Win A $1,000 Tournament Ticket To The Event Of Your Choice!

Generation Next -- Ben Tollerene

Ben Tollerene Handcuffs Opponents by Profiling Their Behavior

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Aug 20, 2010


Ben TollereneBen Tollerene analyzes opponents at the poker table like an FBI criminal profiler, gathering bits and pieces of information to understand an opponent’s personality and predict his future actions. He knows that as a tournament field shrinks, you are constantly being introduced to new tables and new players. Being armed with as much information as possible enables you to attack when prudent and retreat when necessary, maintaining an enlightened balance between aggression and survival.

“You can’t play a hand well without a read,” said Tollerene. “You have to immediately profile each opponent in order to obtain one. And you are better off using a generalized read than nothing at all. I know how to evaluate a kid at the table who’s wearing a hoodie and a diamond watch. I can immediately pick up on the older men who will never bluff me and are playing purely for value. And, of course, the loose cannons become quickly apparent. By processing that information, I can adjust my game accordingly and play each hand to the best of my ability.”

Currently, Tollerene switches back and forth with ease between high-stakes cash games and tournaments. He began playing online four years ago in low-limit cash games with little success, losing his bankroll 12 times. He then went for broke and deposited $600 online at Full Tilt Poker, and never looked back. He started grinding in no-limit hold’em cash games at the 10¢-25¢ level and worked his way up to the $25-$50 high-stakes games. His success attracted attention, and he recently was invited to join LeggoPoker as a cash-game specialist.

Tournaments then piqued his curiosity when good friend Luke “IWEARGOGGLES” Staudenmaier shared a few strategy pointers. The tips must have been golden, because since then, Tollerene has cashed for more than $950,000, including a fourth-place finish in a recent $150 no-limit hold’em Full Tilt Online Poker Series event, for $73,718.

The 22-year-old’s next goal is to move up to the nosebleed cash games and focus more on heads-up play. In the meantime, to stimulate his mind, he’s dabbling in pot-limit Omaha to relieve some boredom after playing more than 2 million hands of no-limit hold’em. Tollerene’s a hard-working, versatile player who will undoubtedly find success on the live-tournament circuit soon.

Craig Tapscott: What was the one thing you struggled with the most in making your transition from cash games to tournaments?

Ben Tollerene: Well, one thing that I repeatedly did when I knew that I had any edge at all in a hand was slam that edge to the floor as hard as I could. But I learned that in a tournament, that can be a big mistake.

CT: Can you be more specific?

BT: Let’s take continuation-betting, for example. Most times in cash games, I will c-bet [continuation-bet] the flop. I may know that a c-bet has a slightly higher EV [expected value], but when you bet the flop, it starts to build a large pot. That can create a very high-variance situation. You could lose your whole stack in a pot in which bets go in on the flop, turn, and river and something goes wrong. So, I had to get used to taking more pot-control lines that I thought had slightly lower EV for the sake of keeping my variance down. This is especially true and useful when you’re deep in a big event or a soft-field tournament. Then, it really applies.

CT: Any other factors that determine whether or not you will c-bet the flop?

BT: Let’s say that I raise from the button. My read on the player absolutely matters in regard to how wide I feel he’s calling out of the blinds and how much I think he will play back at my button c-bets.

CT: What have you learned about your opponents in the live events you’ve played this year?

BT: Some of the recreational players really mess with my head. I’m not sure what they’re doing. They like to raise with their medium-strength hands on the flop for information. When they raise with those hands, I kind of forget that they’re a big part of their range, so I tend to play incorrectly against them on future streets.

CT: What happens?

BT: I let them off the hook.

CT: How so?

BT: Because I expect them to be polarized in spots with either a strong hand or a bluff, and they show up with a medium pair. I tend to allow them to do the betting, because either they are bluffing or they have me beat. And then it ends up being checked down. I miss a lot of value because they raised me on the flop and I let them control the betting in the rest of the hand.

CT: Good stuff. Thanks for your time, Ben. Spade Suit