Controlling the Gamble in Poker Tournaments

Poker OddsI always have a good chuckle when friends, family or whoever mention poker and gambling in the same breath.

I would hazard a guess that those who think poker is gambling have not played the game.

If you go to a casino then games like blackjack, roulette, craps and many more are all played against the house.  In poker you play other players your not playing against the house, this is a big difference.

In the other games the odds are stacked against you.  In poker, when you play a hand you can have the odds in your favour, most of the time they are not so you fold.  You have the power to play when the odds favour you.  That’s not an option in roulette or the other games.

Much more skill is needed to play poker and win.

Yes, luck is involved but you can very much limit the amount of luck you actually need by taking full advantage of the few good opportunities you get during a tournament.

Once in awhile I come across players who are ‘gamblers’ at the poker table.  They are more liable to play junk hands and hope to hit the flop.  They usually play more than 30% of the hands dealt and are furiously chasing any draws.

Below is a good example of  just such a gambler.  I had noticed from observing the table that he had been playing a lot of hands with suspect cards.  He was raising pots with second best pair or worse.

The match is just approaching the middle stage as the blinds are still relatively low.  It folds around to him and he raises the big blind.  I add a further raise to make it a 3 bet and it folds around the table to him.  He thinks for a moment and goes all in.

Funny part was I did put him on a weak hand like Ace rag but it didn’t really matter as I had AA.  I “instacalled” and surprise surprise he turned over AJ.

When I come across players like this I write a quick note in the players note box, ‘gambler’.  That tells me all I need to know about this player.

Here we had a player in early position playing AJ which although pretty is a marginal hand.  When you play a hand like that in early position there are just to many others yet to act.  Your increasing your risk because the chances of a player yet to act having a better hand are greater.  In other words you are gambling!

I’m actually getting use to throwing away hands like this in early or middle position and depending on the situation, in late position also.  Actually a few hands later I folded a pair of tens in middle position.  A player in early position had limped.  It folded to me and I thought, “hmmm, why is this player, who is second last in chips limping in early position and not raising or pushing?”  So I folded my tens.  The small blind raised it up, the limper went all in and was called.  The small blind had AK and the limper had KK.  My hmmm was correct!

Poker is all about capitalizing on your opportunities and limiting the gambling in your game!

Doubling Up your stack and getting your chips in the middle.

Winning a freezeout tournament means that you must double up your stack several times or more to win. You have to be prepared to to accept a little risk in order to win and you won’t make the final table just by taking the blinds occasionally.

In order to double up you have to look to get all your chips in the middle with a monster hand (straight, flush or set) or a premium hand like AA or KK. Many players will stick it all in with AK and that is an option in the early stages when you are up against poorer players but later in the tournament it’s not such a good idea.

But these hands are not guaranteed to win, they are just favourites to win. The point I am making is that although you aim is always to limit the gambling in your game, you can never eliminate it completely when playing in a tournament. At some point you will have to accept that risk and try and double up or increase your chip stack. But what you can do is try and minimise that risk down to as low percentage as possible.

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