Monday, July 17, 2006

Sittin' and goin'

There is a moment in a sitngo (and, I imagine, in any tournament but for obvious reasons I have not reached that moment) when you become sure that you are the best player at the table and will, luck allowing, win it. It becomes clear how you can beat the other players. At the low buyins I play, usually it becomes clear that the players are not aggressive enough to beat me and will allow me to steal too many pots. Lots of players believe that they can win if they avoid difficult hands and difficult decisions, and play only the big hands for big bets. But this style will take you to the bubble and no further. What they do not quite realise is that it is too straightforward a plan to win against a player who simply will not allow them to make pots for all the chips. (They could push with every hand, and some do, but this simply gives the better player the chance to pick which hand to risk the chips on.) Actually, most players are too straightforward, period.

They check when they have nothing, bet big when they have top pair or better. They rarely chance it with bottom pair, even heads up. They do not bet enough to make it unprofitable to chase them with weak draws: I mean, really, if you are betting T100 into a T800 pot on the turn, no one is folding a gutshot.

But you win a tournament because you push the smaller edges. You bet when you have nothing and fold to big raises that tell you you're beaten (because the fish just never quite learn that they will make more if they simply call). You cut the odds when you have good but not great hands (so that if they chase, they lose over a dozen hands, even if they win this one). You watch the players and learn which guy will go in with top pair and which will trap. Guess which one you try to play pots against?

Other players are too aggressive. They are probably even easier to beat. Bluffing is vastly overrated by poor players and the idiots who steal blinds with huge raises or build big pots with good but not great starting hands are just ripe plums waiting to be picked by a skilful player.

I am not a good player. Maybe I will, maybe I won't learn enough to become one. But I have felt the awesome calm that comes over me when I know I'm going to win. That's at least worth the trouble of playing.


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