Relearning MTTs: a personal re-evaluation at how I approach the game
A quick introduction:
I've been a member on this forum for quite a while, I've made many posts on here, and I consider myself to be somewhat well known. I have never considered myself to be the best player on this site, but I do believe I am a knowledgeable one. My results may not be as be as nice as other members, but I am completely fine with that. When I first started playing online, I had high hopes of winning big and making lots of money just like everyone else. However, I have come to terms that that is probably not going to happen anytime soon. I don't think it will never happen, there is always the possibility but its something I no longer expect to happen. For me, poker is recreational. I play it to have fun and to enjoy myself and that's it. And if I happen to win a few hundred here, a few thousand there that's great, I'm not complaining. If not, then that's fine also. I feel that this personal balance I've found not only keeps my emotions in check, but it makes the game so much more fun to play.
MTT's are my favorite games to play. They're not my best game, that belongs to SNGs because that is where I've made my most profit, but they're the ones I enjoy playing the most. I think it's because they're exciting for me; the thrill of possibly beating thousands of other players and a nice big cash-out in the end. It hasn't happened yet, but I can always hope. This year, I've decided to really try to and do well in MTTs and possibly win one. Again, I am not expecting to win nor do I think I'm entitled to win just because I've played so many and nothing significant has happened. But in order for me to do better in MTTs, I had to re-evaluate how I play the game. One thing I have realized very early on is that no matter what happens, we have no control about how other people play. They can play the complete opposite from you and there is nothing you can do about it. So, what can you do? Well you can complain and be bitter about it. Call them fish, donks, donkeys, or whatever and have this 'I'm right, they're wrong' mentality and probably never gain anything out of it. Remember, no matter how much you complain or rant or what you call them, it's not going to change how someone else plays. Or you could take a step back, look at how you play, and fix the leaks in your game. Just because you might play better than someone doesn't mean your always right. Maybe you over-value top pair, you chase draws too much, you don't know how to adjust properly, you play too tight, you play too passive, or whatever the case may be. While this will not change how anyone else plays, it'll definitely change how you play. It's the only thing you can control and plugging your leaks is very important when it comes to playing this game. A huge leak in your game can be just as bad as playing a bad opponent. The only difference is, it's much easier to see and complain about how bad someone else plays than it is to complain about your own plays. I see a lot of vents on this forum complaining about the opponent's play, but I never see anything like 'Vent: I chase too much and it cost me my tournament' or 'I play to passively and I don't know how to adjust to raising blinds'. Aren't these leaks/mistakes just as bad?
So, this is exactly what I did. I re-evaluated how I play MTTs and came up with a simple guide/set of rules on how I play. Every MTT I play, I make sure to read over this guide and I even keep it open just to glance over every now and then. I would like to share this guide with everyone here, but please keep in mind that it's from a personal view point. It's not a guide on how to win MTTs or anything like that, so don't view it as such. It's more or so a guide to ensure that I am playing the best that I can at every game. You may agree with some points, you may disagree with some points. Feel free to add anymore to a personal guide if you see fit.
The bold text are the 'rules'. The red text is a bit of more of an explanation on the 'rule'. These are not in any type of order.
-Only join a game you can give at least 95% of your attention, too.
...This seems a bit silly to some, but it's so easy to get distracted. Especially when you're playing online. You can multi-table, read email, chat, watch videos, look at porn, or whatever you like to do. So, I think it's important that you really pay attention to what you are doing if you want to do well. The reason I say 95% and not 100% is because there will be somethings that may distract you from the game: phone calls, people at the door, kids, etc.
-Fold most your hands, Raise more of your hands, Call the least of your hands.
...This is to ensure that I am being selective with the hands I play and I'm not playing too passive, too tight, or too loose.
-Play tight early on, but open your hand range every time the blinds go up.
...I don't believe in hand charts, but I do believe in hand ranges. In fact, I think it's silly to say you should only play these hands when you're at such and such level, but not these hands. There are times when I'll fold AQs in mid position, but will raise with J9 in the same blind level. It is all situational. Also, opening your hand range with each blind increase makes it easier to adjust. If you understand which hands value go up and which go down, that also makes it much easier to adjust.
-Re-check your M ratio each time blinds increase.
...To solve your M ratio: Stack/(big blind + small blind) + (antes x # of players at the table). Knowing your M ratio will help in how you play and what hands to play. A range guide
-Fancy play can be exciting, but it can also gets you killed. ABC can be boring, but it's usally the better option. Neither are always right and neither are always wrong.
