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Tournament Strategy Misunderstood

15 February 2010, By: Charlie River
feature table.5142
feature table.5142

It's one of the most widespread misunderstandings in poker:

In a poker tournament you must avoid losing all your chips at any price since you cannot reach into your pocket and buy more chips.”

You hear this all the time, but I have a feeling it’s based on a big misunderstanding.



In Tournament Poker for Advanced Players, David Sklansky tells us exactly when we should pass up a +EV situation in order to avoid busting out of the tournament.

According to Sklansky, you should

(1) avoid CLOSE GAMBLES if

(2) you’re CLEARLY ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE TOURNAMENT.

So this advice is only valid if you’re actually one of the best players in the field, and it’s only valid for close gambles, that is, situations where you have a small advantage, but just a small one.

In any other tournament situation, when you have an edge you should exploit it as much as you can. This goes for tournament poker just as well as in cash games.

(With the exception of situations where each opponent eliminated means a big jump in prize money for you, which Sklansky also mentions. But this case is not controversial.)

It’s also not true that you cannot buy more chips when you bust out of a tournament. I mean, a new tournament starts every second around the clock, at least online. Life is one long poker session, it doesn’t matter how you do in one particular tournament.

Conclusion: Most of the time in a
poker tournament, you should maximize your EV in each and every pot rather than protect your chips at any price.

At least that’s what I think. Anyone against? (Or are you still busy analyzing the poker babes list?))

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