Even the best poker player can fall prey to a trap

Oct 9, 2012 3:08 AM

If every tournament entrant played perfect strategy, Lady Luck alone would award the crown. But they don’t and she doesn’t. Even the best tournament trophy hunter can fall prey to a trap that snares his chips.

Here are a few errors my Uncle Eugene would have titled “Things I Wish I Hadn’t Done,” or “Things I Wish I Had Done.” I don’t know which is worse, but either way, they are minefields you’ll want to avoid in the next low-limit poker tournament you enter.

No. 1. Making too many rebuys in low-limit rebuy tournaments. Players sometimes make excessive rebuys in these small tournaments for several reasons: They don’t come in with a game plan that includes a rebuy strategy; they don’t accept stingy Lady Luck, who is dealing them rags instead of riches; or they play too loose in the early stages trying to build a big stack.

Uncle Eugene advised me not to buy in for more than 10 percent of the estimated first-prize money in a small, low-limit rebuy tournament. For example, if top prize usually is $650 in a $20 buy-in event, don’t invest more than $60, including the buy-in and rebuys.

No. 2. Playing too aggressively. In rebuy tournaments where you can rebuy any time your stack falls below a specified amount (usually for the first hour only), very aggressive players use maniac moves to try to run over the game. They push small edges even when it endangers their chip standing. Often, they never slow down or change gears, even after the rebuy period has lapsed.

In my experience, it is nearly impossible to run players out of a low-limit rebuy tournament by playing super-aggressively during the rebuy period. Why? Because only a minimum rebuy is required to stay in action, and almost everybody is prepared to rebuy.

No. 3. Playing too timidly. The opposite of the maniac is the mouse, who plays “rock” poker, just like he plays in his regular game. Players who are new to tournaments often play too tight. Maybe they haven’t studied the unique tactics of tournament strategy, or they’re fearful of losing, so they are meek like a mouse when they should be roaring like a lion. The mouse seldom attempts to take out a short stack when he holds a big hand and a tall stack, and he never check-raises – he’s just not a risk taker.

Neither the maniac nor the mouse, the wimp nor the wasp, consistently win tournaments. It is the split-personality player, the “schizoid” who is sometimes wimpy and sometimes waspy, who takes the money.

Next time, look for three more tournament traps that can sap your bankroll and make you look like a sap.

You can contact Shane Smith at [email protected].

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