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August 10, 2005

Moving Into Scoring Position

Posted at August 10, 2005 02:49 PM in Tournament Strategy , by Sack.

I stepped up to the plate that hot summer day drenched in sweat. We were down by a run in a tight game and time was running short for us to come back. With a runner on first and nobody out this could possibly be our last chance. Our fans chanted my name, trying to pump up their slugger to knock one out of the park and give us back the lead. As their ace broke his stretch to deliver the pitch, I square around to lay down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second.

Not the most exciting conclusion to that little tale there, but it was the right thing to do given the situation. Yes I could swing for the fences and in one mighty burst of energy given us the lead, or I could have just as easily struck out giving us only 2 outs left and nobody in scoring position. I did something with minimum risk that provided maximum opportunity.

The same thing works well in tournament poker. For me personally I play for fun and to make money. And yes I could sling chips out left and right at any solid hand and build or bust throughout a tournament trying to win every single time. We all want to win first place because that means we were the best. I love first place as much as the next guy, but when I’m online or local I’m not playing for a nice ring or a bracelet to show off, hell I don’t even get a picture on the wall. I am successful by ending a session with more money than I started with.

So as my goal is always to win of course, I keep in mind that coming in the top X number of spots gives me X amount of profit.

Such as today. I had placed second in a smaller tournament, and in my progressive gambling form, I pocket a small amount of those winning and take the rest to a higher dollar tournament. This way I can’t lose money, and if I place I have a decent day already and can rest easy.

Off the bat I noticed that these people were betting hard (it was a 20 seat tournament), so I lay back for the first little while, playing only premium hands. Several people are knocked off early, and I build a small stack. We started with 800 chips, and I know for me personally I’m comfortable going to the final table with about 1500 to work with, especially at the pace people are dropping off. FYI, usually about 3000 chips will allow you to sit back and fold into the money in this type of tournament. I’m comfortably in the final 9 when nobody is really short stacked enough to be in immediate danger. These folks were relatively tight as well, except for the guy following me, and he has plenty of chips. So now I can shift gears and I have my mark to the left of me. I get a good run of cards and build up a few more chips, and finally get to take a large pot off the guy to my left when we were the blinds.

Now I feel I can safely sit back with around 3000 in chips, and come in the top 5 (5th got buy in back). Then of course when I’m not wanting to play hands, I flop trip queens with nine kicker out of the BB. I bet small to get a feel, and two callers. I just didn’t feel them having a queen so when 4th street came I felt good with the board sitting Q Q 10 6. The river puts and ace out there, and I actually liked it. If the two guys still in were playing their ace (which I put my mark on) I knew I could extract some change. So I checked my trips, trying to say “hey guys, I wanted you off the pot now you take it. My mark throws out his par-for-the-course “I’m stealing it” bet, the other guy folds and I give the minimum raise. “Ha ha, I caught you again!” I’m thinking, then he surprises me by re-raising. Hmmm, now I’m worried but he’s been so loose I know he’s got to be thinking his ace is good. Lucky for me I know that I CAN be beat, and I only call rather than pushing here. He of course turns up J-K for the straight.

Ouch, one spot away from money, and now I’m around the same level as the other small stack. So now I shift gears again, and square around to bunt the runner to second. Back to playing only premium hands, in hopes the other small stack goes down. To my delight two hands later a big stack gets taken out by a full house. Alright, I’m in the money and now have a chance to profit as well. In true lucky bastard form I am dealt two aces in the small blind, with one caller and the loose guy in the BB. I just call, and true to form my mark raises about a fourth of my stack, and the other guy calls putting himself all in. So I re-raise him putting all my chips on the line and they hold up. Now I got 4th, and some chips to work with. I keep on playing tight, knowing each place will give me more cash. I can push hard at several hands, but I stay patient the whole time winning small pots and folding away ones that may cause elimination. I could have easily won some of those hands I let go that I THOUGHT were good, or I could have spent money chasing draws that could give e huge pots and in the process build a stack that could win the tournament. But I knew the position I was in, and I knew I could at least get second and a good pay day.

When the dust settled it came down to me and one other guy and his huge mound of chips. I’ve come back from worse before, but this time I couldn’t get lucky and was down and out in 8 hands. And I was happy. I could have swung for the fences and maybe won first, or I could have struck out and lost money or only got my buy in back. I laid down the perfect bunt and made 5 times my buy in, which is fine with me. I made profit, like I usually do. I may not bring home first prize in great numbers, but I’ll make rent.

You can be at the bar, and buy a pretty lady drinks all night, spend your cash in hopes of something good happening for ya, or you can sit back and let the other guys spend their money, pick your spot and move in. If it works then great, if not then nothing lost. Minimizing risk in order to obtain maximum opportunity.

A bloop single and a groundball out later we tied the game, only to lose it in extra innings. But the bottom line is that in the end we assured ourselves a chance to reach the goal.

Stilla Thrilla,