Poker players belly
up to tourneys

Feb 28, 2006 2:33 AM

What a wonderful session we had on Saturday at Green Valley Ranch (GVR). About 25-30 poker players came out for some instruction, hands-on experience and a few poker tips, which they were able to apply in a live cash game immediately following the session.

My heartfelt thanks goes to Gary Dewitt, poker room manager, who provided us with tables, tournament chips, encouragement and even coffee and donuts!

The poker lessons covered much of the territory we’ve covered the past few weeks. Plus, many of the players wanted to know about playing in tournaments.

Of course, tournaments and their coverage on TV have brought poker to its current level. And we all have a story or two to tell about our experiences.

In Las Vegas, there are "sit and go" tournaments — usually one-table or one-day events — all over town, which cost as little as $35 to enter and usually not more than $200.

Of course, there are also the major tournaments, including the upcoming World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour events, as well as non-stop tournaments on the Internet.

Now, I don’t endorse gambling on the Internet. I’ve heard some horror stories about cheating, collusion and other problems associated with online poker.

But it seems many honest, sincere people enjoy playing online. I only suggest they keep to well-established sites and confine their play to relatively small stakes or mostly tournaments.

No matter where you find your tournament, there are a few points to keep in mind.

First, because a tournament has a fixed buy-in and limited number of players, the action can be fast and furious. Thus, you can’t afford to make mistakes. One false move can put you out or cripple you severly.

Nevertheless, you can’t be afraid to make a bold move, even if that move could potentially send you packing. You can’t play half-heartedly; you’ve got to go with your reads on your opponents and your instincts.

In the early stages of a tournament, it behooves you to try to win as many chips as possible. Collect more chips and the farther you’ll advance.

With that said, tournaments are not easy, they’re tough. Just because you’re a good, solid player, that doesn’t mean you’re going to win a tournament. There’s a lot of luck involved.

This factor is what makes the game so interesting — it allows almost everyone in the tournament a chance to win.

Here’s an example, based on a major tournament I played last week at the Commerce Casino. It was my first tourney this year.

For this hand, I was on the button with pocket kings. We were playing 200-400 blinds late at night, and a player with Ace-Queen raised 1200, and two other players — one with Ace-King — called.

I have about 40,000 in chips, so I push all-in, leaving me with about 1,000 chips.

One of the callers folded, and the players A-Q and A-K called.

Then the nightmare flop came with two aces! And I immediately go from a big favorite to drawing dead!

So, keep in mind that the cards aren’t concerned with who you are. Luck is luck.

The short-lived nature of tournaments means you can’t afford to misplay cards or get unlucky!

Also in tournaments, you might go long stretches waiting for a good hand.

During these spells you should be carefully watching the other players. Make mental notes of how they play, based on their position and stack of chips.

With this storehouse of information, you might be able to formulate some moves. For example, if you’re perceived as a tight, conservative player, when you do get involved, your opponents will have a perception of you as having a big hand.

Coupled with the information that you’ve gained, say, that a player is conservative, it permits you to often make a move against him, knowing with a certain degree of confidence that he isn’t going to come chasing after me.

By playing this way you’re earning respect. When you do get involved, it’s likely they’re going to get out of the way.

Also watch players who play every hand, those who play conservatively or those who don’t. You can use this information to help shape your own play.

The play in these sit-and-go tournaments is often marked by plenty of raises. This overly-aggressive play is rooted in a player’s desire to either steal the blinds and pots, or to induce a player to put all his chips in the pot. The latter is how they whittle the field down.

You need to know when to be aggressive and how to handle aggressive players, keeping in mind your stack size.

The obvious times to be aggressive include when you’re on the button and early bettors fold or limp in. You can also feel secure in playing aggressively against a tight player that seldom stays in a hand. When up against a very aggressive player, you can often "trap" him by slow playing or checking and re-raising. Just let the aggressor keep doing what he does best — being aggressive.

Finally, go after your first and second pots like they’re your last. It’s very important that you get those first pots.

Besides a boost in confidence, you’ll gain a measure of respect (or even fear!) from your opponents. When you create those feelings in your opponents, your task of bluffing and winning becomes easier.