I finished first in my monthly league (5 table MTT) and final tabled 3 MTTs online in the last 10 or so entries for huge month. But Why? I could say I am running good, but that is a cheat. No one really runs good or bad over time. Conclusion? I must be playing better!
In the early stages, I am playing more from late position only. I am not going to open AQo UTG, because what am I going to gain when 500 bb deep in level 1? I believe this does not unbalance me too much as I can remain wide as I want in the Hijack or Cutoff. (more on this later though)
Middle stages, especially live, I am three betting middling pairs along with big hands. Its so hard to play 77 even on a K52 board when your opponent starts barreling. Smaller pairs may benefit from playing against narrow ranges w/ fold equity. This conflicts with some training that was getting and articles I was reading about flatting with middle pairs and trying to outplay your opponent post-flop, so I still have to reconcile that.
Late stages, I am opening up my 3 betting range to include what most people consider a good BALANCED 3-bet range overall. I do NOT try hard to balance this earlier for a few reasons:
1. I am setting up a 3-bet% tendency to be low so I can exploit that later, especially online. (I want my 3-bets later on to look strong, so I can 3-bet lighter.)
2. Online where stacks are deeper, I don’t need fold equity pre-flop with these middle pairs in early stages. I can get away from an awkward situation post flop. So instead I can pull bigger hands down into these less aggressive groups early for balance.
3. 3-Betting rarely tends to ISO the villain in early stages.
4. When I do make a strong hand, I can take a generic line like Bet-check-Bet and often get paid for 2 streets.
As an MTT player, I am playing strong hands for fold equity over enticement. I know its sorta “Lee Childs school of poker”, but by shoving or re-raising big hand pre-flop, you get lots of fold equity. You may be losing a bit of value (depending on the table), but you reduce volatility significantly. (Which I feel is under-rated in MTTs.)
Finally, In latter stages, I am very stack size aware now. Yesterday, I very comfortable 3-bet an early open with 87s because he had 20 bb (I had 30bb) and we were getting closer to the final stages. I put him in an awkward spot with the 3-bet and he tanked and folded.
I am also narrating my thoughts in my head (or sometimes out loud) which I realize is starting to gel into “having a plan” for the hand. Including when to FOLD, which was something I recently identified as a new leak that I didn’t have before. I want to be sticky, but I was getting to showdown too light too often. I am thinking about blockers more too.
I spent some time looking at check-raise ranges as of late. If you are going to check-raise strong draws, you also need to check-raise sets and top-2, instead of trapping. This in my opinion is the most import situation to balance ranges, to cover semi-bluffs.
I’d like to say this all my success is contained in the above wisdom, but the reality is that even in the $30k last night, so many players were playing "cash" ranges in the latter stages. I understand the interest in GTO and “standard plays” and ranges and all that jargon, but when you lose 15 bigs on A5o when you could get away so easy, I don’t call that “standard”. I saw many players that didn't understand their situation vs the larger table dynamic when they were under 20bb. I see spots were its +EV calling a UTG shove of 10-15 bigs late, because they are shoving to pick up chips before they post a BB. Exploitable when you look for it.