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Two-Time Bracelet Winner Scott Ball Talks Six-Max Tournament Strategy

by Bernard Lee |  Published: May 04, 2022

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Scott BallDuring these series of strategy columns, I have been interviewing 2021 WSOP bracelet winners. These champions will provide observations, tips, and strategies for you, the readers of Card Player, about the specific poker game in which they captured their 2021 bracelet.

The Event: $5,000 Six-Max NLH
The Winner: Scott Ball

Before the 2021 WSOP, California native Scott Ball had only about $100,000 in career tournament earnings. However, after nine cashes including two bracelets ($5,000 Six-Max and $1,111 Little One for One Drop) Ball added more than $1 million to his total. As a result of his stellar play, he was named the 2021 WSOP No-Limit Hold’em Player of the Year.

Prior to finding success at the series, Scott was probably best known for his creation of Twitch Poker. While working in business development and marketing in the e-sports world, Scott became very familiar with Twitch, as the streaming platform is very active in this arena. As poker began to gain significant traction, Scott was hired on to manage the poker content, becoming known as the “Twitch poker guy.” In fact, in 2015, Scott captured the Global Poker Award for Poker Innovation of the Year for his role in creating Twitch Poker.

In 2018, he decided to branch out on his own, creating End Game Talent. His company’s mission is to bring together content creators with specific matching brands.

As for playing poker, Scott was primarily a cash game player for a long time. But at the beginning of 2021, he wanted to prove that he could be successful in tournaments as well.

“I definitely studied a lot more in 2021 leading up to the World Series of Poker,” explained Ball. “I also practiced by playing online MTTs (multi-table tournaments) to prepare. I also spent time with solvers, focusing on tournaments rather than cash games. I devoted a lot of time trying to succeed in tournaments.”

I recently spoke with Scott for my radio show for some thoughts about playing in these six-max no-limit hold’em tournaments. You can watch the full interview on my YouTube channel (BernardLeePoker) or listen on iTunes.

Bernard: Congratulations on winning not only your first, but also your second WSOP bracelet.

Scott: Thanks, it was pretty surreal.

Bernard: You win those two bracelets, but also capture the 2021 WSOP no-limit hold’em Player of the Year. Was this your goal at the beginning of the series or did you decide to go for POY after winning your first bracelet?

Scott: Before the series started, I really set my sights on winning this award. I told my good friend, Anthony Zinno, that I was going to win no-limit hold’em POY and that he should go win overall WSOP POY. (Zinno did have a great series and ended up finishing in 12th place overall).

I had really worked hard on tournaments during 2021 and wanted to really prove it to myself. So that was the goal, but obviously, there is so much variance in poker tournaments and it is easier said than done.

Bernard: Your first bracelet during the series was the $5,000 no-limit hold’em six-max tournament. Do you like playing in six-max tournaments?

Scott: I really enjoy playing these tournaments, as do most top professional players. In six-max tournaments, you get to play way more hands, apply more pressure, and make more decisions. In the game of poker, weaker players will make more mistakes. Therefore, in six-max play, the better players can take advantage of those mistakes and usually rise to the top.

Bernard: This is definitely a great way to look at six-max tournaments. Would you mind discussing a basic key strategy when playing in a six-max tournament?

Scott: Absolutely. First of all, since most players commonly play nine- or even ten-handed, they are not used to playing six-max, where you will play so many more hands. Also, players are now going to have to adjust your hand ranges when playing only six-handed. Remember, since there are only six players, the under-the-gun player is really already sitting in the lojack seat. So, there are really no early position players in six-max and you are basically treating it like playing in late position.

However, some players over adjust and play every hand, which is bad. In other cases, some players under adjust and treat six-max like a nine-handed game and don’t play near enough hands. Either one of those strategies will hurt your probability of success.

Overall, I really enjoy six-max tournaments because I’m very aggressive by nature.

Bernard: What leak do you think many players have when playing six-max tournaments?

Scott: What I commonly see as a big leak is that there is way too much calling and not enough raising. You will see in cash games and very deep tournaments that players will rarely call. One could argue that in very deep stack (about 100 big blinds or more) cash games and tournaments, the only position to call from should be the big blind. Every other spot you should either fold or raise. In general, a lot of players are playing way too passive, and this will hurt you in the long run in six-max tournaments.

Bernard: You played the entire series. What advice would you give players who are coming out to play for a week or so?

Scott: Players that are coming out to Las Vegas to play at the WSOP, especially for the first time, are often extremely excited and understandably so. They want to come to the WSOP and have a memorable experience by not only playing in the tournaments, but also enjoying themselves, especially at night. After all, it is Las Vegas.

I can completely understand this, but I truly believe that they will not be successful on the felt. If you want to win, show up to win and focus on the tournaments. You need to focus on eating well and getting your rest. Every decision is critical since every mistake does compound and add up. If you really want to win, look at the structure sheet, you will see the tournament will play to day 4 and even sometimes day 5. If you play well, you will be exhausted and probably won’t even want to go out.

However, if you come out to the WSOP to have fun, then enjoy yourself, but don’t have expectations of success when playing poker.

As for me, I played every day during the 2021 WSOP. After the day was complete, I went home to eat and went straight to bed. Even after winning my bracelets, I just only had a couple of drinks with friends and went home early and rested for the next day.

Bernard: What advice would you give the novice player who wants to get better and compete in a bracelet event?

Scott: Don’t just play poker but really study poker and put your full effort into it. You can watch Twitch and learn how these top players play their hands. Or you can find a poker training site online. For me, what makes poker fun is that you can learn every day.

Also, as I stated in the last question, if you want to win, focus on it and live your life accordingly. But, if you are coming out to the WSOP and Las Vegas to have fun, there is nothing wrong with that, but don’t get mad if you lose.

Bernard: That is such great advice. Thanks so much for your time and words of wisdom. Congratulations again for winning the inaugural WSOP no-limit hold’em POY. What an incredible accomplishment, especially with all the top level hold’em players today. ♠

Bernard Lee broke into the poker world after a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event. He has two WSOP Circuit rings, and is an author, having written for Card Player, the Boston Herald, Metrowest Daily News, and ESPN, where he was a host of the show The Inside Deal. His radio show and podcast, The Bernard Lee Poker Show, recently celebrated its 14th anniversary, and his latest book, Poker Satellite Success: Turn Affordable Buy-Ins Into Shots At Winning Millions, is now available on Amazon as well as D&B Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BernardLeePoker or visit his website at BernardLeePoker.com or YouTube channel at Youtube.com/BernardLeePoker.