MTT strategy thoughts - Measuring your stack
I've got a couple of days off work, so you folks are the have the dubious honour of receiving the fruits of my spare time and my dodgy touchtyping. Not sure if other people think about this aspect of MTTs like this and it's not an area I've seen much about so here you are for discussion....
Successful MTT play is about adapting your play to the situation. Part of this is identifying the size of your stack and how this should affect your play. Should you be guarding every chip of your decent stack and be waiting for premium opportunities only? Should you be bullying the table and looking to turn you good stack into a monster? Or is it time to enter all-in or fold mode and take your chances?
In order to do this you need to know where you stand. Below are 6 different ways of measuring your chip stack. Five of them have some merit and have particular uses in helping you decide how to approach play. Some have a use only at certain stages of the tourney while others are worth bearing in mind at all times.
As with any single factor in poker, the size of your stack is one consideration among many, and all hands should be played on their own merit and their own particular context.
The average chipstack (total number of chips divided by the number of players remaining) is an invaluable tool in assessing the size of your stack. If you can stay close to or above the average you will be in good shape. Early to mid stages of the tourney you are never in too bad a position if one double-up will see you to the average.
If you find yourself with more than double the average early in a tourney it's time to throttle back and reduce the risks you take for significant chunks of your stack.
Toward the end of tournies this can be a bit misleading as with huge blinds you can find a chipstack on or around the average being less than 10xbb. Generally speaking though, this is the north star when it comes to navigating your way through tournies and should never be far from your thinking.
Your position in chips in the overall tournament as shown on Pokerstars
and other sites. This has merit towards the end of the tourney and in qualifiers where a certain number of places win a seat it's very handy. However in the early-to-mid part of tournies it has little value. Who cares who the chip leader is after 10 minutes or two hours? They are certainly going to have to double up at least a couple of times to make the money let alone the final table.
It is of course lovely to be chip leader in a tourney (particularly if someone at the table comments on it) but it will as they say butter no parsnips. Concentrate on how many chips you need to make the big money and forget about it til the end.
Position on the table
While your overall position in the tourney may have little relevance until the last few tables. Your position on your table can be of vital importance.
If you are one of the short stacks then you may find yourself the victim of the big stacks, even if you are no in danger from the blinds. Around the bubble the big stacks will certainly be focussing on shorty and stealing blinds accordingly. If you are a bigger stack on the table this will affect your image accordingly and you may be in a position to steal pots on this basis alone.
However pay attention to the size of the big stacks on other tables. You may be perfectly happy and content with your big stack on table #27 and have stopped looking for opportunities to build further, then you are moved to table #6 where you are only the fifth largest stack and find that you have missed an opportunity to stay ahead of the field.
Finally(!) on the final table this an incredibly important indicator and you should be very conscious of where you stand and use it to inform decisions. If you make a bet or enter a pot assess where you will be position-wise if you win or lose.
Relative to the blinds
It is very well documented that you should use as a guide to your approach the size of your stack relative to the blinds. This may be in terms of Big Blinds or the cost of a single round of the table (small blind + big blind + antes).
Not to labour this as it's all been said far better elsewhere, but you should be conscious of how many BBs you have in order to avoid getting so low as to make doubling up not much of a help. Usually anything less than 10BB is considered push or fold territory. As a rule of thumb more than 30bb in the mid-late stages of an MTT is often quite luxurious.
Last note on this. At final tables this can become very distorted as often half a dozen people will have less than 15BB and a couple will be hanging in with 2 or 3 BB or less. Pay attention to the payout structure and the postion of the other players before deciding it's your turn to push.
Compared to 10% of the chips in play
If you are playing MTTs you are playing to make final tables. In fact you are playing to make top three finishes. If you want to double your buy-in then Sit and Gos are a far better option and take a lot less time. The money is at the end and you should be planning to get there from the start.
It's handy therefore to work out what will be average stack at the final table and consider what will be required to get it. Multiply the number of players by the starting stack and divide by 10 (or 9). In rebuys multiply the average by the number of players remaining and divide by 10 (or 9).
This is a good way to make sure you don't relax with a big stack half way through a tourney and let the field catch up and overtake you. You may have 25000 chips with an average of 10000 but there are 7,500,000 chips in play meaning an average stack of 750,000 chips at the final table!!!
As a rule of thumb if you have 5% of the chips come the final table you will seldom be in worse than 7th at a ten person table, a couple of big stack will have about 30-35% of the chips between them. I use 5% as my first target and if I get that I aim for 10% if I judge the risk/reward worth it.
Compared to your high point in the tourney so far
Finally the measure you shouldn't use. I'm guilty of this and I'm sure many other people are.
You are trotting along nicely and have built to 32000 chips in the early-mid tourney. You make a bad decision or take a beat and end up at 15000. The average may well be at 15000 so you are still in good shape, but you keep looking at the big stacks and thinking "I was one of you", "I should be one of you" (possibly in a Gollum-type voice) and start making questionable moves to get back there.
You see it a lot with big stacks making a false move or taking a beat and though they are by no means out of it they keep playing pots until they get "back where they were" or are out.
Once you've lost chips they are no longer yours. Work out your new position using the 5 measures above and start planning for the final table again.
That's it, any I missed?