Ornate Push




Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Finding Opportunity

In English football, boring means no more than winning in a way others don't approve of

"Football hasn't become boring. We just need to develop a taste for the defensive. I would sooner watch an engaging 0-0 draw than sit through the heedless attack on display in one of Keegan's altruistic 4-3 defeats at Newcastle. True intrigue on a sporting field comes from the midsection of action; not the goals, which act to confer meaning on the play that preceded them, but the passes and fruitless circling that comprise the search for meaning." - Paula Cocozza, The Guardian

For those who don't follow soccer, a brief recap. The media in the uk has been noting that fewer goals have been scored this season so far in the premiership than usual, and are worried that our national game is becoming defensive and boring, with the main aim being not to concede rather than to score goals to win. Whether this is true of soccer or not, the above quote reflects any contest, be it kicking a ball around, wrestling, boxing or even dare i say it playing cards.

"... would sooner watch an engaging 0-0 draw than sit through the heedless attack on display on one of Keegan's altruistic 4-3 defeats ..."

There's little hope for football fan's who know there team has enough attacking ability to score 3 goals, but the defensive capabilities of a lightly toasted muffin. Sure, they play exciting football every week and it's great to watch, but at the end of the season, the long-term goal, looking at the league table and seeing that your team scored more goals than everyone else but also conceded more is a worthless stat. It's the accumulated points that count, not how many goals were scored or how exciting the matches were.

In poker, similar strategies apply, if you play every MTT table like you're Gus Hansen at the final table of a WPT event then yes, you're going to have an exciting time with lots of gamble, but you're unlikely to be consistent and you may end up with a chip stack which is prone to huge swings, in both directions. That's unsettling for even the best players in the world, and for you or I will more than likely cause an emotional implosion. Far better to play an engaging, slow and steady game, where repeated probing moves to win small pots are the main accumulator for your chip stack, accompanied by the occasional sucker-punch when you are certain you have the best of it. That's assuming you have the chips to make small probing moves without having to go all-in.

"True intrigue on a sporting field comes from the midsection of action; not the goals, which act to confer meaning on the play that preceded them, but the passes and fruitless circling that comprise the search for meaning"

The passing and looking for openings in a football contest are critically important to the goals which give them meaning. Just as the times when you are NOT playing a hand in poker are critically important to the pots you win. The player in seat 4 who always raises on the button, the fact that you haven't made an attempt to steal the blinds from the button in 5 orbits, the knowledge that everyone has only seen you show down 3 hands, and two of those were rags from the big blind that hit. All this information is critical to the next hand - whatever cards you are dealt. Some of this information will pass you by if you just play the cards you're dealt, play other games at the same time, watch TV or surf the net reading stuff like this when you should be giving the game your full attention.

I used to play MTT's cursing my luck at the runs of cold cards I'd have, but the fact is, in general everyone will have a short period of cold cards during an MTT and it's the knowledge gained while everyone else was playing their cards that's going to be key in keeping you alive during the cold spell. After every hand you play in an MTT, even if you just folded rags preflop you should question how that action has this affected the perception of you at the table. If a player goes allin and everyone folds but he shows his pocket aces anyway, you should think about how he imagine's his own perception at the table is conceived by others, and how that may effect his future decisions.

Test yourself during folded hands to help maintain your interest and focus. If you fold in early position and player 2 raises 4x the big blind from middle position, try putting that player on a range of hands based on the moves you've seen them make previously. When the flop comes, assess the betting again, including everything you know of the player to that point and narrow the range of hands again. Do this as often as you can.

At first it's hard to keep track of all the other players at your table, and in MTT's with people moving around its even more difficult, so to start out I suggest just picking one player to study, if someone takes an early chip lead you may as well spend time studying him since he is more likely to be sticking around. After some time you'll get good enough to know what hand the player has, at least with a good enough accuracy to be able to play without a huge risk and knowledge gap against that particular player.

Once you are capable of making good guesses about other's hands like this you should be able to start converting that into really useful post-flop strategy. When you're not in a hand you will start asking questions such as "If I was in this hand what move would give me a chance of taking the pot" or "If I was in this hand and I think player 2 has pocket 8's, what sized bet is going to allow me to find out" or "If I was player 3 here I'd bet about 3/4 the pot to try and take it down".

This is all preparation for future hands, when you finally end up playing a hand against player 3 you've already virtually played maybe 6 hands against him, you've learnt that he's capable of folding top pair good kicker to a reraise on a co-ordinated flop, and you've learnt that he'll generally bet 1/2 the pot with an open ended-straight draw.

It means that you start to expect players to behave in certain ways, you predict the amount they're going to bet before they even know themselves and you're ready for the counter move (if there is one) even before it's your turn.

Seneca (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD) said "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" The opportunities in a tournament game of poker will be presented to you, sometimes on a plate. The best you can do is prepare for the moment by gaining the knowledge in advance to exploit these opportunities.


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Ornate - adj. 1. Elaborately, heavily, and often excessively ornamented. 2. Flashy, showy, or florid in style or manner;

Push - 1. To exert outward pressure or force against something. 2. To advance despite difficulty or opposition; press forward. 3. To expend great or vigorous effort.

Ornate Push - The messy ramblings of a troubled poker player and tilted mind.


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