Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Small Field vs Big Field Mtts

As we approach another Mookie Wednesday, I am left to ponder the topic I have returned to the most over the past several weeks concerning my poker play: why am I once again completely invisible in terms of my performances during the BBT3? I mean, I am still running hot in my mtt game overall; just in the past week I have recorded probably three top-100 finishes in the 5050 tournaments on full tilt and pokerstars, two of them ending well into the top 50 players, in addition to some other random tournament cashes in various forms of poker plus a number of nice hits in the sitngo arena. So my tournament game is still doing fine overall. But the problem is the blonkaments.

Sure, I managed to win one more blonkament in the past month -- the first of the $10 Turbo PLO Dookie's a few weeks back -- bringing my total blonkament wins for the year up to 4 -- two Dookies, a Donkament and an O8 Riverchasers event in January. But in general, my blonkament game overall has not been up to snuff so far in 2008, and I keep asking myself the same question over and over again: Why?

I've done a lot of soul searching on this point, and I am simply not hitting on any of the right answers. So I thought today I would use this space to write down my thoughts and solicit any opinions that anyone has on the topic. I really don't have any conclusions to make in this post, though, so it will probably end up being more stream of consciousness than anything else when all is said and done.

The biggest thing about the blonkaments over the past few weeks in particular has to be the large fields. With the BBT3 in effect, the average blonkament between the Big Game, the Hoy, the Skills Series, the Mookie and the Riverchasers has probably been what, around 90 players? Compare this to the non-BBT "usual" size of these events, which is maybe 20 for the Big Game, 30 for the Hoy, 40 for Skills, 60 for the Mookie and 50 for the Riverchasers, for a back-of-the-envelope average participation of around 40 players. So with the BBT, the fields are a good twice the size of average if not a little moreso than that even. Obviously this makes it very much more difficult to win a tournament when the field is more than twice as large.

But my problem with it all just being that simple as far as my complete lack of success in the blonkaments since the BBT3 hit is that for the most part I am not even cashing in these events. Should it really be that much harder for me to finish in the top 10% of the field, say, with 40 players or with 90? I think not. So clearly, I am simply doing something wrong.

For example, after how many Skills Series events there have been so far this year -- let's say around 12 at this point -- finally this week's Razz event saw me score my first elimination bounty of the entire series when I knocked out blogger razz champion Gary Cox when he boated up on the river (you gotta love razz!). My first fucking bounty! In 12 events. How can that be? I keep asking myself that question, and on that particular point I think the answer is a little clearer than the other blonkaments in general: I am playing way too loose up front.

I told myself I was playing too loose after my first several Skills Series failures, don't get me wrong. I went back and reviewed my hand histories and noticed that I was taking a lot of chances that, while maybe sensible plays given the context in the tournaments at the time, simply did not need to be made at that point in time. Like, for example, I'm playing razz and I am dealt (KJ)4, the action folds to me with just two players left to act and up cards behind me of 7 and J. Do I need to raise here? Sure I am tempted to raise and likely steal the blinds, and generally speaking that is how I try to play razz as a rule and I believe that is a winning approach to the game. But in a freezeout tournament, especially one with a bunch of unlesser-skilled players who are more likely than your average bear to make a bad-looking call or to chase a draw down to the final card, I think perhaps in these situations, where the hand I actually have is not a good or even playable one at all, I can pass up playing in more of these situations than I have been. This in fact was the exact approach I followed for the first time in the entire Skills Series run this very week with razz, and I ended up posting not only my first elimination bounty but also my best overall Skill Series finish, a still disappointing 22nd or 23rd place out of 80-some runners on Tuesday night. Still not where I want to be, but I definitely felt like, at least where the Skills Series limit poker events are concerned, I need to actively focus on playing tighter early in these events, and that should help my bottom line going forward. It is definitely not something I have focused on at all to this point, and I think that fact shows in my results thus far.

But my better question involves when I move my self-analysis away from just the Skills Series. The rest of our games are, for the most part, no-limit holdem tournaments, and it is in those events that I am most surprised and most disappointed with my complete inability to even cash. Now to be fair, in the very first event of the BBT3 in the Big Game, I played great and ran all the way to 3rd place before being the second-to-last cooler victim of Scott Fischman's at the final table. I won $953 or something for my efforts, basically paying for all of the BBT3 events I will be playing in (most of them) and giving me a very confident feeling heading into the rest of the challenge. But since then I do not believe I have cashed in a single tournament of the BBT3. So again I ask, what am I doing wrong in these nlh tournaments? Here is my analysis:

In the Mookie, I already wrote earlier this week about my theory on the 1500 vs 3000-chip starting stacks. I have been playing every one of our events as if it were a 3000-chip tournamnet, even though in reality only the last Mookie of every month -- including tonight's, btw -- starts with 3000 chips. The rest of the Mookies over the past couple of months have been 1500-chip starters, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, I know now that I have been playing those also too loose. Again as with the Skills Series tournaments, the majority of my LAGgy weakness has been occurring early in the Mookie tournaments, where I have been raising preflop too liberally with less than stellar cards, and I have been betting and calling too liberally on the flop as well. As much as that is a drag on anyone's results in anyone's tournament game, doing so in the shorter-stack Mookie tournaments has been a complete disaster. I think I have figured that out and internalized it now, so hopefully starting with next week's Mookie tournament I can see some better results with my new 1500-chip tournament approach. So I think that explains my terrible Mookie showings so far this year.

