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Killer Instinct

by Casey Jarzabek |  Published: Mar 14, '11



I decided to write this article today to stress a point that I’m not sure everyone quite realizes the importance of…the “killer instinct” you need to be able to close MTTs. Getting deep in tournaments is great, and obviously the first step you have to take before you can have a chance to close. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in the MTT community has folded a hand or 2 that they normally would not have if they weren't on the bubble. It’s just human nature. You want to cash.


You get to a final table your 4th in chips with 9 people left. You have 35 big blinds and are feeling pretty comfortable with where you are. There are 3 people at the table with less than 10 big blinds. This is where people start thinking to themselves, “man I should just fold here and play tight until 2 or 3 people drop out and I can pick up some extra cash.” Or there are 6 people remaining and one is very short stacked. You check the money jump from 5th to 6th. It’s human nature and you want to know what extra incentive there is in seeing that short stack eliminated.


I’m here to tell you as hard as it may be, if you can break these habits it will help you in your quest to become a better player. I hear all the best MTT players in the world described with common adjectives: fearless, ruthless and relentless. These descriptions are all absolutely accurate. I am in a unique situation, as I had a pretty big stable of horses at one point in my life. Even when I wasn’t playing I could pull up any poker site at almost any hour of the day do a search or 2 and have a vested interest in a tournament somewhere. I had all different types of horses. High stakes low stakes mid stakes. And something I learned from all of them was that the guys that had the killer instinct were always chopping up more money than guys that didn’t. I know this seems pretty logical but I’m just not sure that people truly realize how important the concept is. It’s much more profitable to win 3 tournaments then to final table 15 and get 3rd to 9th.


Tournaments are so top heavy that, yes, it’s great to pick up 4th place money from 5th but it’s definitely not great to do this if you are passing up +EV spots to do so. I know that money is super precious to everyone out there, but somehow someway if you choose to play poker for a living or for extra money, you need to be able to put money jumps and money bubbles out of your thought process. If you’re able to do this, I absolutely guarantee you start seeing more wins and, as a bonus, more money from this mind set.


Do what you have to do to get your head in this frame of mind. Pretend it’s a play money tournament. If it’s a 50 dollar tournament pretend it’s a 2 dollar tournament.  Do whatever it is to trick yourself, or make yourself realize that nothing matters but winning.


 And don’t check the lobby!  


The lobby is a curse. I had this discussion with one of my stakes in particular. When he was deep in the money he was constantly checking the lobby. He literally checked it every few minutes and gave me updates. He would say things like, “I’m 3 of 11. Now I’m 4 of 10. In trouble now, 7th of 8 people left.”  Not only was it annoying, because I was in my own tournaments but I was completely detrimental to HIS tournament life. Finally I forbid him to check the lobby. I flat out told him if I ever see him checking a lobby again I would not back him anymore. At the time I told him that, he was in a lot of makeup. Since then he has cleared his makeup and chopped up at least a dozen times. His wins have gone up exponentially.


Give this mindset a try. I’m confident this will help your bottom line. And in the end, that’s all that matters. Get yourself into “the zone” as I like to call it. Take no prisoners. If you don’t worry about the bottom dollar, you will see a big difference in what that bottom dollar is.



Casey “bigdogpckt5s” Jarzabek is widely considered to be one of the best online players in the world. The Canadian pro got his start after an accident on the baseball field left him laid up in bed. With nothing else to do, Jarzabek deposited some money online and hasn’t looked back.

In the years since, Jarzabek has racked up over $2.5 million in tournament earnings and spent both 2009 and 2010 as a contender for Card Player Online Player of the Year honors. Jarzabek is also the lead pro at, which features poker training from some of the best minds in the game.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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