Sunday, April 01, 2007


Looking At The Stars

As Wilde said, "we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars". Pokerstars is generally considered to be the #1 site on which to play multi-table tournaments. And in most ways, maybe all ways except one, it is. The software is head and shoulders above the rest (bizarre blind-moving bug that I never understand why they don't just fix apart). Customer support is also completely different gravy compared to the competition. Structures are good and for sheer number and variety of tournaments at all levels, Stars can't be beat. There's just one problem. The player base, on the whole, is much tougher on Stars. And that's a huge, huge downside. Me like play against bad players they suck.

To make a lot of money playing online MTTs, you have to follow Greenstein's number one rule of tournaments : play lots of tournaments. You also have to play at a decent level. Once you reach a certain level, it's just not worth your time playing $20 tournaments, however many tables you have open. If you want to play more than 4 or 5 $100 (or $30/50 rebuy) tournaments a day, you have to play at least some on Stars. If you look at the top earners on, almost all the biggest winners (24 of the top 25 ranked at time of posting) play on Stars. If you want to make a lot of money, if you want to make a name for yourself, playing online MTTs then you play on Stars and you put a shitload of hours in.

What if, however, we want to make a reasonable amount of money for minimum effort, lazy bastards that we are. OK, fine, that I am. In that case I think we do something completely different. We play three or four sessions a week, 4-tabling tournaments around the $100 mark on sites like Mansion, Betfair, Crypto, Eurobet (Ongame network) and so on. Presumably Party too, though I can't win an argument on there, rigged [1].

I had a spell last month where I was trying out the Stars $50 rebuy as a means of stepping up (and a couple of goes at the Stars $100 rebuy). Results, 0/12 -$1900. Yes, I know, a small sample, but even though I think I have an edge (if only because of the loose play in the rebuy period), it's remarkable how often I would look up my post-rebuy opponents on OPR and find three or four players per table with a shedload of experience and a very good ROI. Sure there were weak spots too, but it just doesn't compare with sitting down on Mansion or Betfair and having the entire table throwing chips at you and/or tightening up like the hounds of hell were after them on the bubble.

I wonder how many people are doing the same thing. We can't tell on the databases because there's no linking of accounts on different sites. And that's probably a good thing too. I still think I'm better than the majority of the players in a Stars $50 rebuy. But that's just not as good as being better than 99% of the field and miles better than 80% as I am on some of these other sites. Game selection baby. You can look at the stars, I'm happy to stay right here in the gutter when it comes to online MTTs

[1] Joke.

Hi Andy,

I’ve been a bit under the weather the last few days, and when I for some unknown reason woke up this morning with this idea fully formed in my mind decided to share it on your blog. I’m sure there will be holes in my thinking but I’d guess you wouldn’t mind me posting it here (as opposed to 2+2 for example) as it may prompt some discussion or interest from tournament players and students of the game.

In a nutshell I have devised a simple cash game rampage strategy, and I’d be interested to hear some opinions or even experiences if it seems to merit testing. I think tournament players might like the concept - which I know is certainly not original (cf. Bluescouse), although I haven’t seen one laid down in a simple recipe structure before and following it might provide some of the challenges, risks or thills you can get in a tournament, and who knows, maybe even a nice chunk of profit too!

As it’s not particularly original or ingenious I have settled on a rather prosaic title, so ladies and gentlemen without further ado, please allow me to present ‘Matt’s Two Buy-in Cash Game Rampage Recipe ™’:

1. Open a new online poker account with a major site, the most desirable attribute being good action (plenty of tables) of NLHE available at the widest possible selection of limits. Don’t forget rake-back and bonus considerations (Full Tilt is my personal pick).

2. Once used to the software, sit down at the highest stakes for which you have 2 buy-ins in your current roll. Always buy in for the maximum, avoiding tables full of short stacks. At your current low stakes, table selection is not critical but switch promptly if you feel there are too many tight/aggressive players present.

3. Single tabling only, try to increase your stack as quickly as possible (without attempting large bluffs) by 50% or greater. When you have achieved this goal, leave unless there are particularly awful players seated, but remember to leave when you have doubled your starting stack regardless of other considerations.

4. Play at your current buy-in level with this rapid table switching regime until you have 2 buy-ins for the next level, then move up.

5. Whenever you lose one buy-in, play for that day is finished regardless of the circumstances in which you came to lose it. For the next session, drop down to the previous level until you again have 2 buy-ins with which to move up.

6. Rinse, repeat until you have paid off your mortgage/credit card bill/private jet etc. Write a book about your experiences and retire to a desert island (don’t forget my cut!)

