Dealing with being Card Dead

Seven DeuceSo… you’re running into the late stages of the tournament where the blinds are getting big and matter.

You have executed your strategy well and are sitting on a reasonable stack, slightly higher than average and the worst thing in poker happens! You go card dead!

Card dead is a term poker player use for a period of time when every hand they get dealt is poor. They receive no premium hands and sometimes not even marginal, or speculative hands that are worth playing.

Don’t worry, it happens and you should be prepared for when it does. Lets talk it through and see how we can get through this period and still find yourself sitting with a reasonable stack at the end of it

It Happens to ALL of us

I’ve played in hundreds, probably thousands of tournaments and enjoyed a lot of success. However during that time I have endured a whole load of card deadness.

It happens to all players. How often have you heard a tournament player in a break say “I’ve been dealt nothing”. Everyone complains about it, but its the good players who know how to deal with these baron periods.

The worst thing that can happen during these periods is to just sit there and be blinded out, and we won’t let that happen!

Being Blinded Out is Giving Up!

So we are card dead and have been for a little while. Our normal strategy of Tight Aggressive means that we are just folding hand after hand and the blinds which are increasing as the tournament goes on are starting to eat away at our stack.

So, we are going to have to change gear, and switch to a different strategy, before we lose our chip power and fold equity.

What you MUST do is look for an opportunity. We need to play a hand, but we know that we are going into the hand with a weak hand. So we need to get a little creative and make sure that the story we tell to our opponents is a story of strength.

Just trying a standard blind steal might work on occasion, but the problem is that if players pick up on it and play back at us, then we have a very weak hand and will find it hard to fight back.

So lets get creative and look at a couple of ways you can pick up a pot by selling a story to your opponents.

Tactic #1

I have used this technique in some large buy in tournaments and it works really well and rarely lets you down.

If you have a tight player in the Big Blind, then instead of raising before the flop in an obvious steal attempt then flat call before the flop. After the flop, fire a bet out regardless of your cards.

He will miss the flop about 65% of the time and even if he hits a hand, he was in the blinds and more than likely doesn’t have a strong hand that he would be very confident with. I would say this play probably has something like a 75-80% success rate if used wisely and against the right sort of player.

If he does hit a strong hand and calls your post-flop bet then you can just fold without having lost too much.

Don’t try this every round, He will eventually pick up on what you are doing. But you have risked a minimum amount in order to pick up a pot and to get a free round paid for by that pot buying you a bit more time to get through your card dead period.

Here is another good tip: When you have noticed that he is fed up with your routine, use it to your advantage and play a strong hand the same way, you will most likely clean him out if he gets emotional trying to take a stand against you.

Tactic #2

The next technique is just the standard Blind Steal which we talked about in the last article. We all go card dead and this basic technique is one that you really have no option but to deploy during these periods in order to rescue your tournament life.

It takes a while to feel confident with this one, it goes against our whole strategy of only being involved in a pot with a strong hand that we are most likely to win, but over time you will learn to trust it.

Stealing the blinds is all about playing position and the opponent rather than the cards. In fact the cards aren’t even that important.

Actually this is a skill that I practise quite often. I will sometimes play a small Sit&Go tournament just for practise and will play completely blind. I will cover up a section of my screen so that I can’t see the cards I am dealt and I will play completely based on the information presented to me by my opponents, by the cards in the middle and by my position at the table.

What this forces you to do is not let the cards you have cloud your judgement and to always play the situation which is vital to being a successful poker player.

Reading through the hand histories after doing such a thing really does show you that if you pick the right moments, read your opponents right, and play position well, it really isn’t that important what cards you are holding when you are trying to just pick up the pot.

I would never play a proper tournament like this, as stealing pots is only a small part of a tournament in the scheme of things and actually my whole strategy is based on playing strong hands to increase my odds. But one of my proudest moments was when I actually won a small 18 man sit and go tournament with my cards covered throughout the whole tournament!

So next time you are card dead, don’t moan about it, don’t panic, just adjust your strategy and look for ways to pick up the odd pot to buy you an extra round of hands until you are through the dead patch.

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