The Value of Conscious Patience in Multi-Table Tournament Poker
April 26, 2015 1 Comment
In order to be a successful multi-table tournament poker player, you must possess a variety of personality traits that enable you to experience a profit in the long run. Because poker is a game with a luck element involved, you simply cannot win every time you sit down to play no matter how skilled you are. The skill you possess will manifest itself as positive profitable results over time if you commit yourself to a disciplined strategy. This disciplined strategy entails a lot of unique elements that are developed by countless hours of study, and ultimately first-hand experience at the tables. In multi-table tournament poker, our ultimate goal is to win the entire tournament, resulting in maximizing our potential for profit. In order to consistently win multi-table poker tournaments, you must commit to a focused disciplined strategy that revolves around patience.
Why is patience important?
Patience in multi-table tournament poker is of utmost importance due to the fact that we will be committing a large amount of time to achieve our goal of finishing in first place. If we lose focus at any point during this time period, it might cost us our entire tournament life, and ultimately our investment of time and money.
Tournament poker is uniquely different from cash game poker in that our results will not be immediately recognized after each hand we play. In cash game poker, each chip has a monetary value. We win and lose actual cash in each hand we decide to play. In tournament poker, the chips you possess have no immediate cash value. Cash prizes are rewarded based on what position in the tournament you finish. Chips become extremely more valuable in the later stages of tournaments as prizes are rewarded in increasing value as each player is eliminated. Tournament poker revolves around a theory known as the “Independent Chip Model” (ICM) in which we can calculate each player’s equity at different stages of the tournament.
The value of patience becomes evident in tournament poker when we must evaluate the expected value +EV of each decision we make at the table. If we are not patient enough to wait for the correct mathematical opportunities to exploit our edge, we will limit ourselves in our potential for profit in the long run. A strong underlying reason why many losing players consistently lose in the long run is due to the fact that they can’t remain patient enough to find the correct time to make certain maneuvers.
Weak losing players tend to “force” action when they are getting bored with seeing bad cards being dealt to them over and over again. This lapse of judgement leads to sub optimal decision making that tends to result in these players being eliminated from the tournament far earlier than the stronger disciplined players.
How much patience is required?
Solid disciplined players benefit from being patient and maximizing on profitable opportunities as they arise. These opportunities arise in random time intervals throughout the tournament, and it is up to us to recognize them so we can act accordingly. These opportunities are unique to each player due to sizes of stacks, blind levels, and game flow.
The amount of patience a player will be required to have is dependent on a variety of factors, the biggest being their respective stack sizes at each stage of the tournament. With larger stacks relative to our opponents, we can optimally act with more aggression in an effort to pick up more chips without risking a large percentage of our stack. With a smaller stack size relative to our opponents, we must act optimally with more patience as any decision we make is going to cost us a large percentage of our stack, if not our whole stack.
Patience is an important trait to have because in a majority of tournaments we play, we will find ourselves with average stack sizes regardless of how skilled we may be. Being consistently patient in finding the correct spots to increase our stack size will propel us make a run at the final table, and ultimately the first place prize. If we lack patience during these crucial parts of the tournament, we will find ourselves constantly involved in situations where we aren’t expected to experience a profit in the long run.
Each of these poor decisions compounds itself onto our long-term results. If we want our long-term results to be positive, we must be patient enough to wait for opportune times to exercise our skill advantage against our inferior opponents. One lapse of judgement at any stage of the tournament can cost us our entire investment, so we must choose our spots wisely.
How do we find good opportunities to exploit our edge?
Opportunities to increase our stack size at different stages of multi-table tournaments are uniquely dependent on a variety of factors. As mentioned before, with an above average stack size, we can optimally play aggressive pre-flop by open raising and stealing blinds with a wide range of hands. Stealing blinds is one of the easiest ways to accumulate chips, assuming we have the required stack size to be employing this strategy effectively.
We want to be stealing blinds from opponents with smaller stack sizes, and from opponents who play passively when faced with aggression. We will be able to steal a lot of pots from these opponents without the requirement of having a strong hand. We will not have to risk a large percentage of our stack to achieve these steals, and when we are faced with resistance, we can safely fold without having committed a large portion of our chips. Keep in mind that many opponents will take note of your continued aggression and will eventually decide to play back at you. We must be conscious of when to switch gears and exercise more patience when faced with aggressive resistance. There is no reason to put up a fight with marginal hands when we can simply be patient and wait for more opportune spots to acquire chips.
When we possess an average, or below average chip stack, more often than not, if we decide to play a hand, it will be for all of our chips. When we are short stacked, (10 big blinds or less), we are looking for an opportunity to go all in either to steal chips, or double up through one of our opponents. Playing the short stack effectively is one of the most important aspects of tournament poker, as we will often be in this position more often than having a large stack.
If we play the short stack correctly, and find the correct opportunity to increase our stack, we can subsequently find more opportunities to further increase our stack. A majority of losing players that end up with a short stack make fatal errors that cost them their investment by not being patient enough to move all-in in the correct spots.
Further detailed explanation of optimal short stack strategy can be found here.
What is the optimal end game strategy for multi-table tournament poker?
If we are fortunate enough to make a deep run in the tournament and reach the final table, we must evaluate what our optimal strategy will be to seal the deal and win. Final tables are notoriously filled with more experienced players who have navigated their way through the weaker players in the field to reach the conclusion of the event. These players have very few leaks in their game, and they will be tough to play against, especially if you lack the experience of playing for large sums of money relative to your initial investment. The Independent Chip Model becomes increasingly important at the final table as each elimination will result in a larger pay jump relative to your initial investment.
As a rule of thumb, we do not want to bust out of the tournament when there are other opponents with smaller stack sizes than us. The odds of them being eliminated before us if we stay patient are in our favor, so we must be consciously aware of the relative stack sizes of each of our opponents. We do not want to be committing our entire stack in marginal situations when we have the option of being patient and waiting for opportunities with better cards. Fatigue can be a major factor in poor decision-making if you lack the required focus necessary to make optimal decisions. Remember that you will always have ample time to make each calculated decision, so never rush to a conclusion without exploring every angle before you act. Optimal strategy at the final table can sometimes be difficult to recognize, so please take the time to read into some more detailed strategy of how you should approach the final table with the intention to win.
You will need a little bit of luck on your side at times to win, but positive results can be consistently achieved as you gather experience and study the game appropriately and effectively.
Please visit our extensive poker strategy section for more articles on how to fine tune your game.
Good luck at the tables! 🙂