Thursday, January 17, 2008

To Make Haste Slowly (On Limit Hold ’em Tourneys)

An oxymoronAm hopeful to take a seat in the first event of Ante Up! Intercontinental Poker Series III in 3-D tonight (9 p.m. EST). The game is limit hold ’em. Still up in the air whether circumstances will allow me to make it, but at the moment it appears more likely I will than I won’t.

Haven’t played a single tourney yet in 2008, thus not getting very far with my resolution to try to play more MTTs and SNGs. I think it was one of the hosts of Hardcore Poker Show I heard recently use the term “resolosers” to describe those exhibiting this sort of non-follow through.

In my defense, I was looking around online earlier in the week for a limit hold ’em sit-n-go to join. But as you might imagine, it takes awhile for one of those suckers to fill up.

I say “imagine,” ’cos I know damn well you haven’t actually looked for one. Have you?

Anticipating the tourney, I’ve been thinking a little about how unpopular limit hold ’em tourneys are. Decided one of the reasons -- besides the patience-thing -- was that the idea of a “limit tournament” represents a kind of oxymoron to most. You know, like “soft rock.” Or an “open secret.” Tournaments are by definition all-or-nothing affairs -- only one of us is going to have any chips at the end, while everyone else will be wiped out. So it perhaps seems oddly inharmonious to have to recognize betting limits as we collectively march toward that ultimate, all-or-nothing terminus.

I think there might be another, more tangible incongruity that distinguishes limit tourneys, though. Let’s see if I can translate this ideer into words in a way that makes sense to anyone else.

When pros are asked about the difference between cash games and tourneys, one of the more frequently cited generalizations is that while tourneys tend to emphasize preflop and flop play, in cash games the turn and river are where the more crucial decisions tend to occur. I might be wrong, but I think this idea applies both to no-limit and limit games (with a flop, natch). And, despite being a generalization, it seems to ring true.

In tournaments, we are dealing with increasing blinds, and thus often find ourselves edging over into situations where a lot of the strategy is necessarily taking place before the flop or on the flop. Such is the case even in limit games, where we sometimes (often?) find ourselves pressured to make earlier decisions about whether or not to see a hand through to the end. (In tourneys with especially rapid structures, this change of emphasis happens sooner than later.)

Problem is, in limit hold ’em, the bets double on the turn and river, meaning that “normal” tournament strategy, when evoked in the limit hold ’em tourney, actually tends to focus one’s attention on the lesser value streets. Which makes our brains hurt. Which makes us not want to play limit hold ’em tourneys.

Does that make sense?

I’m not enough of a theoretician to be able to sort out this problem more fully (or precisely). But I think there might be something here that helps explain that “backwards” feeling I tend to get in limit hold ’em tourneys.

I suppose yr better limit HE tourney players are able to adjust their focus appropriately and not get overly caught up in the usual preflop/flop stuff. I haven’t read Howard Lederer’s chapter on limit HE in the Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide: Tournament Edition, but from Foucault’s review it sounds as though Lederer doesn’t say a heckuva lot in particular about tourney-specific strategy.

Meanwhile his dad, the linguist and self-described “verbivore” Richard Lederer, has quite a lot to say about oxymorons.

As I say, I hope to be there tonight. And if I do, my plan is to do everything I can to keep my chip stack from growing small.

Get it?



Anonymous baceolus said...

I've been preparing for this first AIPSIII event (the first I will have played in) by playing Stud Hi MTTs. The competition is soft and it puts me in the habit of thinking ahead and planning for when the bets double. I find that Stud is all about how you handle fifth street, how you push those double bets.
LHE is certainly different, and I suspect that the AIPS field will not be nearly so soft, but I find a lot of similarities between the two limit games.
Good luck tonight.

1/17/2008 10:04 AM  
Blogger loser64 said...

In plan to wing it. JT

1/17/2008 8:39 PM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

Nice finish sir! I flamed out early. It appears that I forgot to research how to play limit hold'em. That and I had a long string of good cards go south on the turn and the river. And I played too many hands...

I should have read and learn!

1/18/2008 12:17 AM  

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