Thoughts on making moves in online poker tournaments

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Mark | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy, Poker Tournament

You don’t win hands by checking; you win hands by betting.

My friend Artur keeps reminding me about this when we play online tournaments together. For some reason I tend to forget this simple mantra when I play online poker tournaments by myself.

Yesterday for example I was playing a small stakes online poker tournament on Full Tilt Poker. I was doing quite well due to some good hands coming my way. I think I had around 8000 chips when I decided to make a move under the gun with A7 suited. I raised it up to 950, the blinds being 150/250, and got one caller in middle position. The flop was rainbow KQ8. I bet 3/4 of the pot and my opponent called. At this point I started to worry that my opponent had hit either a King or a Queen so I decided to slow down and we ended up checking both the turn and river. My opponent showed pocket 9s and took down a 5000 chip pot. In retrospect this was a terrible play by me and I’ve been kicking myself about it all day long.

What annoys me is that I have a tendency to always slow down if I raise preflop, don’t hit the flop and my continuation bet gets called. I very seldom follow through on the turn. Yesterday this was exactly what I should have done. I showed strength both preflop and on the flop and with a 5000 chip pot on the turn compared to my remaining 6000 chips I should have pushed all in. There is no way my opponent could have called an all in from me on the turn. This is especially true because he did not re-raise my flop bet.

It has taken me a long time to make the transition from only betting into pots when I have a good hand to start making moves at pots where I don’t have a hand. Yesterday’s situation tells me that I am not quite there yet. To help me improve my game I have therefore made a new rule:

“Follow through on your preflop and flop moves if the size of the pot is comparable to the amount of chips you have left”

Although I risk looking like an idiot, if my opponents are trapping me, I think I will win more pots in the long run by following through. In any case it will help me grow some bigger tournament balls so to speak.

What do you think?

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9 Comments to Thoughts on making moves in online poker tournaments

Vincenti Winchester
November 16, 2009

With the kind of mind you have, I doubt seriously you will look like an idiot anywhere.

I have included here an article I liked about positive self talk.

What you seem to be doing is coaching yourself in a positive way.

That is one of the most difficult things in life to do, and you are doing it well.

Keep up the mojo. I’m impressed.

Vincenti
.-= Vincenti Winchester´s last blog ..Please Make Me a Baseball! =-.

Mitchell Cogert
November 18, 2009

Mark:

Here is some thoughts from a well-known poker author:)

I guess I would have played your hand very differently.

1. A-7 suited under the gun is not a strong hand. In fact, it is a folding hand unless your opponents are not calling pre-flop raises. You have over 30x’s the big blind, what’s the rush here? What are you going to do when an Ace flops and you get called? What are you going to do if you get re-raised pre-flop?

Plus, you raised almost 4x’s the big blind! What was that raise all about–it risks more than 10% of your stack on a weak hand. If you insist on raising pre-flop upfront with weak cards, just go 2 or 2.5x’s the big blind AND if you don’t improve on the flop and the flop is coordinated, it is check and fold time.

2. Ok…now let’s say you make this big raise and get called by one opponent. There is no rule that says you have to make a c-bet when you whiff on the flop, and are out of position. My heavens by betting this flop you are compounding the error you made pre-flop.

If you want to win this hand try to outplay your opponent. Everyone knows about c-bets And you stated here that you always make a c-bet!

A better play, perhaps, is to check the flop. If your opponent bets, just fold. If your opponent checks, look at the turn card and if it is safe, now you can bet if you want. However, if you get called, make sure you fire again on the river.

Overall: A-7 suited under the gun is a clear fold. You are trapping yourself. Heck, let’s say you flop the flush draw, bet it on the flop and get called. When you miss on the turn, are you going to check your hand?

That mantra you noted is fine but as you found out you lose hands by betting too. One of Negreanu’s better poker moves is the delayed c-bet–he checks the flop and bets the turn. Something to consider when you are playing a tournament and make a bad pre-flop raise or you miss on the flop.

