For those of you unfamiliar with poker terminology a level is a reference to your blind level. The First and Second blind levels in PSO are 10/20 and 15/30 with the first number as the small blind and the second number as the big blind. In PSO levels last ten minutes so it will take twenty minutes total to get through the first two blind sets.
So what is so important about the first two levels. For good players and bad alike the first two levels will provide both an opportunity to win big and lose big even though the blinds are so small. What good players will do will use these first two levels to try to get an easy double up off a weaker player however there are many ways that average to good players fail at this task. Lets discuss the best way to play Level 1 and 2 without risking your whole chip stack as an early bust will cost you big points in the monthly competition.
Lets say you are in late position (meaning you are close to the button) and no players have acted before you and you have a nice suited connecter lets say JQs (Jack Queen Suited). Now you are most likely thinking raise would be your best choice however I like to just flat call the 20 chips with these hands so that if anyone left to act raises you can fold easily. You only have about a 30% chance of making any kind of playable hand and most likely you will catch only part of it maybe an open ender or a flush which will cost you more chips to call looking to catch. My recommendation is try to play as many pots as possible for 20 chips and then up to 60 chips (a 3x raise) if you have a strong playable hand. Don't try to catch against shove monkeys as you will most likely put more of your stack at risk than is necessary when you can wait for a better chance to bust them. Now lets say you flat called 20 and the BB puts 20 more in with a min raise go ahead and call since you know you will still be getting good odds to make a hand. So lets say that the flop comes JQQ and you get the total nuts. Now you would most likely think to check here to allow the aggressive “donk” to take a stab at it but in my opinion this is the wrong move. Set out a small steal bet lets say 2/3 pot maybe 60 chips. This will allow your donkey friend to take a stab at the pot (you know they will). They will most likely bet something like 240 to 500 and more often than not they will shove with any ace. Your bet looks weak and to a donkey that is a insta-bluff time. If they do raise flat call and allow them to set their own trap (maybe even take a little time to make them think you are uncomfortable calling). More often than not they will go all in on the turn and you can then call and collect the chips and click last hand to realize they had A2o. So now that you know how to get a double up lets talk about the monster hands during level 1 and 2 which will kill all the good players :)
Ok the first hand of the tournament and you get AA.... best hand in poker except when in the first two levels. Why do you ask because you have just set a trap on yourself. No matter what you do it is going to be hard to not end up all in but you will have to try. An early bust is horrible in your monthly standing and you must do whatever possible to avoid that. If someone goes all in preflop and you are heads up than I would say go ahead and call but against two or more opponents I would recommend folding. So how do you play these monster hands? AA I recommend an initial raise if none have been put out yet. If you are up against a raise and callers (2 or more) in excess of 80 chips I would say fold.... yes fold pocket aces. Why? Most likely the donks are playing any two cards which means unless you get an ace on the flop you are in trouble and chances are you wont. Save yourself the bad beat and let your poker skills with your weaker hands in later tourneys win you the ITM (In the money) finish. So lets say you get to a flop heads up with AA against a donkey and the flop is 2h Js 9s and the donkey goes all in. What should you do. Most likely you have the donkey covered at this point but they could be moving with a range of hands. They would do that with anything from a pair to a flush or straight draw. So often early on I made the mistake of calling just to get beat by a flush on the turn or the river. Do yourself a favor and fold. Yes it could be a double up and most likely (65-70%) will be but the early break will cost you more than 1500 chips. It will cost you valuable monthly standing points. There are always good hands to play in later levels so go ahead and cut your losses and fold.
Now that AA is out of the way what about KK QQ and JJ. One super easy answer call up to 60 or 80 chips and see if you make your set. If you don’t make your set get out of the pot however if you do get the set get the chips in the middle if the board is not scary. In regards to tens thru deuces I would try to see a flop for as little as possible no sense in raising donkeys with tens or lower see if you make your set for a min raise or less otherwise fold em.
With all that being said. My best advice is that you want to come out of level two with at least 1200 chips so do not get involved with raisers or “donks”. Usually most of them are eliminated by the end of level two and you can play good poker once the bingo game is over with. Survival is the name of the game and don’t worry if you cant get a good double up in the first two levels. There are many other points in levels 3-6 when well timed aggression will allow you to rake smaller pots to help build your stack. Keep in mind that an early bust is so damaging to your monthly score that getting sucked out out-ways the benefit of a ill advised double up.
I wish you all the best of luck in the PSO and please check back often to see other tips especially for PSO members.
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