The Difference Between Cash Games and Tournaments
ok I see WAY too many posts about how tournaments and cash differ, and about 99% of them are dead wrong. First off let me start off by saying that I am by no means a tournament expert but I have read the work of many who are and I'm going to try to stay within what I'm absolutely sure is right:
1. tourneys are different than cash games because you cannot rebuy (in non-rebuys obviously)
Now if this doesn't just seem extremely silly to you that means you really haven't thought it through. Especially online, there are tourneys all the time that you can jump into instantly. But beyond that even the entire goal of poker is about the long run. The reason we can take 55-45 flips in a cash game have nothing to do with the ability to rebuy. If we played in a cash game and had a chance to get your money all-in with a 55-45 advantage where if you lost you had to leave you'd likely still take it. Now one exception would be if you have a huge skill edge over the opposition. Now unless any of you are full-time MTT pros I doubt you have that kind of edge. In fact I wonder if real pros have that kind of edge. Edges in mtts are pretty small and a lot of times there won't even come a time where the skill difference will play a huge part. There are of course times where you would pass up flips like this and other times where you'd actively seek out a flip or even a 55-45 underdog spot, but I'll cover that in a later topic. But basically the statement that you should be more conservative in tourneys because you cannot rebuy is a myth and although the first part of the statement may indeed be correct (this is an area I do not have enough knowledge to comment on), it definitely is NOT because of the latter part.
2. You shouldn't steal in the early stages of a tourney because the blinds are small in relationship to the stack sizes
I hear this time and time again in cash and it translates perfectly into deep mtt settings. Now note that it is perfectly possible that the smaller stacks cause other players to play looser, call a lot more from the blinds, and give up less than with shorter stacks, but then the opponents are the reason to not steal as much, not the blind structure. Most good mtt players that I have watched steal a good amount in the early stages from the button, just as any good cash player steals a good deal from the button. Why is that? It's quite simply going to yield an expected positive gain in chips, whether they are real money
or tourney chips. You also set yourself up to allow people to defend too wide and play a big pot with position if you do have a hand.
3. In a tournament, you want to play to survive and not take too many risks
ok I just opened up last Sunday's Sunday Million. 1st place was just over 196k. 1170th place, the first that is paid, is just over $320. Note that 1st place pays 612.5 times that of someone who scrapes in after the bubble.
Now let's take it a step further. There are 1170 people left so the average player has a 1 in 1170 chance of winning the tourney. This means that even if the tourney only paid 1st place the 196k and 1170th place the $320, if you could get into a flip situation, with 50% of the time you win nothing and half the time you have twice as big a shot of winning 1st (which is how it works out when you have 2x chips with only that one paying spot), it would be almost worth it. That flip would give you $655 when you win and $0 as opposed to the 320+167 when you just sit back. But the difference is in an mtt if you double your stack you also greatly improve your chances of taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. all of which in this particular tourney pay over 70k. So basically we put you in a bubble spot and found out flipping may be correct, so you can imagine how correct it is to take marginal edges to greatly increase your chip stack when you are not 100% at getting a free $320 if you fold. If say you're halfway to the bubble and in good shape it is often a good spot to take small edges or even pure flips.
4. Knocking out a player helps everyone in the tournament
This is usually mostly applicable to sngs where someone complains that someone bet when there was an all-in and it caused the guy who would have bubbled to still be alive and win the hand. I'm not saying that they're not usually right, but I'm saying the thought process is incorrect. The goal in any tournament is to maximize your $ expectency. For some people, notably the big stack, having a shortstack with scared medium stacks is much more beneficial than simply knocking the shortstack out. Say there are 4 left one being short. The immediate knock out will do almost no good to him anyway because he's so likely to be top 3 anyway while the knock out will hinder him from basically stealing the mid stacks at will.
Which brings me to the biggest difference, not really a misconception, but something people don't really understand too well, and that is payout structure. This is where the biggest difference in chipEV and $ev are. For example in this situation if you are a few from the bubble with a short chip stack, you are usually correct to just fold to the money. The logic behind it is that if you double up you can not expect to average twice the free money you'd get from folding. There are certain spots where it can even be correct to fold KK or AA. How about a few examples from the same tourney I've been using from before, last week's million:
1170th is $320.04. It's not until 450th that you get $640.08. Many structures are not as flat but for this one it definitely encourages playing very tight on the edge of the first bubble, especially if you are short on chips. Say there are 1200 people left and you are like 1100th and sitting with a short stack. If you just keep folding you can virtually guarantee the free $320 but if you get into a coin flip situation and win you are still going to need some help to get past 450th.
Now let's look at the opposite spot, and ironically it comes probably within 10 minutes of our last situation. Now there are 1150 people left and you are still in 1100th. You have the $320 in the bank and if you want to get up to $480 you'll have to be in the top 567. You need some help to get up there and if you can double up it more than doubles your chances of getting there and higher. So obviously it's great to shove and pick up the blinds, but if you have a spot where someone else shoves and you are likely flipping against their range (say they shove and you pick up 44. You're rarely ahead but against most hands you're a coin flip). This should be a pretty easy call in this spot, because a coin flip helps us a lot while folding brings us one step closer to a spot where we need to shove in desperation and likely will be worse than a coin flip.
There are a ton more complex situations and to be honest I haven't studied mtts all that hard, but these are some of the common situations I've found myself in when playing mtts, and some of the comments I hear about them that just show a lack of thinking and an approach not based on maximizing your expectancy but maximizing the chances of winning just something. Every tourney player should be doing their best to maximize roi, not itm% (possible exception of large live tourney but basically that's an example of bad brm if you want to be a winning tourney player in the long run). All the good tourney players wouldn't be very good if you took the big scores out but the several huge mtt scores are what provide the money for the big mtt players. They give themselves the best shot they can to go deep and when they win the flips and spots where they put themselves in marginal edges they end up going deep.
Any comments welcome especially from people who actually play mtts on a consistent basis. Definitely open to discussion if you disagree with this as well. Like I said I'm pretty sure this is all correct, but I'm not perfect.