Finally, what you wrote here is very concerning to me:
1. Don’t be so predictable by always making a c-bet.
2. How come you are not putting your opponents on a hand or a range of hands? You don’t even mention you were thinking about what your opponent had until he called your c-bet. What’s up with that?

Poker is about playing your opponent’s hands!

It’s not that difficult to read opponents. Here is a good starting point. You raise pre-flop and get one caller, guess what hand your opponent is holding?

I don’t even have to know the raiser’s cards to start by guessing a pocket pair under Q’s. If I look at the raiser’s cards and he has a hand like A-J, I am also thinking hands like K-Q, K-10, and Q-10 (because I have an Ace and a Jack.)

If you are watching your opponent’s play of starting hands during the game, you will also get an idea if he plays suited connectors or not to a pre-flop raise. Or, if he will slowplay a premium hand to trap you.

My suggestion: Pre-flop, the next time a player raises in front of you, or calls your raise behind you, before the flop hits your screen, put your opponent on a range of hands. That will help to improve your game.

Here is an exercise to make it fun. Watch the WSOP on TV and when a player comes in with a raise at a full table–guess what hands his opponents will probably have to call that pre-flop raise–before the camera reveals hands of the other players. You will be surprised how much better you will get at reading players with this exercise.

I now you’ve been frustrated with your tournament results, so maybe these things will help you…and your readers.

Heck, here is a play I made at a recent event. It was in the 2nd hour of the event. I had A-K suited under the gun and I raised 3x’s the big blind. One player in position called me. This opponent was very tight–I was sure he needed a hand like pocket 8’s thru J’s.

The flop was all rags. What should I do? Make a c-bet. If I made a c-bet, I’d have to move all-in on the turn. What if the turn card was another rag?

I checked to see what my opponent would do with this flop. I have A-K, and not the nuts. I checked. He bet. I folded. Did he have a better hand than me? I think so. In any case, I was sure that the dealer would deal out another hand if I folded:) And I was right, he did..lol.

Best,
Mitchell

Mark
November 18, 2009

Hi Mitchell

Thanks for the comment (and the criticism of my play…it was deserved). I think my frustration over lack of tournament results has caused me to take bad decision in some cases. I definitely agree that the 4xBB raise with A7 under the gun is not a great move.
However the point of my article was that if you decide to make a move you have to follow through with your plan. The worst thing you can do is make a half hearted move….this is just throwing your chips down the drain. You also have to make sure that you have your plan thought out before you make the initial move.

Mark
November 18, 2009

FYI I do not always make c-bets. I mix them up with the delayed continuation bet on the turn.
What I do tend to do is almost always slow down when I make c-bets that are called.

Mark
November 18, 2009

But you are absolutely right that I should start thinking about my opponents hand as soon as he makes that pre-flop call. Point taken!

Mitchell Cogert
November 19, 2009

Mark:

I would say that the big raise under the gun with A-7 was the move. Once you get called, you are done with the hand–why compound things with another play on the flop.

A good fold is a good thing.

Look for big hands to win big pots. Small pots–like stealing blinds–are good when they work–just don’t compound things on the flop with another bet and convince yourself, if you get called on the flop to move all-in on the turn.

The risk-reward of this play is not good.

Mitchell

Mark
November 19, 2009

“look for big hands to win big pots”

Is that always the case?

I play a lot of small preflop hands in the beginning of tournaments. What I’m looking for is a good flop against a big preflop hand.
When this happens you often win big pots.

Michael Lott
November 26, 2009

Mark, I think Mitchell means big hands at the time of the bet. Eg AA is not a big hand on a flop of KQJ one suit, however 23 is a big hand if the flop is A45. The point being that you ideally want a big hand to win a big pot and with a small hand (eg TPTK) you don’t really want a big pot because you are not often getting called by TPSK or worse.

Mark
November 26, 2009

Ahhh that makes more sense. Thanks for clearing that up Michael.

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