Embracing the risk in the game

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Tournament

Submitted by Mitchell this article belongs to the Poker Tournament series.

Mitchell Cogert is the author of “Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves.” It is the only reference book to reveal the plays the Pros use to win a poker tournament. These plays are based on reviewing 20 years worth of tournament poker strategies and by actual play against Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren, David Pham and other top pros. The book is available on amazon and rated 5 out of 5 stars by customers. Find out more about Mitchell Cogert by visiting Tournament Poker or his website APokerExpert.

The third skill to winning a poker tournament is embracing the risk in the game.

I would guess most Americans believe that hard work gets rewarded. So, it follows, that if you study the game of poker, work hard at getting better, you will win in the long term. In fact, you’ve read that poker is a game of skill and in the long run the better players win. So why not you?

Unfortunately, a poker tournament is a short moment in time. It is not a long term event. If it was, Phil Hellmuth tells us he would win every tournament.

Once you realize a poker tournament is a short-term event in your poker life, you can still have an edge against your opponents if you have better skills.

But, with all due respect, you are not that much better than the level of your opposition. My guess is that 80% of the poker players, think they are in the top 10-20% of the players at any given event. Of course, that is impossible. And even if you are in the top 20% of the players at a poker tournament, you still need to get lucky to win.

A poker tournament is a short term event, where luck plays a significant role on who wins and loses.

Think about the times when a player gets premium pocket pairs way too often, or a player who hits a set on the flop against his opponent’s pocket Aces. And, if you play online poker, I know you’ve seen (and experienced) more than your fair share of bad beats. Did these players have better skills?

Luck plays a role in each poker tournament. Instead of hoping to get good luck, embrace the luck in the game. And learn to be the player who is feared at the table.

In his book Making the Final Table Erick Lindgren wrote:

“You want to be a great poker player? Stop thinking you’re better than the randomness of the game. Embrace the randomness. Let people think you’re a wild risk taker. And start taking advantage of those afraid to risk their own chips.”

How do you become feared at a poker table?

Winning a WSOP or WPT title is one way. Another way is to be the player who is looking to get involved in lots of hands, and pressing the action with raises and re-raises.

Daniel Negreanu puts pressure on his opponents by playing small ball. In general, it means that he is raising pre-flop with a wide range of hands (usually small raises), and from the flop on he plays your hand. It takes a lot of skill to do what Daniel does at poker. Since poker is his life, he is going to be great at reading his opponents and using his strategy to win.

Gus Hansen is another player who gets involved in a lot of pots with a range of hands. A lot of people who watch Gus play thinks he is an aggressive, wild player who gets involved with way too many hands. Maybe so. But he wins as well.

Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, I played in as many no limit poker tournaments I could find in the Bay Area for 3 months. This was before online poker. I did this to prepare for the WSOP.

I entered a $1,500 no limit event. I was aggressive. I won lots of pots. I accumulated chips. I had more than twice the number of chips as anyone at my table.

We were about three quarters of the way through the event, when the Tournament Director broke up some other tables. We had two empty seats to my left. Two players with huge chip stacks filled those chairs. I mean they had at least 4 times what I had–it was very depressing.

I looked up to see who were carrying those huge trays of chips.

One of them was Phil Ivey. The other player was Erick Lindgren.

They sat down and destroyed our table. They were aggressive, intimidating and when someone moved all-in pre-flop, it seemed like one of them would have a premium hand. Did they lose some hands? Yes, of course. But, they only lost small pots. They picked up a lot of hands uncontested, and won the big pots.

I was impressed. I knew I was not in the same league with these guys.

Erick knocked me out. I believe it was on a pure bluff.

What was their secret to accumulating chips?

They were aggressive. They were willing to enter a lot of pots. Their goal was to accumulate chips. They played to win the event not finish on the bubble.

If they were going to enter a pot. They would raise pre-flop a lot more often than call. They picked up blinds and antes over and over again. And if someone called their raise, they knew how to play their opponents from the flop on.

They put pressure on their opponents with bets, raises and re-raises. They pressed the action because they knew that they had two ways to win–their opponent would fold, or they would have the better hand.

Once or twice they pressed the action too much, and wound up losing a coin flip. But, it didn’t really matter, because they had accumulated so many chips they could absorb a lost coin flip.

Their mentality was to play to win, and be the aggressor.

Embrace the Risk

When you see a player winning a poker tournament, the reality is that he/she had the skills to win but also got some luck. The better your skills, the better your results will be long term. But short term, you will need to accept that luck plays a role in winning and losing.

Embrace the risk. For example, don’t think these thoughts:

“I might get knocked out with A-K, so I only call with A-K.”

“I avoid suited connectors because I don’t want to chase.”

“I never re-raise pre-flop unless I have a big pocket pair.”

Learn to come out swinging. Get involved in more pots than you have ever done before, and learn how to play your opponent’s hand from the flop on. You don’t need a hand to win a pot. If you know what your opponent holds, you’ll never lose.

 

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2 Comments to Embracing the risk in the game

Mark
January 29, 2009

After reading his latest article I asked Mitchell the following question:

“I keep wondering though if some of your strategies should be modified for low limit online tournaments.
My feeling is that people are not so afraid of loosing their chips when the
buyin is small, so you will get called by people who have mit middle pair,top pair lousy kicker etc..”

Here’s his answer:

I guess the answer is: Maybe, Probably, I Don’t Know.

I don’t really play low limit online tournaments that often. The only
one I play is the Twitter Poker Tour…a $5.50 NL event.

My observation from that event is that some people take it serious
since it is a major part of their bankroll on that site, and the
amount they can win will be a big boost to their bankrolls. Other
players,I think it is just a fun thing to do and don’t play as
serious.

Frankly, I think that this is true for all poker games. If the money
you are gambling doesn’t mean a lot, you can play more aggressive and
win or lose more money faster (Bluffing more often).
If the money means something to you, you will naturally tighten up and
be more careful (Bluffing less often).

So, MAYBE, you just need to identify who at your table is playing like
the money means something to them, and who really don’t care (it would
be nice to win, but it’s not a big deal if I lose.).

Mark’s last blog post..Loco Poker

advergaming
January 31, 2009

In the world of gambling or in life you should take risks and embrace whatever the outcome. It gives you the motivation to be better and grow as a player. But if you want to win a game, play to win!

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