Copyright 2007 Full
September 6th, 2007
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Poker Lesson: Recalculating the
Author: Paul Wasicka
In a recent World Series of Poker* Circuit event
that I played in, the nine-handed final table started with blinds
of 10K - 20K, and there were roughly 3.5 million chips in play.
Some quick division would tell you that the average stack was
more than 350K, or about 18 big blinds. This simple calculation
could lead you to some bad conclusions, however, because in fact
most stacks were much shorter.
When the final table started, I had a chip stack
of about 1.2 million or almost one-third of the chips in play.
So the average among the rest of the table was a little over 250K
or approximately 13 big blinds.
As the chip leader, I would have played aggressively
if most of the stacks had 18 or 20 big blinds. Players with those
sorts of stacks can afford to fold and wait for a decent spot,
so I'd do well to raise frequently pre-flop while attempting to
steal the blinds and antes. Against players who have 13 or fewer
big binds, however, that strategy won't work.
Players with short stacks need to gamble and, if
they pick up any kind of decent hand, they're going to shove all-in
and hope to double up. Playing aggressively, I could find myself
in some tough spots. For example, if I were to raise to 70K with
some marginal stealing hand like A-T or K-J, and then a short
stack came over the top for 210K, I'd be getting two-to-one on
my money to make the call. It would be tough to fold and I could
end up doubling up a short stack with a hand I didn't love.
At this final table, where the average stack among
the other eight players was so short, my best strategy was to
play extremely tight. I decided to play only top-quality starting
hands while I waited for the short stacks to gamble with one another.
Eventually, the stacks would consolidate and we’d be left
with five or six players who had decent stacks. At that point,
I could get more aggressive and begin stealing from players who
could afford to fold.
In the end, I got some big hands that didn’t
hold up and I didn’t win the event. Still, by understanding
that the true average stack was shorter than a quick calculation
would have me believe, I was able to apply a strategy that gave
me the best chance of coming out on top.
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