There are times where “poker is a struggle for the blinds/antes” and “tournaments are a struggle for survival” are in direct conflict.
Long Game, Small ball and the middle stages.
If I wish to be brilliant, then I can say three things. I always get my money in ahead, I control the size of the pot based on my hand, and I never take an action (bet, call, raise) without having a plan and an intention for which that action accomplished something.
Duh. But this is linear thinking. Since I am usually a 4-1 favorite when I get my money in ahead, and that +EV. If I do it 5 times all in, statistically I will be eliminated. Interesting. This is a concept I will return to at the end of this process, but for now, lets again visit our columbo-bot*. (*NOTE: I am not building a bot. please do not prosecute me. This is for example purposes because I think this way.)
It seems easy to calculate when you think you are ahead and avoid marginal coin flips. But its still hard to control the pot size. After all, your opponent has goals also. Before I finish that thought, let me jump again.
There are times that not playing a hand, regardless of the holding, is +EV. There are other times to play hands just with 2 live cards.
There is a tendency to believe that poker is all about fighting for pots. (that and making good decisions). BUT, there are times where it is in your best interest to fold the best hand. (this assumes you are not 100% sure you are the best hand). Why? Because like wolves, there are times you wish to “show your neck”. To let the table know you are willing to lay down (an action a bot does not take). It shows you are human and also that you are dangerous. Yeah, a big laydown does have a psychological impact on your opponent. Remember that.
How do we reconcile all of this. Well, it is not trivial. But, we make a case to our columbo-bot that we want to get our money in ahead during the long middle stages and avoid building large pots before we know where we stand in the hand. In addition to that, we have to identify EXCEPTIONS to everything we just said NOT to be unpredicatble, but rather to try and dodge the inevitable 1 in 5 times where we lose depite being a big favorite. In order to do that we must task well planned and well timed risks which allow us to build up a "defense fund". This fund is like suck-out insurance. And as we all know, you're gonna need it.
The Middle (long) Levels
a. Prey on WEAK players (blind pressure). This is where we pick up some extra money.
b. Use pressure points (but not against push monkeys) to create folding equity to avoid the use of your "defense fund". Avoid a river, avoid the 20% risk.
c. Project a tight image. Players are less likely to "test" you.
d. Use M and Q to know your place in the tournament.
e. Take risks if they will give you an opportunity to be table chip leader or to double up. Otherwise, you must survive. Being a chip leader at the table is the best "defense fund".
f. Get rid of dominated hands (KT).
g. All-ins are often NOT bluffs now.
h. You can’t limp and be perceived as tight. If you are the first to the pot, you must raise your way in. Some players will raise whenever they can be first to the pot at a big table... (see part e. then)
i. Try to avoid slow playing* for two reasons:
. Survival (you are usually 80% to win a hand you are AHEAD on)
. It continues to project the tight image, which in turn increases folding equity.