In tournaments, I play lots of hands.
I'll put my money in with all kinds of
connected cards, especially when in
position. I might limp, I might min-raise or
raise a little more than the minimum,
depending on the circumstances. I'm looking
to keep my table off balance so they don't
know where I'm coming from.
My overall goal is to pick up a lot of
small pots without a lot of resistance. I
might raise in position and hope for a call
from one of the blinds. If I raise pre-flop
with something like 6-7, I might miss the
flop entirely, but the raise puts me in
control of the hand. On the flop, I'll
likely bet if checked to, even if I miss.
That small bet on the flop will usually win
me a small, but helpful pot.
Of course, sometimes it won't work out.
I'll bet and get check-raised on occasions.
But that's okay, because I actually don't
lose much in the hands that I have to
surrender. Overall, I get to gradually add
to my chip stack by chopping at small pot
after small pot.
The other major advantage to my style is
that, occasionally, I will hit a flop hard.
If I do happen to flop a straight, it's
difficult for other players to put me on
something like 5-7 or 6-8. If one of my
opponents also gets a piece of the flop,
I'll get paid off in a big way.
By adding to my stack early, I have a
real advantage over players who play a
cautious, tight game. The extra chips that I
accumulate allow me to survive some tough
spots. So, if I happen to get involved in a
race with A-K or a pair of Tens, I can
withstand a loss. An opponent who's playing
tight will likely be on the rail after
losing a single race.
New players often ask me how they can
learn to play more pots. I always suggest
that they drop down significantly in stakes
and practice. If you're playing $2-$4
no-limit, drop down to $.50-$1 - a level
where some losses won't hurt you.
Once you're at that table, try to play
eight hands out of 10. Play everything but
2-8 or 3-9 - hands that are entirely
unconnected. When you get yourself involved
with this kind of frequency, you'll have to
concentrate more on your opponents than on
your own cards. You'll have to be on the
lookout for opportunities to take down pots
with well-timed stabs. You'll also learn how
to proceed in situations where you flop a
good, but dangerous hand.
By dropping down and playing a lot of
hands, you're going to learn a lot about
poker. You're also going to have a lot of
fun. Lord knows, playing 50% of the hands is
a whole lot more entertaining than sitting
around waiting for Aces.
If you look at the success that Gavin
Smith, Daniel Negreanu and myself have had
over the last couple of years, you'll see
that being active can be an excellent way to
score big in tournaments. It takes practice
to play this style, but it can lead to great
results and be a lot of fun.