Sunday, January 09, 2005


Bursting the Bubble

I was just having a look at the Pokerstars Atlantis thingy blog. Yet again it became apparent how people clam up around the bubble in these events. It's no surprise, when so many of the field have qualified through freerolls or cheap satellites. $11,000 looks like a lot of money when you have qualified for $40 or something.

The problem is that, compared to first prize ($860K in this case, not including the ancillary benefits of being a WPT champ), $11K is nothing at all. I mean yes, it would be nice, but it's not going to change your life. Check out the guy who leaves the table saying "Aces aren't going to cost me $11,000" ! Well, they aren't, but you could be costing yourself a lot more than that. If you can't play a tournament properly, DON'T ENTER. Don't even try to qualify. If you must, accept that unless you can try to win it, you're at a huge disadvantage.

This is the spot where if you seize the day you will have a bigger edge than you could possibly have at any other stage of the tournament. Finishing 74th isn't going to change your life. Similarly around the even more lucrative "TV bubble", sneaking into 5th gets you 10 minutes in the spotlight and $150K. Win the damn thing and you'll never have to work again. By all accounts Negreanu cruised to victory in the recent Bellagio event because no one would stand up to him 9, 8, 7 handed. By the time the 7th player limped out (and where did his tight play get him ?), Negreanu had a huge chip lead and won easily.

Here's another example, from the world's second-highest ranked exponent of how not to play major poker tournaments (of course no one could ever match Paul Samuel), Pokerpages' Dr. Mark. Now, he seems like a really nice guy, so I do wish that someone would sit him down and say "Stop fucking about you are so far out of your depth. You got lucky once, you don't have a clue what you're doing and there's only one way it's going to end - you'll go stony broke". Any time you find yourself clinging on around the bubble, you are playing too high. End of story. Not only can your experienced opponents exploit your inferior game, they can exploit your fear, which is an even bigger edge. Does he really think Vinny Vinh is the only player who takes risks around the bubble ? It seems that way. But it ain't so, not for a moment.

Think about it before you sit down. And that includes sitting down for an online qualifier. Freerolls excepted, go nuts in those, especially if you're a losing player. You might as well spend your time breaking even. Before you sit down, ask yourself "can I play this tournament properly. Can I play it to maximise my expectation, without worrying about variance ?". If you can't answer Yes, don't play. I'm not discouraging people from taking a shot, I'm just saying give it your best shot or don't bother.

Agree entirely with your comments Andy, but I find this mindset is prevalant even at small buy in tournaments. The 'happy to make the money' types are always plying their trade and i'm happy to let them get on with it. Probably explains why I bubble, or crash in the last 20%, as often (or more, well ok, probably more) as i finish top three yet rarely just sneak into the money.
I have been considering changing my style recently as i've had a run of bubbles, but I think it is a short sighted way to play.
POTY so far in 2005. Amen.
Sorry Andy, missed the poll on the blog entry below...for god's sake keep writing, it's great stuff!
I agree about dr.mark, breaks my heart to read the undercurrent of quiet desperation in his 'advice' column. A couple of other disasters out there are Jay Lovinger at espn and Mark? at UKPoker.

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