Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WSOP Thoughts – and Advice

This is more “thoughts” than “advice,” as I am hardly in a position to give advice to either of the two remaining participants in this year’s WSOP Main Event (they play tonight at 6pm PST on ESPN for he $8million+ first prize, if you care).  I “watched” (live stream commentary) via the Internet and also watched “live” (15-minute delay on ESPN2) last night of the final table action, where the November Nine became two.  Interesting to watch, and the play offers some good lessons for us casual players.

First off – last night’s action made a comment in David “The Maven” Chicotsky’s column in PokerPlayer which, not so ironically, ran yesterday.  He spoke of Different Styles of Play in Tournaments (article name and topic – nice touch), and said:

My recommendation to you is as a general rule, if you don’t know what to do—re-raise or fold. Try to get out of the habit of calling as a last resort; many times it’s better to just fold your hand in these situations. 

This is something we see a lot of at the entry-level and small-fee tournaments – players call a raise “just to see the flop, just in case.”  This can be an expensive habit…usually, if the initial raise means something (justifying a raise), it still means something once the flop is displayed.  If you can with middling holdings, you might hit something on the flop, but…do you have a hand better than the original raiser?   If your hand was worthwhile in the first place, a re-raise was in order.  If it was semi-junk…folding was your call, because you might, or might not, be ahead now…and it might cost you dearly to find out which.

Watching last night’s play, we saw a lot of raises followed by a re-raise, which then saw the original raiser muck his hand.  Once the hole cards were displayed, we saw that often times the re-raise was justified (a pair of 9s re-raises A-6 offsuit, or A-K suited re-raises A-10).  What I took from this was that certain players were making the initial raise just to get action started (especially true when they were down to six players) in an attempt to steal the blinds and antes (especially lucrative in the latter stages, of course).  Sometimes it worked, sometimes not, but most of the time they were easily able to toss away inferior holdings and live to play again.

Which is why it was kind of funny to see it go from nine players to two as quickly as it did, especially near the end (bang, pause, bang, BANG, just like that).  JC Tran was fairly aggressive for much of the night until he got short stacked, and it was strange to hear him (and others) talk about being card dead, as I thought he held mostly meat when he was active.  Yes, he got unlucky a few times, but there were a few others where he was too aggressive, and should have taken a slower tact.  But that’s his style, and it got him to the final table as the chip leader, so sometimes that’s just the way it goes.  The others who hit the rail – they too, played well until they didn’t, or luck caught up with them (I’m looking at YOU, Marc-Etienne McLaughlin), and face it – you would’ve loved your pocket Kings, too (unless you KNEW the chip leader had Aces).  So it goes.

What can we learn from this?  Stay aggressive.  Raise or fold, don’t just call.  Pick your spots to be aggressive and don’t be afraid to respect the other guy’s re-raise so that you can play on.

And as far as the final two…since Reiss is a Michigan boy, I guess I’m rooting for him (despite the fact that he’s an MSU grad…can’t hold anything like that against him this week).

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