chip stack size in tournaments

aliengenius

aliengenius

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In Killer poker online 2, John Vorhaus refers to "the pulse of tournament poker" (p. 156).

He is referring to certain points in the middle of tournament when the average stack size is low(ish) relative to the blinds and antes. For those who like Harrington's terminology, everyone has a fairly low "M". Play will naturally be faster at a time like this, with more open shoves, lots of action, and lots of bust outs.

However, once the chips consolidate into the hands of fewer players, the average "M" might then be back to a safe level, and play will slow.

This faster/then slower play based on average stack size relative to the blinds will lead to a sort of "breathing" or "pulse" to a tournament. Depending on the structure of the tournament, this can happen several times.

Let's take a look at a recent tournament I played, where I ended up third:
Stack s

Some things to note here: half the players are gone, we are playing (2) short handed (6/table) tables, with blinds at 60/120 (which will be going up in 4 min.). We have three players who are in "shove" mode, with around 10bb. We are ok, with $t2730 (about 23bb, M = 15), although not in great shape, especially relative to the chip leader (who is at our table, along with ALL three of the short stacks).

In my opinion, this is a spot where we want to pick out spots very carefully. You don't want to be playing a 'LAG' type game here in our position, as there are three players who can effectively play "short stack bully" and come over the top of any raises we make, as well as having to deal with a chip leader who has a good lead over the second place player.

In other words, we have to play fairly tight, card contingent poker here; any "moves" we make can really only be against 'imbiancone', as he is a middle stack who can afford to fold, and who we can also hurt with out stack. You can't really pick on the short stacks, as they are getting into desperation mode, but can still damage our stack due to its size.

The chip leader's play is different. Anno is in a pretty nice spot here, and should be looking to rob imbia and me (the middle stacks), and basically accumulate chips with little risk. He doesn't need to call any of the shoves or "play sheriff" with the short stacks. He can afford to let the blinds go through him numerous times without incurring any damage. His motto should be, "steal, but be stolen from". If the small stacks attack him, fine. He can fold marginal or weak hands, and simply pick up the middle stack's blinds, or resteal our raises. The key is aggression: Anno needs to be the one raising, putting on the pressure, NOT the one calling. He can afford to attack, since raising and folding to a re-raise is possible with his stack size: he wont be too damaged, and his frequent steal attempts should more than compensate for the times he has to do this. Our shorter stack can't take that kind of abuse.

So you can see the difference in strategy at this stage of the tournament given differing stack sizes. We can't really afford to raise, then fold to a (probably common given three opponents in red zone) reraise too many times. But once the chip consolidate, and everyone is back to around an M of 20 or so, then you can reopen your style to a looser, more aggressive mode.

Phil Gordon sort of touched on this idea a bit as well:

"At this final table, where the average stack among the other eight players was so short, my best strategy was to play extremely tight. I decided to play only top-quality starting hands while I waited for the short stacks to gamble with one another. Eventually the stacks would consolidate and we’d be left with five or six players who had decent stacks. At that point, I could get more aggressive and begin stealing from players who could afford to fold."

Since there were no "middle" stacks to attack, he is forced to play very tight/card contingent poker here, in a similar way to our situation above. Of course, he is in a much better spot as chip leader, but the underlying idea is the same: if everyone/most of the players are in desperation mode, you need to adjust your vp$ip and aggression level accordingly.
 
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skoldpadda

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I usually think of M in terms of a full table. At 6 handed, your effective M is actually less here.

Some excellent points!
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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I usually think of M in terms of a full table. At 6 handed, your effective M is actually less here.

Some excellent points!

oops, you're right :eek:. But, I think the main points still stand...
 
OzExorcist

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Never come across the term "short stack bully" before. I like it in this instance though: the bottom three players might be short, but even the chip leader isn't in a position to enforce Harrington's 10-to-1 rule.
 
jaymfc

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AG ,I like it , but I'm not sure you practice what you preach , lol, maybe you know how I play and can play me different but you have always still stolen my blind even when I'm short stacked , you have also called my all in with a marginal hand ,(possibly doubling me up ) and got on others for not calling me when I'm in shove mode. please explain yourself.:D
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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AG ,I like it , but I'm not sure you practice what you preach , lol, maybe you know how I play and can play me different but you have always still stolen my blind even when I'm short stacked , you have also called my all in with a marginal hand ,(possibly doubling me up ) and got on others for not calling me when I'm in shove mode. please explain yourself.:D

Well, in the above tournament I DID play very tight during this period. You'll have to post the HHs for me to comment-- maybe I had a big hand when you thought I was stealing (?) or maybe I just read you as playing too tight at the time (?); maybe our stack sizes were such that I could make a marginal call on you (?)-- I'd have to see the exact situations to comment.
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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I usually think of M in terms of a full table. At 6 handed, your effective M is actually less here.

