Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Good players and the bad mistakes they make

In a desperate attempt to expand beyond whining about bad beats and the like, I've been thinking about the mistakes I notice good players make. Apart from the obvious tilt and bankroll related ones, here's a few I've observed:
(1) TAGs getting stubborn about their steals
Here's the scene. You're a good solid TAG playing a good solid TAG game in the middle portion of a tournament. As a good player, you know it's a good time to start exploiting your image so you widen your range considerably and start doing what you've seen the good LAGs doing: stealing a lot in late position.
You stick in your first raise with a hand you'd have instamucked till now.
The BB, a solid straightforward player, looks pained. He looks at his cards. He looks a little uncertain. Then he shrugs and announces "Raise".
What? First time you've raised his BB all tournament and he's reraising you? The bloody cheek. You're all in! He reluctantly calls with queens, and now your jack 9 isn't looking so hot.
I know of one very good player who has exitted more tournaments in this fashion than in any other. He seems to keep forgetting that his attempted steals are just that, attempted steals, and if he wants to include good LAG tricks into his armoury, he needs to do what a good LAG would do in this spot with anything other than a monster and fold already. Sometimes he complains "But I had Ace jack! That's near the top of my range at that point". Maybe, but does the BB know that? Your steal is based on the notion that he clearly doesn't, that you're still playing tight, and yet he still chooses to get involved and reraise. Your ace jack is muck, son. Filthy mucky muck.

(2) LAGs failing to recognise a TAG changing gears
My favourite kind of table is a bunch of nervous nits, one good LAG to my right successfully running over them, and me. Why? Because the LAG gradually bleeds chips from the nit stacks, and every so often makes a deposit with me. How? Because every second, third, fourth or fifth time he raises, depending on how urgent my need for a chip infusion, I'll reraise him with virtually any two. He'll hopefully have me down as one of the nits, and fold. If not, well, I have position, and if my 64o turns into a monster, he'll never believe it until showdown. It's amazing how often you can do before the LAG suddenly thinks "Hey.....wait a minute". Even the good LAGs tend to underestimate TAGs, in particular their ability to change gear in response to table dynamics, just as sometimes even good TAGs tend to underestimate the LAGs as luckbox maniacs, not recognising that when a good LAG gets into a big pot he generally has the goods. (On a related note, bad LAGs make a different type of common mistake against TAGs. They think the TAG will fold to almost any reraise "because he's a nit". These are the guys who will pay you off when you have Aces even though it's the first time you raised in several years).

(3) Over attachment to blinds
It's important to know when to defend your blinds. It can be good to do this early, as a kind of advance warning when it shouldn't cost too much if it goes wrong, and it's essential late, but too many people go out of the mid stages of tournaments reraising with a bag of spanners "because I thought he was at it"..

(4) Bluffing too much
Almost every Irish players bluffs way more than optimal frequency. I maintain this is so prevalent that calling station tendencies are plus EV in Ireland (ie, always calling if you beat a bluff), and bluffing is minus EV (because we all do it so much, someone will usually look you up).

(5) Playing way too many hands
Most good players start out very tight. This serves them well, but as they improve, they can get away with playing more hands. It's even plus EV in a lot of cases, like early in a tournament before the fish have lost their chips. But a lot of good players go too far and start playing way more hands than they can handle. Not only that, but they fail to adjust for their new table image. They go on expecting opponents to play against them the same way as when they were tighter.

OK, life update. My SNG career took a swing for the worse in the past few days. Part variance (some sick bad beats) but also part bad play I must admit after reviewing some hand histories. In particular, see (5) above. So I essentially took yesterday off and started afresh today, with immediate improved results.

I'm really really looking forward to Killarney. I see Ladbrokes have me at 150/1, which is a ridic price in a 780 field, but it's flattering nonetheless and gives me an added incentive of having something to live up to. It's not enough to be a good player as they say, you also have to play well. Luck obviously will play a decisive role as it does in any individual tournament, but I'm in the frame of mind to take advantage of fortune should it smile on me. I haven't felt this excited about a tournament since possibly Drogheda.


I know, I know, I shouldn't, but I can't help myself.

Coming soon...

Why great cash game players suck at tourneys

Mistakes good players make against bad players


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