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Patience in Tournament Poker

By: TheLangolier @ 11:46 (EDT) / 1676 / Comment ( 6 )

I believe that patience is an integral part of a solid tournament poker strategy.   I find that when I lose patience, or don’t have it in the first place, I don’t tend to get good results in tournaments.

I also think that patience in tournament poker is often misunderstood.  Loose-aggressive players say “oh, patience is boring, I like to make moves!” and tight conservative players say “I understand the importance of patience, that’s why I wait for good starting hands to get my chips involved!”   Both players have mistaken how patience should apply, imho.

Being patient isn’t about waiting for good starting hands.  It’s about waiting for good situations.

Sometimes a good situation is bore out of our starting hand.  When we get dealt AA, we are in a good situation regardless of all the other factors in the hand.  Beginners and players who aren’t very skilled (and by definition a beginner is not very skilled yet, but there are masses of players who have been playing for years and don’t play much better than a beginner) typically stop here when they practice patience.  It’s understandable, it’s the easiest way to identify a good situation and it doesn’t take much skill to learn which starting hands hold the most promise.  That's not good enough to have long term success at the tournament pokers however, because the blinds and antes escalate faster than we get dealt big hands, eroding our stack into oblivion.

Those players are missing opportunities to accumulate chips in good situations that aren’t related primarily to hand strength however.  These are the plays the LAG player refers to as “moves”.  But of course there are good situations and bad situations for moves, and that’s where the patience aspect comes into the equation.  The unskilled LAG’s routinely blow up their stack because they make a lot of bad moves, i.e. they pick poor situations to steal, resteal, call off, etc.  They gamble a lot.  Now, since we can't simply wait for premium hands without blinding off, we do need to do some gambling with lessor holdings.  The key is to try and identify situations that are +EV to gamble, i.e. take intelligent risks.

The more you learn and grow your skills, the better you become in both aspects.  With regard to starting hands, that means recognizing things like relative hand strength, how hand values will tend to shift post flop, etc.  And with regard to making moves, that means being able to identify more +EV spots to take those intelligent gambles and knowing how to capitalize on them.

In my next blog I am going to pick a tournament hand I played where I took such a risk, and we will analyze it together to see if in fact it was a good situation or not.

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