Some excellent points!

Just thinking about this a bit more-- it goes to the point that after chips consolidate into fewer players PLUS we go go to a nine handed final table, then everyone will then have "enough stack to fold", and we can re-open our aggression level.
 
Effexor

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One thing that I think is important to factor in with regards to play style at this point is where on the table the short stacks are. Lets say you are middle stack and have the 2 small ones on your right, and the 2 big ones on your left. In this situation you can still play on the LAGGY side assuming the smalls fold to you. If on the other hand, the small stacks are on your left, you really have to tighten up or be prepared to race as they will shove with less than premium hands.
 
C

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Good points, i just experiensed this in a home poker tournament with 9 people, when i was a good chip lead from start, but we played with re-buy and when 3 players where short stack and the rest only middle stack it lead to shoves almost every hand, because they was going to rebuy if they busted. It was tricky and i was forced to fold almost every hand 4 an hour
 
vanquish

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Not yet, I just got it.

I've heard that it talks about SPR (stack to pot ratio) and how much it affects decisions, but perhaps that does not relate as much to tournaments as cash games in the way it talks about it.
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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I've heard that it talks about SPR (stack to pot ratio) and how much it affects decisions, but perhaps that does not relate as much to tournaments as cash games in the way it talks about it.

Some of the ideas are applicable, even if PNL is addressing the cash game. Pot to stack ratio sounds like it is concerned with having plan for your hand-- if you run out of money to bet significantly on each street because of early larger bets it could be a mistake (?)
 
vanquish

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Without even thinking about it, I've been using these ideas a ton over all of the MTTs I've played recently, which makes me feel that the thread needs to be bumped so more people could read it :D
 
aliengenius

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I think this needed a jazzier title like "Lag 'em or Tag 'em?" or something...
 
ChuckTs

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Don't remember reading this one; good stuff AG. I read Vorhaus' book and completely forgot about his 'pulse' concept.

But ya, your M as well as your opponents' should always be among the main factors in deciding what to do during a hand. tbh I often find myself distracted enough to forget to really take my time and analyze what the ideal style should be at a table.
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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OK kids, this is the secret to tournament poker:

stop thinking about cards and start thinking about stack size, both your opponents AND yours vis a vis the blinds/pot.
 
reglardave

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It always seems to me that in a typical online structure, what you refer to as the :pulse" almst invariably winds up controlling the end game play. In a standard PS tournament 1500 starting chips and 15 minute blinds, by the time you get down to the final table, even the chip leaders have such low relative Ms that very few hands go to showdown, and those that do usually put 1 or more players at risk for their whole stack.

A final table I was at the other night, with blinds of 4-8k and 500 antes, even the middle stacjs had Ms of 10-12, and at a cost of 15,500 per round with blinds due to rise again soon, most every hand is a fold or shove situation.
 
WVHillbilly

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First read of this thread and just wanted to comment that this is the basis for much of Kill Everyone (I know you have it AG but I don't know if you've read it). And, you're right, knowing what size stacks to attack is the key to tourney poker.
 
vanquish

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First read of this thread and just wanted to comment that this is the basis for much of Kill Everyone (I know you have it AG but I don't know if you've read it). And, you're right, knowing what size stacks to attack is the key to tourney poker.

would you recommend this book? also who is the author?
<3
 
8Michael3

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I wish I was rich!!!

Every time I read a thread or a post written by you you always have a link to a book that I end up wanting.

Very nice post. The concepts are understandable and practicing them will probably bring me some positive results.

Maybe I have a sick sense of humour but I Even enjoy reading your biting sarcasm, its hilarious.

Thanks.
 
Implied Odds3

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These are great concepts to use. I need to try them when i final table the next time.
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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Every time I read a thread or a post written by you you always have a link to a book that I end up wanting.

Very nice post. The concepts are understandable and practicing them will probably bring me some positive results.

Maybe I have a sick sense of humour but I Even enjoy reading your biting sarcasm, its hilarious.

Thanks.

thanks :)


AG ,I like it , but I'm not sure you practice what you preach , lol, maybe you know how I play and can play me different but you have always still stolen my blind even when I'm short stacked , you have also called my all in with a marginal hand ,(possibly doubling me up ) and got on others for not calling me when I'm in shove mode. please explain yourself.:D

Just reread this thread, and I think you really missed my point: it's not that you should "play tight" it's that this particular situation dictates that tight play is necessary. Note that if I had AD's stack stealing from the middle stacks would be indicated.
 
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