news. Where in a standard tourney one position could be the difference between cashing and not, in these leagues the points format is a lot more even. You'll get about the same points as the person out just before you. But if you finish 1000 places ahead of someone that could be worth as much as 15 points more.


#2 - You can lose points!

This is something that makes the PSO leagues different from most leagues. In most leagues you start on 0 points and earn points as the season goes on. In the PSO Leagues you start on 1500 points. Then, depending on your performance in each tournament you either gain points or lose points. 

The key number you need to remember is 25. Once you're down to the last 25% of a tourney, "exceptional circumstances" withstanding, that should earn you positive points.


#3 - Those "exceptional circumstances"

Getting to the point where these exceptional circumstances occur is a good thing. Why? Because it means you're scoring well. Once you're up to about 1850 points just making the Top 25% is rarely good enough for positive points. The higher up you get points wise, the harder it gets to improve that points tally. Once you're up to 2200 it gets as hard as getting "ITM" every tourney, and you need top 10% to get a positive score when challenging at the very top.

Obviously this does mean that when you have a lower score you could get positive points for as little as being top 30%, but I'd still stick to the aim of being in the top quarter of the field. It provides a nice barrier to aim for, occuring just before the first break.


#4 - So what's up with the ITM?

You may have noticed that sometimes the # of people getting a real money payout in a tourney sometimes changes, and seems very low. This is a very important thing to remember. the actual number of people "ITM" is a lot larger, at just under 15% of the field. However, because of the small Prize fund (just the $10 per event), a lot of the payouts are under $0.01. every person ITM that is in line for a prize of <$0.01 gets their prize money added to the winners. However, they do get the extra 3 points for making it ITM, which can prove important for them in the league standings.


#5 - The actual strategy

It may have already occured to you that in the OSL "tight is right". However, maybe not to the same extent as you need. because of how key survival is, in the first half hour I refuse to play anything other than KK+ (excluding of course if you're BB, get only limpers, then get a great flop). As the tourney goes on I gradually loosen up but not by much. Here's the strategy I tend to stick to (though even it is quite loose for the OSL):

AA, KK = from the off 

QQ = from half an hour in (play the Queens cautiously to begin with though)

JJ, AKs = on the hour mark

AQs, AKo = ITM/positive points, which ever comes last

TT, KQs, AJs, AQo = 2 hours in

As you can see that is very tight, but being nitty is most definitely a +EV decision in the OSL. It is especially important to not play hands like AKs too early as they will catch you out, which can be really annoying.


#6 - Blinding out

Blinding out is not the same problem in the OSL as it is in a standard tourney. In fact if you're card dead it may be the correct decision to let yourself get blinded out. If you get a really bad deal all the way through so don't play a single hand you can still make positive points with ease, sometimes even getting a top 20% finish if the field is excessively soft in that tourney. 

As a general rule, I don't worry about this happening too much, even if a top 20% finish isn't good enough for a positive score. Where in a standard tourney 15BB and lower is where you need to start looking for a spot to get your chips in, I don't even consider it in the same way until I'm down to 7BB and less. And even then with the slow blind levels you shouldn't panic too much. Even if you don't shove until you're in BB with less than a BB behind, a win could extend your tournament life by as much as 15 minutes, 15 minutes that could be worth 15 points in some cases.


Keeping these 6 points in mind, you should now be well prepared to succeed in the OSL. In a few weeks time (basically as soon as I finish it) I will be posting the full table of Key OSL thresholds in the Skill League forum, and I'll post a link to it in a blog post. But until then, that's all I have to help you.

GL at the tables, especially in the OSL.

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