Forgive me cards, for I am going to reveal all. I have spent some time reflecting this holiday season (that's what having time does for you), and I have come to some interesting conclusions about NLHE poker. I figured out not only why I am better at tournaments, but also how I play from a strategic stand-point. Turns out it's a tad more than the "just hanging around" that I claim whenever I make the final table.
I play defensive poker. There, I said it. In a world of aggression, I play defense. I am no longer ashamed. (Was I ever?)
In the cash world, hard aggression makes soft money pay a brutal price. Although I am not soft money, my strategy often makes me a marginal cash game winner. Its in the tournament world where this strategy really shines. And here is why.
Its all about how you look at a pot. It's about the 3 D's: Dancing, deference, and decimation.
When you begin a hand, its dancing. The dance is simple in NLHE. One of 3 states exist:
1. Stacks are normal and levels are normal. We dance based on position and opportunity... and so does everyone else. 78 suited sounds great, but when you land a draw against AJ who hits a Top Pair, then what? And what does he do? Pots are usually smaller than the so called implied odds. Your hope here, is that you find yourself "Dancing with a donkey". One of you is going to overplay this hand and either win a small pot or risk a big one.
2. Your stack is short. You are a big club, swinging wildly in the dark. Think your hand might hold? Think that no one wants to risk 25%-33% of there stack to prove you wrong? Move in. Simple.
3. Your stack is large. Don't fall into the trap of getting the big stack by getting wreckless and lucky and then be unable to slow down, thinking yourself invincible. The larger the field, the more donks who accumulate chips, just to ship them back to players who actually know how to read a flop later in the tournament.
Simple stuff. NLHE is a simple game at heart. I think that's why everyone got caught up in the bandwagon. Its just not that hard to become competent.
The second D.
Next is deception for most people, but not me. I am about deference. Is this a hand I need to escape from before I commit too many chips? and when do I escape? Do I EVER decide to call a 3/4 pot bet with a gut shot? not me. Just not my way. I am ready to defer if I am behind. Plain and simple. Once I a while I need to be deceptive just to avoid being a predic-a-bot, but that is about it. Does folding when behind cost me a lot of money? Surprising, no. I would in a cash game, but rarely in a tournament.
Finally, its decimation. Are you ahead? If so, weight the amount of chips you would expect this hand to win. Then, go for that many chips. This has also hurt me many times, as I fail to expect a bad call and thus dont jam a pot. I instead expect the other player has a threshold of pain attached to a hand. This is not the case as much as I expect. It costs me money, BUT, it makes me more consistent. And that is worth alot to me.
So there it is. A year's worth of work summed up into a strategem. Just one problem with this... It causes a painful dichotomy. I cash, but never win it all. Am I content with that?
No. I have experimented alot this month and noticed some new patterns and thought of some new ideas. I think its time to start thinking serious on level 3.
Based on what he has put me on, and based on what I put him on, can I manipulate the situation so that in the rare instances that I am behind and stick around, am I in a position to scare the other player? I have much work to do in 2008.