I was cleaning up my computer and came across some, ummm, “insight” by the formerly respected Mr. Lederer. The material is dated September 2006, but was written earlier. I am amused by the irony and the historical nature of thinking by the now disgraced Full Tilt entrepreneur….. – JDW———–
> Many of the people crowding the tournament circuit these days developed their interest in serious poker from watching broadcasts of the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker. With hole cards shown as the hands are played out, viewers get to see how the best players in the world ply their craft. They can then apply the lessons they’ve learned in their own play.
> In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that some of the less experienced players who have entered $10,000 buy-in tournaments don’t fully appreciate what they’ve seen on TV. Many are apt to misapply the techniques they’ve witnessed. As a result, these players find themselves on the rail early, wondering why a move that worked so well for Phil Ivey or Chris Ferguson had such disastrous results for them.
> To avoid falling into this trap yourself, take note of two key pieces of information the next time you sit down to watch the WPT or WSOP: The number of players at the table and the stack sizes relative to the blinds.
> World Poker Tour final-table broadcasts start when six players remain. Through the vast majority of tournaments, however, tables are nine or 10-handed. When 10 people are at the table, you always need to be concerned that someone holds a big pocket pair or Ace-King. As a result, most good players tend to be cautious at full tables. They won’t get themselves in a lot of trouble with speculative hands like a middle pocket pair or Ace-10. At a short-handed table, however, the chances of running into a big hand are greatly diminished. When play is three- or four-handed, a pro will likely play a hand like pocket 9s very aggressively.
> Usually, in the late stages of tournaments, the blinds are extremely high when compared to the size of the stacks. For example, in the recent WPT event from the Gold Strike in Tunica, when four players remained, the average stack had about 1.4 Million in chips. This may sound like a lot but, at that time, the blinds were 30,000 and 60,000 with a 10,000 ante. The short stacks, who had less than 1 Million each, couldn’t afford to be patient. If they failed to play for a mere 20 hands, their stacks would be cut in half.
> As blinds increase, good players get more aggressive, making frequent pre-flop raises while attempting to steal the blinds and antes. They know that if they sit and wait for top-quality hands, the blinds and antes will decimate their stacks. At these stages of tournaments, you’ll see a lot of attempted steals with second-rate hands. Other good players, fully aware that their opponents may be raising with very little, might re-raise or fight back from the blinds with similarly modest holdings.
> Short tables and high blinds create settings that necessitate near constant aggression and continual action. So, for example, when you see a pro re-raise all-in from the blinds with pocket 7s, it’s likely he’s properly considered the situation and has made the best available play. He’s thought about the short table and high blinds, determined that he probably has the best hand and, most importantly, that his opponent likely can’t call the re-raise. The same player would treat the same hand very differently at an earlier stage of the tournament.
> The final factor to consider when watching televised poker is that the shows are highly edited. At this year’s WSOP, it sometimes took 15 hours and hundreds of hands to determine a winner. On ESPN, they usually include about 20 hands in an hour-long broadcast. So, you can be sure that much of the context if missing from these telecasts. A call or re-raise that seemed odd on TV may have made perfect sense in the course of the event. For instance, if an aggressive player raised eight consecutive times on the button, the big blind may have decided that he had to fight back with rags, just to let his opponent know that he was willing to take a stand. It’s not a play that person would normally make, and it may look strange on TV but, in context, the re-raise with 8-high made perfect sense. – Howard Lederer
> You are in a major tournament…the first hand you are dealt pocket kings. someone goes all in— call or fold?
> You should probably call… unless you have a read on the player suggesting he is holding pocket rockets. The opportunity to double-up on the very first hand in a major tournament seems too good to pass up. Leverage that head-start in to build a chip lead and lean on weaker players later.
> Bad Position, Decent Cards
> In the middle and later stages of tournaments, there are often times when you’re forced to make a pretty big commitment on a relatively weak holding. These are uncomfortable spots because you never want to risk a large percentage of your chips with a mediocre hand. Things get even more difficult when you’re playing from the blinds and out of position.
> For example, say you’re playing late in a tournament. The blinds are $500 and $1,000, and there’s a $100 ante. You’re in the small blind with $18,000. It’s folded around to the button, an aggressive player who raises frequently in late position. He has $30,000 in his stack and he raises to $3,500. You look at your cards and see Ad-9s.
> You know that A-9 isn’t a great hand, but you can’t ignore it in this situation. First off, given your opponent’s history, he may very well be raising with a hand that is far worse than yours. In fact, in this spot, he could very well have two rags. Another consideration is that there are a lot of chips in play. Between the blinds, antes, and your opponent’s raise, you stand to pick up over $5,000 in chips if you can take down this pot, which would be a nice addition to your short stack.
> So, you’re probably going to want to play this hand. But what’s the best action?
> At first, it might seem that calling is a reasonable course, as it would keep you from getting overly committed on this marginal hand. But calling has some pretty big downsides. With a hand like A-9, you’re usually not going to like the flop very much. In fact, you’ll fail to make as much as a pair about two-thirds of the time. If you do flop a pair of 9s, how are you going to proceed if the flop also has an over card? Even on an Ace-high flop, you’ll have a tough time knowing if your hand is good.
> What’s more, if you miss the flop completely, you leave yourself vulnerable to being outplayed. It’s going to be very hard to bet if the flop contains three cards that don’t help your hand. If you check, your opponent will likely make a continuation bet, and you’ll be hard-pressed to continue, even though Ace-high might be good.
> In spots like this, your best move is to press an edge while you have it – before the flop. Re-raise all-in pre-flop. Your opponent probably won’t have a hand that he can call with and, if he does, you’ll have plenty of outs. You still have about a 25% chance against AK, for example. Not good, but not dead.
> The important thing to keep in mind is that, in the later stages of a tournament, you don’t want to make many decisions after the flop when you have a medium-strength hand like Ace-middle kicker or middle pocket pair, and you’re playing out of position. Put your chips in while you think you have the best of it, and hope for the best. If you let these marginal but good situations pass you by, you might regret it later when your stack has been whittled down even further. – Howard Lederer