But what of the other tournaments? In Riverchasers I do have the one win this year already, and otherwise I have missed probably half of them, and all the RCs during the BBT so far, to watch Lost, so with that particular tournament I have not really made enough attempts to claim a real lack of success yet. But take the MATH for example. This is an event that I won what, 6 or 7 separate times in 2007. Now this year, I am relegated to just one cash, an early final table exit at that, and an overall loss of a good $200+ in my own tournament so far in 2008. What is up with that? Now this is a 6-max tournament so in some ways I doubt the story is as simple as me just playing too tight early on. In 6-max I think you really have to play a much looser game in the earlygoing just in order to keep up with the escalating blinds and the shorthanded format in general. I have reviewed my hands from every Hoy of the year so far, and for the life of me I can not focus on one single thing that I seem to be doing wrong. So those of you who have been playing with me in the blonkaments lately, if you have any ideas what I've been doing wrong this month as compared to my past performances, I am all ears.

Lastly, I will mention that I have been a bit of a tiltmonkey in the blogger games through much of this year so far, and I know that is something that has affected me in every single one of our regular weekly events. Too many times I have taken a bad beat or two, or lost a nice portion of my stack, and then proceeded to auto-donk the rest of the way out of the tournament. Now, this is not an approach that I use in my sng play, nor is it something I would ever do in my larger mtt play either, which tells me that on some level I know it is losing poker to allow myself to tilt-donk in this way. And yet, so far over the past several weeks I am just not giving myself a chance to survive, to clear my head and to come back from a big loss. All that I realize now as of this week and I am specifically targeting that as one key area of change going forward.

In all, I think it is a very tricky business trying to act like anyone actually has an actual plan to win one of these large-field blonkaments. But I certainly know that I have the skill required to be making some final tables, at least to be consistently making the BBT points cutoff. Not that I would ever in a million years "play to make the points" (you donks), but as a benchmark of my performance I should definitely be in there more than the three times or whatever I have reached this plateau so far in the first month's worth of BBT tournaments. So look for me tonight in the Mookie at 10pm ET on full tilt -- password as always is "vegas1" -- and I will once again be planning to practice a tighter strategy, at least during the first hour or two of play. At some point as I have mentioned previously I bellieve that my advantage increases exponentially over most of my peers as the tournament progresses to the late stages and the game becomes more of an instinctual pushfest stealfest and even restealfest, but in order to be able to benefit from that advantage I feel I have, I need to focus on the fact that first I need to get to the third hour of a tournament before I can start to open up. So that's the plan for tonight, but I really do welcome any thoughts from any of you on my plan in the blonkaments over the past month or so.

Cuz boy do my results suck some balls.

See you tonight for the Mewk.

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Blogger bayne_s said...

My theory is that familiarity with each others games can reduce winning chances to catching cards.

You probably get caught restealing more in blonkament that in large field MTTs

2:21 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Bayne that is a sensible theory and one I am going to specifically look for tonight. In general having reviewed so many of my blonkament hand histories over the past couple of weeks, I don't think getting caught restealing has been a major part of my troubles. But I will definitely double check that tonight and see if that is a contributing factor.

2:29 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

Much like your starting chipstack analysis recently, you have to realize that all things are not equal here.

1) As Bayne stated, there's a degree of familiarity that isn't found in any other SnG or MTT you play. Think how your attitude changes when you find yourself at a table with a blogger in the 50-50 or Token Frenzy.

2) There's a unique "skill" level in blogger events that changes in the BBT. Most bloggers know just enough to be dangerous, and not necessarily in a good way. Non-NLHE events aside, there's a lot of players who are better than your average low-limit MTT donk, and a lot more who think they are.

3) What's on the line. With top 25% getting points, 1st getting a TOC seat, and the money being higher, people's games change slightly. So that familiarity you have most of the time shifts just enough to allow mistakes to be made. Maybe GCox loosens up a bit early on. Columbo plays for 1st instead of cash. Maybe I don't actually have aces for the 3rd time this hour (yah right).

4) Compared to non-BBT events, there ARE more players, and some of them are complete unknowns. So while you're sitting with 4 or 5 people who you've played with hundreds of times before, you've got another 3-4 who you don't know. You have to compensate between playing to some styles while trying to figure out someone else's. I know *I* have to slow my game down when a new player re-raises me.

I'm sure there are other reasons too, but those are some examples off the top of my head.

2:41 AM  

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