Let me discuss what, in my opinion, is the secret to winning MTT poker. This escapes many of us and is an art that must be improved, but it is the key to becoming a winner on the charts. Aggression…
During the early years of playing, I followed the rules of poker. I read some books and played ABC poker. The best players I talked to discussed things like “playing the player, not the cards” and “the cards you have are irrelevant”, but I just didn’t understand what they meant.
It is common to be at the table late in an MTT cursing his cards, just waiting for the big opportunity to double, ‘just one hand and we can reach the final table’, only to see his blinds go down and his ‘M’ factor being so low that when you finally find the big elusive hand that you have and have no equity to fold, get paid and make a T7 muff. I know, I’ve been there many times.
I don’t remember what clicked on my game or when it clicked, but I know it did. My poker mentor is one of the most aggressive in the game and, of course, that passed on to me. I found aggression, not end to end, stupid, I stick my chips in the middle and hope for the best, but I measured poker with small balls, which will cause your stack to gradually increase throughout the tournament with very little risk.
You can guarantee that, if you are sitting at the same table as me Poker QQ, I will be the most aggressive player at the tables, I will be the guy who will hit your blinds while you wait for your beautiful cards. I can honestly say that I am in my absolute comfort zone by raising bad hands; It is a pleasure to receive 83 off-suit cards in position, as I know this will be the easiest hand to play in the world. If you fold to me, I will open the pot with a raise of around 2.5x, I can even re-raise with a positional raiser, and I have the easiest fold in the world if it is reapplied.
The only time my heart rate increases is when I get premium hands, because I know my tournament life is at stake, because I have a hand that I’m probably committed to.
I will start to increase my aggression when the blinds are significant enough to make a valuable addition to my stack; this is often the time when the before come into action. In the ideal world at a passive table, you can really push your stack to a prominent position and rarely encounter any resistance.
Let’s see an example of simple math:
The following is a very typical scenario. Blinds 200-400 against 30 on a 10-player table, total pot of 900. You raise the blinds from the button to 1100, the pot is not contested (900 profit). You make the same move on the cut off and the small blind calls 1100 and then folds to bet C on the flop (1800 profit) You then fold the hijack, but raise the next hand to 1100, the button shoves and you fold ( loss of 1100) The net profit from your assault 1600 chips or 4 big blinds. Simply put, aggression is a 100% cert + EV dead move.
It also builds an aggressive profile that allows you to be called when you hit big hands on the flop, it’s amazing how often your unfortunate opponent decides to take action when you have a genuine hand.
As you get deeper into the tournament, the bubble is a great time to take action, people become weak as money approaches and this is the perfect time to attack them. Instead of being the player who waits for that premium hand to put his chips in with you, he will be the guy looking across the paytable and trying to maneuver himself into a position that guarantees first place.
When you get used to this aggressive strategy, you’ll find that it’s like conducting an orchestra, you can really get people to play your music. You are in complete control of your destiny because you are not trying to build your stack with huge ups and downs. The point is with MTT, you only have one life, you have to protect it, avoid 50-50s at all costs, and the nature of the heads or tails is that you will win 1 out of 2. You can be lucky and win 3 in a row, but if you keep putting your life at risk, you’ll end up losing it.
So, going back to my initial discussion about your closed cards being irrelevant … I find the following the best way to summarize:
Here’s a scenario, mid MTT, the blinds are 800-1600 and you have a stack of 21k, the action folds to you in the middle position and you have A9off, you feel your hand is strong enough to open and you raise to 4200. What are you going to do with your hand when you are pushed by the button that is protecting you.