...Pretty self explanatory. Some situations you'll have to make plays with speculative hands or you just might choose to and some situations you'll just have to play a basic straight forward game.
-You are not going to win the tournament in the first 10 minutes, but you can easily lose in that same amount of time. Play smart, but dont play scared.
...Just because you lost a big pot early on doesn't mean your tournament is over. Nor do you need to double up early on in order to have a better chance at winning.
-Try to avoid early all-in confrontations unless you: A) Have AA or KK preflop, B) You have the nuts, C) It's your only play
...This ties in with above. Very rarely will there be a reason you'll have to get all your chips in preflop in the early stages of a game. At this point, your M ratio is so high, you can easily wait for a better hand or situation if you need to.
-Always play to win. Never settle for anything less.
...This used to be a huge leak of mine. I would always just try to sneak up in the money and be happy with that. But I would always be short stack or never finish much better because I not trying to win. And by not trying to win, I was passing up many opportunities.
-If you are a short-stack, try not to pass up an opportunity to double up or better. It's better to take the chance and lose, than to fold and still be at the bottom.
...This ties in with above. Let's say you're in 210th place out of 213 players remaining and you have an M of 5 (in 5 rotations you will blind and ante yourself out of the game). The game pays out the top 150 players. You still have to get past 63 players in order to make the money, but it's clearly obvious it's going to very difficult to accomplish this if your stack doesn't increase. Not impossible, but very difficult. Now lets say you're in a situation where you can double up- if you win, you'll be around the top 180th/213 left and if you lose, it's no different if you lose in 210th place-251st place. The reward to put yourself in a better position if very much worth the risk.
-Pay attention to the payout structure. Pay attention to risk vs reward.
...This is similar to above except it deals with being in the money. Usually when you hit the money, the lower payouts pay the same amount for a certain number of players. Lets say in the same example from above you've made the money, but you're still pretty short with an M of 5. You're ranked 140th out of 150 players remaining. 150th-95th place all pays the same amount: $4. You find yourself in another situation to double up. Again, if you win you put yourself in a much better situation to win or at least finish better. You might find yourself in 120th place/150 remaining and still be in the same pay range but you're in a lot better situation than before. If you lose, you'll still earn $4 and it's no different than folding and losing a few rounds later and earning the same amount. So again, the reward for this risk is very much in your favor.
-Concentrate on your table. Worry about your stack size vs the blinds and the opponents' stack sizes at the tables. Worry about other players and tables when you get to them.
...Don't pay attention to who has the biggest stack if they're not at your table. It doesn't matter at all nor should it ever affect how you play. Adjust your game according to the players and stacks at your table only.
-Play one hand at a time. Once the hand is over, no matter what the outcome, what happened or what could have happened, it's over. Forget about it.
...Sometimes it can be easy to dwell on past hand. If you had called, you would've hit quads and made a ton of money. If you had folded, you wouldn't have lost half your stack. Whatever. Whatever your decision was, it's over and there is nothing to be done about it.
-Don't be afraid to lose.
...This is my personal favorite. I feel like my game and results have improved 100x by following this simple rule. As long as you're playing with in your bankroll means and following proper BRM, you should never be afraid to lose. If there is a fear of losing, you're probably playing outside of your BR. And if there is a fear of losing, it's going to affect your game and you'll most likely not be playing as well as you should be. In fact, losing a buy-in should be the least of your concerns if you are probably rolled for the MTT.
If your BR is small to start with than BRM doesn't really apply as much. If your BR is $5 and the smallest games you can play are $1 MTTs, there is not much you can do about it. Obviously it's not proper BRM, but I would advise following the same 'no fear' approach.
I can say that this little guide has help my game out a lot. I have more confidence when I play, I'm more comfortable, and I think I'm play way better than I ever have. Here is a recent MTT result from earlier today.
PokerStars Tournament #230841845, No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $1.00/$0.10 USD
Total Prize Pool: $4153.00 USD
Tournament started 2010/01/14 9:20:00 PT [2010/01/14 12:20:00 ET]
You finished the tournament in 80th place. A USD 6.64 award has been credited to your Real Money account.
In no way is it something to brag about, but on a personal level it's an amazing feat for me to reach top 2%. And I don't even play short handed, deep stack MTTs that often. In fact, I don't think I ever have before. So, this a personal victory for me when it comes to improving MTT game.
In conclusion, I'm sharing this with everyone to hopefully improve one's MTT game. You may know all of this already, you may do amazing already or you may be someone who doesn't do as well as they would hope. I may not have won a big MTT or gotten a big payout yet, but perhaps sharing this will help someone else reach that goal.