Monday, February 18, 2008

MTT Preflop Bet Sizing

Tournament poker. Sigh.

It's all these donkeys fighting for the longshot chance that they'll hit it big, but few of them will ever get there. What's worse is that multi-accounters/account traders/teamers and other cheaters may be gaining an unfair edge that they wouldn't be able to exploit in cash games.

Knowing this, of course I had to throw some money at the FTOPS Main Event. I don't play many tourneys at all, but I'll take a shot every once in a while. I went out midway through the field.

Shortly before the tourney, I started reading "The Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide, Tournament Edition" to get ready. I quickly learned something new that I'm sure many of you MTT specialists know already:

Raise small amounts from early position, medium amounts from middle position and larger amounts from late position preflop, according to Chris Ferguson.

"Here is the reasoning: I want to make my opponents' decisions as difficult as possible. If you make a big raise, you make your opponents' decisions easy: they can simply fold most of their hands, only playing their very biggest hands. Now, if you bluff with a big bet, you win very little most of the time, but when you get reraised, you lose big," Ferguson writes.

This reasoning makes sense to me, and it seemed to work fairly effectively for me in the FTOPS. Another selling point for this strategy is that I saw many solid players in the tournament doing the same thing, which makes me think there's something to it at least.

I haven't seen similar bet-sizing tactics from hardly any players in cash games, which makes me believe this strategy is more effective in tournaments. I'm guessing the reasoning is that your preflop raise in a tournament commits more of your stack in proportion to the blinds, meaning that you have to be more careful with your raises.

In cash games, I'm still a believer in raising a standard amount preflop, regardless of your position (except in the blinds, where I'll sometimes overbet). With 100 BB stacks, it makes more sense to raise a uniform amount because the blinds are a smaller proportion of your stack size, making them less relevant. If you're playing a short stack, perhaps there's more of a reason to vary preflop raises, but I wonder.


On a separate topic, I've been trying to figure out if there's a way to budget hands preflop. For example, should I be saying to myself, "I'm not going to lose more than half my stack with pocket Tens," and plan my hand accordingly? What about AQ or AJ, 99 or JJ?

Of course pocket Tens are worth calling 20 BB all-in preflop. But are they worth 40 BB? Or 50 BB? At some point, you don't want to be putting in half your stack with a hand that's usually either a coinflip or dominated.

I don't know what the appropriate stack sizes are though, nor do I know how to do the math to find it out. I imagine I could run equity comparisons against each stack sizes' likely pushing range, but that doesn't seem like it would be very accurate because each player is different.

Maybe this is a wasted effort though.

When I asked Kuro about it, he said pros would likely go with their hand if they think it's strong, and they might not worry so much about borderline calls against short stacks.

1 comment:

Klopzi said...

On pre-flop bet-sizing in cash games:

I find that I like raising a standard amount when playing a 40BB - 60BB stack. I tend to aim for bet sizes that allow me to feel good about getting all my money into the pot on the flop or turn.

Once I have a large stack, I'll generally mix up my bet sizes based on my position, my opponents, and my hand (gasp!). Although most would advise against changing your bet sizes based on hand strength, I feel that it's alright as long as that's not the only determining factor used prior to clicking the raise button.

My basic strategy is to create pre-flop pot sizes that are favourable for me and my hand or, failing that, creating pre-flop pot sizes that are not so great for my opponents.

Mind you, my default raise is the typical 3-4 BB in the absence of reads on specific opponents or when I still unfamiliar with the current table dynamics.