Attacking and Defending Dead Money in Tournament Poker | Most tournament players, even the losing ones

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Attacking and Defending Dead Money in Tournament Poker

Moreso than any other form of the game, tournament poker is about attacking dead money. This is true first because there is so much of it, with most tournaments employing both antes and blinds to drive action, and also because the blinds and antes are so large relative to the average stack size. As a playerӳ stack dwindles and the blinds and antes rise, he may find that the money in the pot before cards are dealt represents a substantial portion of his remaining chips. Much of mid- to late-game tournament play revolves around attacking this dead money while simultaneously preventing oneӳ opponents from doing the same. Although the term Ԥead moneyԠis generally used to refer to money that is in the pot without a hand behind it at all (for example, antes or money from a player who has folded), I use it more broadly to refer to any bet or raise that a player makes that he would not make if he knew for certain that he would be called. This includes forced bets such as blinds antes but also bluffs, semi-bluffs, and blind steal attempts. Most tournament players, even the losing ones, recognize the need to loosen their raising requirements as blinds and antes increase. Of course some are better at this than others, but most are aware of the concept. To varying degrees, most players in larger buy-in online tournaments also defend their blinds with loose calls and aggressive re-raises. Attacking Dead Money Fortunately, blinds and antes are only the most obvious instances where players put into the pot more money than their hand is really worth. A tournament player who wants to do better than break-even against the experts at the table must learn to make plays at them. This means recognizing situations where they have put money into the pot that they cannot defend and then attacking that money.

One of the most common examples of such a play is the re-steal. Suppose that you are in the Small Blind (SB), a weak-tight player is in the Big Blind (BB), and a strong tournament player is on the Button. If everyone folds to the strong player, he will likely raise a very wide range of hands hoping to steal the blinds, as the BB may be folding hands as strong as Ace-Ten. You can now re-raise the strong player, since you know that the amount of money he has put into the pot is way out of proportion to the strength of his hand. (More precisely, it is out of proportion to the range of hands he could have in this situation. Of course he may actually have a strong hand, but that is unlikely enough that your re-raise will be profitable.) With this as a guiding example, it is possible to consider other common situations where good players bet or raise with hands that they would fold if not for the added equity they gain by sometimes winning the pot without a showdown. The continuation bet, where a player raises pre-flop and then bets into one or two callers on a dry flop that is not likely to have helped anyone, is another good example. A raise or check-raise against a continuation bet from a strong, aggressive player will often let you win a sizeable pot uncontested, provided you employ this tactic sparingly. Similarly, if you raise from late position and a strong player calls out of the blinds, you should factor into your read of the situation the possibility that he expects you to be stealing and may be looking to make a play. If he then leads into you on a flop that you would usually continuation bet, you can consider raising or calling (with the intention to steal the pot on a later street). After all, if he had a hand, wouldnӴ he wait to check-raise the continuation bet that he expects you to make? Itӳ good to get into the habit of asking, Ԅoes he need a hand to do this?Ԡevery time a strong player puts money into the pot. Letӳ practice: With blinds of 100/200 and a 25 ante, a good player open shoves his last 1200 chips into the pot from two seats off the button. Does he need a hand to do this? Not in the least: the pot represents about 40% of his stack, so he could be moving in with any two cards.

Now another good player re-raises to 2400 from the button. Does he need a hand to do this? Not really. He will likely recognize that the all-in player could have any two, so he can reraise to isolate with any hand that has about 40% equity versus a random hand. This includes such monster holdings as Queen-5 and 9-6. If you are left to act, you could consider moving all-in to trap all that dead money in the pot. If the second player folds, as heӬl have to do quite often, youӬl have the opportunity to race against the all-in playerӳ random hand getting better than 4:1 on your money (no hand is a 4:1 dog against a random holding). Even if the second player does call, youӬl be getting very good odds and could still be up against something less than a monster, if he concludes that you donӴ need a hand to move in on him. So although the action of raise all-in, re-raise, re-re-raise all-in suggests that everyone has a strong hand, this does not have to be the case at all.


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