Misconceptions in Poker Pt 1
by jnells | Published Jun 23, 2012
Hey guys, not much all that interesting has happened since my last entry "yo soy en fuego". I wrote another blog while the Cardplayer user blog area was being spammed, which has apparently been deleted along with all the other spam posts. It is not that big a deal since I didn't really cover anything all that interesting, I was basically just talking about differences between Rockingham Park and Seabrook Poker Rooms because it was the day before Finch and I went to Rockingham to play a $250. The tournament was successful as I managed to somewhat continue the hot streak, reaching the Final Table (finishing 7th) despite being a short stack almost the entire day. It seemed every time that I doubled or won a sizeable enough pot to get myself out of a shoving stack I immediately lost a significant pot and was right back where I started. This continued through to the final table and despite the fact that it was practically giving away money the 2-3 big stacks agreed when there were 8 players left that we would take $1800 each and put the rest (about $3900) onto first and second with first getting an additional $3200 to go with their $1800 and second getting $700 on top of their $1800. I agreed to the deal because it vastly increased my equity in the tournament as the short stack. I would never agree to this as a big stack and with my skill edge on the remaining players I almost certainly would have declined it if I was average or even just slightly below average in chips. The very expensive mistake that the big stacks made got me to thinking about some of the biggest misconceptions that I come across playing these low buy in live tournaments in local card rooms. I wrote pt 1 in the title because I may or may not add to this in the future.
1) What equity is. This is something that, in my opinion, players in these low stakes events either constantly overlook or (more likely) are completely oblivious to. In its simplest form equity is ones share in something, as it pertains to poker it is usually referencing ones share of either a pot or a tournament. I believe, and my (albeit limited sample size) results have shown that in most NH tournaments that I play my true ROI (Return on Investment) is between 100-200% (and I am confident that it is 150 or higher). I had over 150% last year over $4900 in buy ins and this year I am sitting at 166% over $4400 in buy ins. This means that if I buy into a $200 tournament my equity is $500 (the $200 investment plus the 150% ROI in profit) When it comes to making a deal at a final table I figure out my equity in the tournament AT THAT POINT. This goes for paying the bubble, modifying payouts, and outright chopping. The biggest aspects to consider when figuring out your equity is you stack size, average stack size, ICM considerations, and your skill compared to the skill of the remaining players (people tend to overestimate their skill so keep that in mind, especially if stacks are shallow and people are competent on the short stack (don't worry they usually are not competent on the short stack)). To figure your equity you would figure out (obviously by estimating) the % of the time you get 1st place X the amount of $ 1st place is awarded + the % of the time you get 2nd X the amount of $ 2nd place is awarded etc. Some people in NH hate me because they think I don't like to chop, it's not that I don't like to chop it is that I don't like agreeing to a bad chop or any deal that lowers my equity in a tournament (If I am being honest I usually don't accept chops that are right at what I estimate my equity to be either because a) playing it out is fun and ensures that I get what is actually my equity (in the long run at least) and b) people are usually so desperate to chop that they agree to bad deals so why not take the free money they are handing out.
2) When the blinds are big it is not poker. This one always gives me some chuckles, often times in a fast structured tournament the average stack can be as low as 10-15 BBs (though that's a little misleading since there are no antes) and I have gone through in my head my estimate for my equity in a tournament (usually bearing in mind how atrociously live players at Seabrook play a stack under 10 BBs) and I decline a chop to the dismay of my final table peers. This usually leads to open shows of my unpopularity anywhere from a subtle roll of the eyes to vulgarity and insults (which are pretty rare as the floor does a good job of stepping in and ending the discussion once a player declines a chop offer). There are a plethora of lines that I hear during this time of begging me to chop. There is the timeless "it's bad karma to chop", the pleading "we've played so long, I just want to go home", and the aforementioned "There is no poker left". Oh I see there is no poker left, we have switched games and the remaining prize pool will be determined by a spirited game of the board game chutes and ladders. No, the truth is there is poker left and the form of poker is obviously higher variance than if the final table was 1,000 big blinds deep, but is poker nevertheless. Usually if your opponents are telling you that there is no poker left than that means they are uncomfortable playing a stack with so few big blinds, if they are uncomfortable playing a stack with so few big blinds than you can bet they are not going to play there stack optimally. Even if you are super unlucky and find yourself down to 4 players who seem to actually have an idea how to play a short stack effectively, there are usually other factors to consider. How is your position in the tournament (eg are you 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th in chips)? How is you position at the table (are you in position against the big stack, the medium stacks, or the short stacks? Is this good or bad considering the way they play (having position on a good short stacker is almost irrelevant since its all in or fold)? Do your opponents seem to be making adjustments as the table becomes more shorthanded? These are all things I consider when estimating my equity it is not simply blinds are high players are decent let's chop and go home.