Tuesday, September 28, 2010

tourney poker 101

recently, i made it deep into the borgata world poker tour main event, and have been tweeting about my progress.  poker was actually the initial reason why i got twitter, so that people who were interested would be able to follow how i was doing in the tournament without my constant having to text individual people about what happened.

before, i would write blog entries about how the day went.  for example, you can catch my archived world series of poker entries.

now that i have a few followers on twitter that don't know about poker and have somewhat been interested in my live tourney updates, i would like to write a short informative entry about the basics of tournament poker and how to follow my seemingly nonsensical tweets.

most of the references below will be related to no limit hold em.

in poker, there are two ways to make money, playing in cash games, or in tournaments.  in cash games, you start off with however much you wish to play with (there is usually some sort of table minimum to buy in for), chips represent actual cash value.  you can pick up and leave whenever you want, and if you run out of money, you can buy in for more.  when you leave, you cash out with however many chips you have in front of you.

in a tournament, everyone buys in for the same amount, and the casino usually takes a vig (anywhere from 5-10%).  all the aggregate money goes into a prize pool.  the way you "cash" in a tournament, or make money, is finishing in a place where there is a payout.  (most tournaments payout the top 10-15% finishers).  everyone starts off with the same amount of chips, and when you lose all your chips, you are "busted", or you are out of the tournament.

in a tournament, blinds and antes go up every level, and each level lasts for around an hour or so.  in the WPT event i just played, it was 75 minutes.  at the WSOP main event, it's 2 hours.  usually blinds and antes increase by a factor of 20-25% each level.  these level ensure that players bust out in a somewhat timely manner, otherwise tournaments would last for a long time.

so when i write something like blinds 2/4 1a, that probably means the blinds are 200/400 with a 100 ante.  (or 2k/4k with a 1k ante, depending on what came before i was abbreviating)

average stack is calculated by taking the total number of chips and dividing it by the remaining players.  usually this isn't that pressing of a statistic unless it's a certain type of situation, but it's nice to keep tabs on i suppose.  so when i say avg is x, that's what i mean.

there are several special situations in tournament poker, but the most pertinent is the bubble.  this is when say there are 100 spots that pay in the tourney, and there are around 110-101 ppl left in the tourney.  the closer we are to the money, the slower the play gets for the short stacks, because they don't want to get knocked out before the "bubble" bursts.  sometimes certain players will pretty much play super conservative and fold HUGE hands in order to try to sneak into the money and not go broke.  more experienced players will take advantage of this situation and use aggression to steal pots from their weaker opponents.  in some situations, players have folded big hands face up to me, showing me that they're willing to lay down in order to make the money and won't get into big pots with me without a big hand.

a race in poker, is when the money goes all in before the flop, and the odds are pretty much 50-50, (a pair vs. two overcards is such a situation, which is actually closer to 55-45)  this is also verbalized as a flip, because it is like flipping a coin.  so when someone says i couldn't win a race or a flip, they mean they couldn't win one of these common situations.

another abbreviation commonly used is < > = when i'm all in pf.  for example, if i write, won a 500k pot AA>AK aipf, i mean that i won a 500k pot where i had AA and the opponent had AK, and we were all in preflop.

when i indicate position, i'm telling you where i am sitting at the beginning of the hand and where my opponent is sitting.  this gives additional information to the dynamics of how the hand plays out.

positions at a table:
SB = small blind
BB = big blind
UTG = under the gun, or first to act preflop
UTG+1 = one after UTG
MP = middle position
MP+1 = one after MP
HJ = hijack, two before the button
CO = cutoff, or one before the button
BTN = button, or the dealer position

when a hand "holds" that means that going into a situation where all the money is in and there are cards to come, you have the mathematical edge of winning the hand, and you win the hand in the end.  your hand "held down" the winner for you.

when i have hands, i usually abbreviate them by just two letters


so if i have aces, i'll just say i have AA.  if i want to indicate suits, i'll write i have AdAc meaning i have the ace of diamonds and ace of clubs.  if i have something like 76cc, it means i have 7 of clubs and 6 of clubs.

other section:

qualifiers/satellites.  these tournaments are tourneys that have a smaller entry fee, and the finishers in these tournaments win a buy in to a tournament.  for example, to enter in the world series of poker, the buy in is $10,000.  there are several satellites where the buy in is less than that, for example if 10 ppl were to play, the buy in would be 1k + some sort of vig, and one person would win a seat to the event.

steal.  a steal is generally just when you raise preflop in a later position and you take it down.  you "stole" the pot from the players in the blinds.  a resteal is when someone reraises a raise preflop to steal it away from the original raiser.  this is also conventionally known as a 3-bet.

that's it for now...if i have more i'll add it to my next entry, how i play tournaments.

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