Saturday, February 14, 2009


Beat The Clock

I said I hadn't learned anything from playing in the latest TV tournament, which is technically true, but I did think of something while watching the turbo heat. The way this works is, all the runners up from the heats go into this second chance turbo, 7 hands per level and 20 seconds to act on any decision. I was just reading Stuart Rutter's blog and he said that commenting on these turbo heats in a poker blog is like commenting on blindfold Subbuteo in a football blog, which is a good line, but there is still plenty of scope for making mistakes in this format.

How to handle 7 hands per level is something I have thought about before. Just play one hand at a time according to what blinds you're on now. A lot of people go nuts and overplay their hands massively in the first couple of levels just because it's a turbo, which is quite bad. But don't underestimate how much of an issue 20 seconds to act is as well.

The key point here is that this is live poker. You don't have numbers popping up with exactly how much is in the pot, the stacks, and the bet(s). So a hand came up where I think the cut-off raised, the button pushed with Ace-bit of something and the small blind found Jacks, with the stacks between 20-30 BBs. The player with the Jacks seemed to lose focus while he was trying to work out the size of pots and bets, and allowed his hand to be counted down and killed.

Now maybe he was going to fold anyway, although it seems unlikely to me. His real mistake was that he didn't do any thinking in the other players' time. Consider chess, for example, playing with clocks. When it's your opponent's turn, you're not staring out the window. You're using his time to think about what he might do and how you would react to it. In this format, players should be doing two things while the action's not on them.

Firstly, they should be making every effort to at least estimate how many chips the other players have, particularly the players on their right (who might move those stacks in before them). If you have to flat out ask them in between hands, then do it. Secondly, while I normally don't look at my cards until it's my turn, in this format you should absolutely look at your cards as soon as you get them, so you can start to plan ahead. This occurred to me in the shower the next day (as these things do) and I thought, wow, that's just so obvious now, but I wouldn't have thought to do it at the table.

Finally, as a measure of how costly this kind of mistake can be, the player with Ace-bit, who would have been covered by the Jacks, took the pot down and went on to win the entire tournament for $200K !

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