Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Weapons of Choice

Arnold Snyder's 'Poker Tournament Formula'I’ve been perusing Arnold Snyder’s first book about hold’em tournaments, titled The Poker Tournament Formula (2006). The book concentrates largely on “fast” tournaments, i.e., tourneys with rapidly rising blind/ante structures that require players to master strategies that Snyder collectively refers to as “speed play.” A sequel, The Poker Tournament Formula 2, came out this summer, and it focuses more on “slow” tournaments with large starting stacks and longer levels with more gradual increases of blinds/antes.

Incidentally, “Arnold Snyder” is actually a pseudonym for a successful tourney player who has also written some well-regarded books on blackjack. He writes quite clearly and has many interesting ideas that build upon and, in some cases, refute well-known concepts appearing in other books such as Dan Harrington’s Harrington on Hold’em series. For example, in the second book Snyder offers a particular criticism and clarification of Harrington’s much-lauded “M” concept that I would think most hold’em tourney players would find persuasive (or at least intriguing).

In this first book Snyder starts out with an explanation of how to analyze the structure of a given tournament and thus determine whether or not it is “fast,” “medium,” or “slow.” Snyder provides some formulas to help figure out the “patience factor” of a given tournament based on its starting chips and schedule of play, as well as the relative “skill level” one might therefore associate with the tournament.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of Snyder’s formulas (which do seem quite helpful), but wanted instead just to share one observation he makes early on in the first book regarding the relative importance of cards, chips, and position.

Snyder believes that in tournaments with fast structures, “your cards are the least important of your three weapons.” Also, echoing Doyle Brunson’s point from Super/System, Snyder believes that “position is the most important weapon you have in... a fast no-limit hold’em tournament.” That said, “it’s usually best not to tangle with a big chip stack when you’re really just making a position play.”

Rock-Paper-ScissorsThus when assessing the relative value of cards, chips, and position in these fast tourneys, Snyder suggests thinking of of the three factors as a version of the “rock-paper-scissors” game. He even offers a helpful mnemonic device for remembering what beats what: “Cards are made of paper. Chips are something you could throw, like a rock. If you can remember those two, there’s nothing left for position except scissors.”

Thus, cards beat chips (paper beats rock). Chips beat position (rock beats scissors). And position beats cards (scissors beats paper).

An interesting analogy. Of course, as Snyder goes on to explain, there are a few reasons why it is incorrect to think of hold’em tourneys as simply an elaboration on the game of Rochambeau. For one, in rock-paper-scissors, all three weapons are always of equal value, no matter what. In hold’em tourneys, the relative strength of your three weapons is constantly changing -- as is the case for your opponents, too -- and so it is important to recognize where you stand with regard to each when determining how best to proceed.

I’m hardly doing Snyder’s idea justice here -- you’ll have to go check out his book yourself for more explanation. Interesting stuff, though.

Tao of Poker 5th Birthday CelebrationEven so, I haven’t left my usual pot-limit Omaha and H.O.R.S.E. ring games and started jumping into any hold’em tourneys just yet. Although I am thinking of playing in a certain one tonight.

Most reading this blog probably know all about it already, but Dr. Pauly is hosting a $5.00+$0.50 no-limit hold’em tourney on PokerStars tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time as a way of celebrating the fifth anniversary of Tao of Poker. And in addition to the usual prize pool, the winner will receive an entry into a $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament during the Borgata Poker Open (September 12th) as well as two nights’ stay there Borgata Hotel & Spa in Atlantic City.

Pretty swell deal, there. Like I say, I’m probably going to be playing, although I might be distracted for the first hour as tonight ESPN is showing the final table of Event No. 4, the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em event which I covered for PokerNews. That airs from 8-10 p.m. Eastern time.

Whether I make it or not, let me encourage everyone reading to join in the fun. And don’t forget yr weapons.

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Anonymous Tim Peters said...

Hi Shamus:

I thought your readers might like my two cents on that book, which I reviewed when it came out, available at this link: http://web.me.com/tbpeters/pokerbooks/Arnold_Synder.html

Most tournaments that most of us mere mortals play clearly fall into the "fast" structural category, but not everyone agrees with Snyder's strategies; Steve Zolotow published a couple of columns in Card Player attacking the book.


8/05/2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I enjoyed the book and would put it squarely in the top half of poker literature out there regarding fast tournaments. As a regular mtt guy, I would say that a good 90% of the competition I see in the fast online tournaments every night would benefit from reading and studying the first book.

I will be ordering the second book shortly based on your review.

8/06/2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

I might need to adjust the queue of reading material I am working. Although for the time being, the list is being delayed by the last throws of summer. Living in Minnesota means never squandering a beautiful day.

8/23/2008 11:43 AM  

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