Welcome to the latest installment of PokerStars Blog’s regular series: The Daily Strategy. Every day during season nine of the European Poker Tour, we will be quizzing Team PokerStars Pro for their advice on a specific element of major tournament strategy, aimed at introducing new players to key elements of high stakes tournament poker play.
Today, the mixed-game specialist Ville Wahlbeck analyses what else is on offer to players at EPT festivals beyond the main event. He talks about changing your poker variants, relaxing in the down time and scheduling your time.
Over to the flying Finn…
Spread your wings – but not too far
In general, the EPT festivals are expanding when it comes to the variety of games. There are PLO tournaments, heads up tournaments, and even some mixed or eight game tournaments available these days. But the best advice for anyone new to the game is to focus on the games they are familiar with, and do the learning process online. Online you get so many more hands per hour and so the amount of knowledge you can absorb from playing online is way faster and more efficient than live tournaments or live cash games.
I would definitely say someone playing these tournaments or live games should focus on their strong games, whether it’s no limit hold em or pot limit Omaha. Whether it’s heads up or six handed or a full ring table.
Look at the schedule and plan
I always have an idea of what I am going to play when I go to a tournament. I check the schedule and then I see which of the events are interesting to me and prepare my schedule based on that. Usually I will play the main event, and then I check out what events they have after that or before that. The rest is obviously based on how far you go in the main event. But after I bust from the main event – and sadly I usually bust – I just check what’s available and go from there.
Stick within your bankroll
Bankroll wise, tournaments are very easy because you never lose more than the buy in. If there’s a re-buy, one or more, that’s a bit different, but usually you can budget them very easily. You can just check how much you want to play and how much it will cost. Let’s say you want to play three tournaments with a combined buy in of three, four, five thousand euros, you can just calculate it pretty easily. It’s not like a cash game where you can reload if you just keep busting.
Check out your options, but don’t burn out
I know there’s often a lot of very lucrative cash games at EPT festivals, a lot of different stakes and games available. I don’t tend to play them myself – I want to focus on tournaments and keep my energy reserved for them. In the past I have made the mistake, during the World Series, of playing both tournaments and cash games, and you get exhausted very fast, very, very fast. I remember one time busting from one tournament, going straight to playing cash games and straight from 20-hour cash games back to tournaments and you can’t do that for very long.
Keep your wits about you
You get physically so tired if you play too long. Everyone has different limits but I would say my limit is up to 10 or 12 hours before I get slightly tired. If you’re tired, your game definitely deteriorates. No matter if you’re up (in terms of money), if you’ve been playing 30 hours there’s no way you can play your best game.
You have to check the schedule. Let’s say you’ve played two or three days and then you bust out and they’ve been really long days, and you feel exhausted, then it’s probably best not to play the next day. But it depends. If you get a good night’s sleep and you feel refreshed, then go on and play. You just have to go if you feel it.
Mixing it up
One of the attractions of playing pot limit Omaha, for example, at these festivals is that there are a load of no limit hold em players here. Tournaments therefore tend to be a bit softer if you’re a PLO specialist, or if you feel that you’re comfortable with that game. But remember PLO is also more action based than hold em. There are more multi-way pots and oftentimes there come a lot of coin flips. Players have such strong hands that the chips just go in. In no limit hold ’em, one of the players just has the other player crushed. In PLO it’s 60/40 or 50/50 chances.
Even more to play
There are so many new events that I haven’t even had a chance to play them all yet. I haven’t played the ante only tournament, for example, but I’ve heard people like them a lot.
Shootouts are very interesting and I really like them. Those are the ones where you play one table and play until there’s only one person left and that person goes through. I like those because they resemble the final table of any tournament. You started with a certain amount of players and then when someone busts, they don’t bring a new one there. So in shootouts you need to know how to play at a full table, with nine or ten players, you need to know how to play a six-handed game and you need to short-handed no limit hold em, with three or two players left. You need to know all the variations of no limit hold em.
The easiest way to practice is online. You can chose the games you play – full ring games, short-handed, heads-up. Or just play single table tournaments. Those are the same things.
Make the most of the down time
I usually run to have a smoke during the shorter breaks and then during the dinner breaks, me and my friends choose a restaurant and just go there. The days are often very long and there’s only one dinner break, so don’t waste it. Sometimes if I’m hungry I’ll just buy something and hold it on my lap. But it’s slightly uncomfortable, slightly difficult and although I don’t really mind it, it’s partly impolite to other people. Imagine 10 people there eating salad and eating steaks. It wouldn’t take long for the cards to be all greasy.
If you have a day off, maybe if you’ve played Day 1A and are waiting to play Day 2, then just take it easy. Grab something to eat with your friends, maybe do some sports, then get a good long night’s sleep.
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