Some thoughts:

Bluffing in low stakes cash games can get you into trouble, although it is obviously pretty difficult to play hold’em without the occasional bluff. Do not attempt to represent hands in big pots with large bets - you will get called, often by ridiculously weak holdings. Players will assume for example you have an unimproved AK if in fact they are thinking about your cards at all. Speaking of AK, raise and reraise strongly pre-flop with this hand, but do not felt it post-flop unimproved unless your opponents are total monkeys.

Instead (at low stakes) be inclined to make large value bets whenever you have even a medium strength hand, do not worry about slow-played monsters. Whenever you have an excellent holding, consider the merits of overbetting (1.5x to even 3x!) the pot, even if it seems like you’ve crippled the deck! You might like to represent a draw whenever you have 2-pair, trips or a straight on a coordinated board, moving in as a ‘crazy overbet’ if the flop comes two suited for example, you will often get called by one pair hands or simply the nut draw. The theory of betting an amount that only a better hand would call (all worse hands would fold) in my experience is not one that applies to low stakes play, and in fact will cost you lots of profit. Forget this idea until you move up a few levels.

Weak bets at the low stakes almost always represent weak holdings and you should generally pounce on them if you have even a medium strength hand. However, do not try moving players off hands with air even if they make extremely weak bets - for some reason I cannot fathom low stakes cash players will often make tiny bets, have the kind of weak hand/draw the bet represents, but still call large bets/raises even when it appears they ‘know’ they shouldn’t. Weak bets from half-decent players should of course be treated with more caution, but again I would usually recommend playing aggressively in these spots unless you have good reason to suspect a monster.

Regarding moving up: table selection takes on more importance, and the chance of making successful bluffs will increase. Using my strategy you will be single tabling and looking for the juiciest action available. As a rule of thumb, observe the play for around half an hour before sitting if possible, try to mark one or two players as your targets. You might pick the loose and poor players and wait for a big hand against them, or you may prefer to target tighter players who will call a pre-flop raise, then fold to heavy betting on the later streets. I think this idea of picking the fish before you sit will greatly increase your earning potential, and the observation time will help highlight the players you must avoid.

The structure of this plan is not suited to beginners, but it is tailored towards avoiding tilt and rapidly increasing your bankroll. Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages compared with the usual thinking of having 20+ buy-ins and many playing hours at each level. I’d be very interested if anyone is willing to give it a spin or has any embellishments or thoughts.

Best of luck,

This system already has a name.

It's called hitting and running.
Hi Camel,

I don't think your comment was particularly constructive. I'm not suggesting hitting and running - I'm not advocating playing like a total maniac then leaving as soon as you get lucky with an outdraw in a big pot, I did advocate switching tables rapidly but this is not quite the same thing.

The idea of finishing a session when you have increased your stack to a certain point is contrary to the usual thinking of 'staying whilst the game is good', but this is not usually done with the goal of handing your opponents back your profit, rather to take as much off them as possible whilst you feel you have the advantage.

I would admit that part of the appeal of this method of relatively rapid ascent through the limits would be (ideally) that few of your opponents play large numbers of hands against you. However this would no doubt work both ways, giving you less information back from them than you might get otherwise.

I've noticed that Bluescouse has begun posting once again and has managed to quickly build up an 80k+ (at the time of writing) roll. Perhaps this notion of using much more of your bankroll than might generally be considered safe might have some merit to it. After all, those 20 or 40 'extra' buyins are still really there for gambling use (although we hope we don't have the occasion to resort to them), are we just missing out on value by keeping them out of play?

I've been playing the 100 rebuy on stars regularly over the last couple of months and while it is certainly the toughest online tournament, I feel it can be quite profitable.
You already mentioned taking advantage of the loose play during the rebuy period.
Contrary to how most people play tournaments, it is also very important to play very tight during the middle stages. If you are someone the regulars don't know they will reraise every continuation bet you make. Thus it is important to agressively play pots when you hit the flop and not c-bet when you miss. You are also less likely to face a resteal when raising from early and middle position. In fact, at the 400/800 blind level and higher you are more likely to successfully steal from UTG than the button.
If you are looking to give the 100 rebuy a serious shot, it is far more profitable to play it on sundays when there are 200+ runners and many weak spots.

This blog isn't really the place for that kind of off-topic comment. I would prefer that comments are related to the original post. I've left it up (just) but a forum is a better place for this.


That's good stuff, thanks. This is exactly the kind of info I'm looking for. If you (or anyone else) have any more that would be great.

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