It seems like there are sanctioned poker tournaments nearly everywhere. Between the World Poker Tour, World Series Circuit and locally-sanctioned events, not a week goes by when there isn’t some tournament looking for entrants.
If you have never played in tournaments or have tried small tournaments but were afraid to attempt a large buy-in event, this might be the year.
Like anything else, tournament play can be improved with practice and preparation. Several excellent books, programs, and tapes have hit stores like the Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas which help analyze the process of successful tournament play.
One of the best poker tourney books to appear in years is Michael Craig’s "The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King" (282 pages, hardbound, $24.95). An unusual title to be sure so an explanation is in order.
The Professor is poker pro Howard Lederer; the Banker is Texas financier Andy Beal and the Suicide King is the king of hearts (if you look at this card he appears to be holding a broad sword behind his head — or at it).
This is a book about poker and people, what makes the players tick, what draws them to the cutting edge of the game, who the best are, how and why they play and why they chose the life they live.
Craig, a respected business writer, has the ability to capture the personalities, their values and concepts, their need to maintain business sense, their attitude toward luck and their quest for a positive result at the tables. He writes about their attraction to risk and excitement the game brings, especially when playing for millions in tournament money.
Although not illustrated, the book is well-indexed with names and places. It is packed with history, biographical and background material on some of the biggest names ever to play the game, taking you from poker’s early days in Las Vegas to modern times and the red-hot action nationally and internationally.
The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King takes us to the game at its highest level of play. It is a story of achievement, survival, highs and lows of some of the best in the business and Craig tells us about it ever so well.
In addition to fine books such as Craig’s, here are a few tips a budding tourney player should consider.
The main concept a tournament player must grasp is that each structure (rebuy or fixed amount of chips, time between level changes, degree of change per round, etc.) has its own logic and rhythm.
If a person were in a live game, a comfortable buy-in for each level to assure playing without much risk of going down to the cloth is a simplistic way of predicting optimum goals for chip in a tournament. Estimating the number of hands per blind level gives a player some idea of whether it is prudent to wait for good hands or to depend more upon moves.
Given speed of a tournament is known in advance, selecting extra acceptable hands for given positions is better than winging it. Experienced tournament players feel the pace of the table and adjust.
Reading opponents quickly is a skill that should be cultivated, especially when most of the people at the table are unknown quantities. Watching how each reacts to raises, the range of hands for each position, and different chip levels is essential to gathering information but a good guess might be made just from the number of hands per hour played and the aggressiveness of each bet.
Also, better players look for chances to play against passive or weaker players. Their play differs when confronted with more solid styles so categorize opponents who shift tactics as more dangerous. A prepared tournament player will have an idea which hands to call down against each type of player to reduce leaking additional information.