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Poker - Short Handed Play
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I don't know how many of you stayed up to watch my banana backed, square eyed poker performance on last weeks Sky Sports Poker Million - The Masters. A few friends of mine did, and suggested it wasn't so easy to follow what was happening. So here's a few hints and explanations of what was going on, or more accurately, why it was going on. They also hold true for one table competitions. (You can play one table competitions at any time during the day. 5 handed - similar to the TV series and 9 handed tables are available).
What happened in my TV Heat was quite typical of many TV Heats, but probably not as likely to occur in normal one table competitions. Just because it is on TV, most players do not want to make fools of themselves, and especially don't want to be first out. So generally they play very passively for the first three or four levels. In my heat this resulted in no-one being eliminated early.
Meanwhile the blinds are obviously going up. When we reached level 5 without any eliminations, the blinds were very high (8000/16000) in relation to the average chip stack (100,000). If we had eliminated 3 of the 6 players the average chips stack would have been 200,000 and the blinds v average chip stack ratio would be more normal... So what?
Well, should you have dropped below average, to say 72,000 - you are now in dire need of a hand to play. All your chips will whittle away in three rounds of play. So that is why on TV you suddenly see some of the professionals moving all-in with K6, whereas earlier they had passed A10. The pressure of the blinds is beginning to take its toll.
Also should you have gone another round and let your stack drop to, say 40,000, another situation occurs. Let's say you pick up 2 Kings and move all-in. The big blind has already invested 16000 in this pot. When the action reaches him, he has only 24,000 to call, whilst he can see 64,000 on offer in the middle. Excellent Pot Odds . So you will then see many of the professionals calling with unlikely looking hands such as 6,8 off-suit.
Conversely, if you have allowed your stack to dwindle to 40,000, you can expect to be called. So now it is very difficult to make any semi-bluffs with hands like 9,10. You know you are probably going to get called, so it is only the right move if you want to gamble.
At the end of my heat, the blinds were 30,000/60,000 and the average chip stack was 300,000. Lets assume I always make up the small blind, because the pot odds are 3-1, and I have the button. Then I only have 5 hands before all my chips are in the middle. And I only have 2 hands before I can expect a mandatory call from my opponent. Thus, I end up in a situation where I try and bluff move all-in with 9,3 off suit, while my stack is big. Perhaps not quite as ridiculous as it looks on TV?
Many of the professional will point out that Jimmy White was lucky to win the first Poker Million - The Masters. The other main reason he won, was because the blinds v average stack ratio got to the stage where the professionals were forced to gamble in situations they would rather avoid. When the ratio is high, the luck content in poker is equally high. It could of course, be argued that we professionals should play these TV one tables much more aggressively, thus avoiding this situation. Then Jessie May could really get excited.
Confused, you soon will be.
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