Poker is a funny game. There are all kind of games in this world and most of them have a single optimal strategy that if followed all but guarantee a high rate of success. Tournament No Limit Hold Em Poker isn’t really like that because of several complicating factors. First, there are up to 10 people at the table all playing different strategies to begin with. There may be a single optimal strategy against any single player, but you have 8 others to contend with and unless you are the last guy to act, they can throw a monkey wrench into your plans at any moment. Second, it is a game of incomplete information. You don’t know what the other guy is playing, it could be gold or it could be garbage. You have to guess based on what you have seen him/her play before and any clues he/she might give you. And those clues might be a deception. That’s where bluffing comes in. Other people at the table can lie to you and it is perfectly acceptable. It’s this part of the game that is so devious. Let me tell you a story of what just happened to me and how I got suckered by my own trick.
I play mostly premium hands in the early goings of a tourney. By premium I mean AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ. Those are the hands I will definitely enter any pot at any position with. If it is especially cheap to get into a pot and I have a good position, I might play about any two cards. Given 10 to 1 or better pot odds, I will play anything on the button (if you are confused by any of this poker jargon, go here for a good glossary). If I win one out of every eleven times I play like that, I’m breaking even. Anything better and I’m ahead of the game. A side benefit of this is that people see these junky hands when I get lucky and win and think I play crap all of the time. These cheap hands make me more money later on. A short while ago on PokerStars I was playing in a tourney that I was dominating. I hit with my good hands and I hit with my bad hands and I was coasting. A few people were out and the second place chipleader was to my immediate right. He called a raise and went all the way to a showdown with a 2 4 offsuit. That info stuck with me. What kind of moron calls a raise with a 2 4 off? A big one that’s who. Two hands later I have AJ off and I raise about 3 times the big blind. He reraises me about the same amount. Now I’ve seen him play crap, so I reraise him All in. He has JJ. I don’t hit my ace and I go from first to worst in one hand. That’s the power of deception and he used my own trick against me. Bastard. Minus that 2 4 hand, I would have just thought that he had a high pair (which would have been correct) and would have laid my hand down.
There is a third component to this game that I will talk about in a different post as it deserves it’s own attention: Luck. Adding that in, you’ve got a brutal game.