"Playing for 1st place" vs. "Playing to survive"
I can honestly say that for the first time, a CardsChat Facebook post quiz has truly intrigued me. CardsChat asked "In proportional-payoff tournaments, your best chance at the most profit is usually achieved by:
(A) Playing more hands;
(B) Betting more often;
(C) Playing to capture first place;
(D) Playing to survive."
The vast majority went with C, NOBODY went with A or B (as well they shouldn't, those are nonsense answers) and maybe two people went with D. I myself was so mind blown by the fact that CardsChat even distinguished the term "proportional payoff tournaments" that I was so fixated on saying "but isn't that just what poker tournaments ARE?!" that I neglected to put forth an answer altogether, but that issue is another thread.
The pro, Mike Caro, went with D. I have a feeling there is more to be gleaned about the nature of poker and those who play it than at first glance. I believe it very likely that "playing to capture first place" and "playing to survive" is different things to different people. I want as many people who post in this thread as possible to answer these two questions:
1) In your opinion, what does it mean to "play for 1st" and what does it mean to "play to survive"?
2) What method, based on your own personal view on the subject, is better to use as a strategy and why?
I'll kick things off with my own answers:
1) To me, someone saying they "play for 1st" is effectively giving themselves license to take risks that are proportionate to their stack rather than the blind levels, particularly early on. If the margin is high enough, this philosophy states that it's perfectly acceptable to move all in with a stack of 50+ blind levels regardless of the potential for devastation to your stack, or even loss of tournament life should variance kick in or you misread weakness and thus lose. Those who "play for 1st" believe that winning only 2-4 times the buy in you put forth is virtually indistinguishable from losing outright, so they play for the purpose of creating monster stacks that could practically fold their way to a high echelon of the pay ladder. And if they lose 70% of a monster stack in 1 go, they consider that meaningless too.
Those who "play to survive" are the exact inverse of this, particularly in attitude. They have no desire to min cash and go no higher, but they do not believe said min cashing to be losing--they believe NOT cashing is losing. Early on, they tend not to commit an outrageous amount of blinds into a pot in single bets or calls unless they have the nuts or close to them. As the blinds get higher, they keep a sharp eye out for profitable opportunities in better than marginal situations. If their stack does not increase in proportion and the amount of blinds in it starts faltering, they do not simply try to fold to a min cash and only play absolute premiums. Rather, they hold out for as long as they deem feasible, looking for a good enough hand to try and bounce back. For some, it makes a difference how close to the money bubble they are for their range, for others it does not and they will willingly commit all their chips if they see a chance to double up to or towards a non endangered stack size. In other words, to me "playing to survive" does NOT mean folding QQ or even JJ just because we're five players from the bubble bursting.
2) If it wasn't clear, I favor the survival approach, because it's all too easy to carry the play for first approach to asinine recklessness.