21/11/2011

The Optimal MTT style?

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I am not a tournament player and can’t say that I ever will be but the theory of tournament poker along with the strategic concepts behind it is still immensely fascinating. A combination of reading the Alex Rousso's article and a comment made by Vicky IIRC about Barney led me to write this week’s article. I was going to do another high stakes hand but decided on this instead.

I am basically looking for opinions here on something that I have felt for some time regarding MTT’s with very large fields. This is that in all likelihood the optimal style may not be a style that optimises your chances of winning the event. I think this is especially the case if you play tournaments on a regular basis and you depend on them or semi-depend on them for your income or a percentage of it.

The argument of course is that it is the rare but all too essential tournament wins that boost your bottom line over the space of your tournament life. But with the really large fields numbering well into four figures then how successful can a solid conventional tournament style actually be? I think bad players in these events do one of two things broadly just like any other poker player... they play too many hands relative to the structure or they play too few.

The players that play too few are not a problem because they rarely go very deep and especially online with really fast structures. But when fish in large numbers play too many hands then by sheer definition many of them will amass a lot of chips. Likewise for players who gamble during the early to middle stages. So as a solid tournament player then you will always be behind these players who have either gambled or got lucky or both.

However an interesting shift occurs deeper into the tournament because the players who gambled stop being gamblers when they have a large chip stack and the fish are suddenly a lot less fish like playing better poker and being able to bully better players with small stacks. This is like buying into a cash game with loads of value if you play deep but only buying in for the minimum. This just creates an incredibly difficult situation for a solid conventional tournament player who cannot bring it upon himself to gamble and play like “a fish” during the early stages of an event with a massive field of players.

There is a delicate balance between EV in tournaments and the maximising of it and variance which in this form of poker is brutal. I think that if you want to win what Alex called a “Brace-ament” then you may need an out and out gambling style to optimise your chances of doing it. However if you want to get more consistent cashes interspersed with the odd big pick up but minus the tournament win then a slightly less cavalier approach may be optimal as long as you are prepared for not winning tournaments because your stack rarely gets big enough for the final table.

I also think that either by accident or design then some players just have the perfect balance to their tournament game that could well make their style the optimal one for very large fields even if they continually go through their careers not picking up the big wins.

This is not a definitive opinion but a question aimed at players who have played a lot of tournaments with huge fields and how they approached them and specifically what successes they had if any playing certain styles and the frequency of those successes... thoughts on this anyone?

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