There is nothing as ambiguous as having a mark on your back in a tournament.
But when you’re not running so hot, having people constantly aiming for your chips, rather than those of your neighbour, can be an immensely frustrating part of the game.
With TPC X coming up, I thought I’d give a few short pointers about what to do when you feel all eyes being on you.
Because, believe me, I’ve had people coming after me with a passion more than once on previous editions of the tournament.
First of all, you need to realise something very important: When you have to deal with people seeming to have it in for you, it could mean a couple of things.
First of all, it could mean that you are vulnerable to things like this, in which case, you have a big problem. There’s probably nothing as exploitable as a guy not being able to handle being called down a lot.
How do you become vulnerable for this? Well, a lot of people see players like Tom Dwan, Victor Blom or Lex Veldhuis on television and don’t seem to realise that for every “wild bluff” these guys pull there’s probably about 20 times when the same type of hand, played in exactly the same way by exactly the same players would result in a massive pot going to these guys.
But T.V.-poker is not fun when it’s not spectacular. It’s just much more fun to see Phil Ivey sweat on a call for about 3 minutes on a durrrr-bluff then it is watching Chris Ferguson play decent standard balanced poker.
Add to that, a player like Dwan realises very very well that the amount of money going into a pot is by far the biggest factor for any player with at least some sense in his head. There comes a point where being a 75% favourite to Durrrr is no longer worth the risk of loosing a huge pile of money once every 4 hands.
Also, as you see, I’ve been analysing this hyper bashing strategy from a ring game point of view.
Newsflash kids: the big bluffing, highly risky moves you see Dwan pull off on High Stakes Poker have nothing to do with tournament poker, and even if it is used in a running structure, like Veldhuis did in 2009 during the WSOP, the fact that nobody calls, while you’re thinking “if only someone would call this prick !”, it’s probably because somebody did and it backfired and because Lex recognized a table not willing to risk a tournament on a bluff catch that early in the venue.
In all other cases, this style is just pure rubbish. I’ve had guys comparing my “Bullying the bully” with what Veldhuis did in the last main event, but these things have nothing to with one another. Lex’ tactic was based on nobody willing to gamble, “Bullying the Bully” is based on punishing the gambler for gambling in forcing him to either shut down or shove in.
So, if this is the case, and you feel like you have a big red mark on your head people like to shoot at, it’s time to change gear. You are being pested on, because your style allows that, it has nothing to do with any of the following.
Because there are of course other reasons why people could be coming after you.
In fact, the most common reason is because you are a tight aggressive player. Yes, people are chasing after you, because you play standard ABC poker. When you just started out, every website, every book, every player already in the game, every DVD, video and article told you the way to go was tight aggressive. Wait for a hand you can defend strong with or attack fiercely and then do so.
Often do you forget that’s exactly the advise every guy around you got. Yes, we have all seen Lederer’s DVD’s, yes, we’ve all read the Hold’em bit in Super system, yes, we’ve all seen “learn from the pro’s”.
You need to realise that what you are playing is so commonly known that for every basic poker player, even if he is now playing very loose, TAG is a second nature, it’s what we all grew up in, it’s the standard on which everybody around you planted his own specific characteristics.
And that’s the problem, right there. In a deceptive game with that much of psychology, like poker is, if you’re never prepared to think outside of the box, to do what’s wrong because now is the right time, your opponents will know exactly what you’re doing. They saw the same material you learned from.
Add your own input to what you learned from the books, or don’t be surprised that a standard play gets recognized by players better at interpreting these books then you are, let alone players who read the book and moved on.
However there is one reason why people having it in for you is a great feeling.
It could be that people constantly attack you, … because you scare them. All ex-champs of TPC have told me the same thing. The hardest seat to be in is table 1, seat 1. Everybody knows who you are, and everybody wants to be the one taking you out. Why? Because you just proved that you can win this thing, seeing you get strong is probably the scariest thing ever to the rest of the table. Name-players (everybody in our group has this problem) or loud players (style: myself, Jeroen Vanacker, Dennis Van Hove, …) will have people attacking them more often than people keeping a low profile.
This however is a good thing. Fear in the other guy is always your friend. It looks like people are playing like they have nothing to loose against you, but they desperately want you out, preferably strengthening up in the process. When you in turn start to threaten them, you’ll quickly see that they would rather avoid your rages and easily back out, even out of hands that are somewhat legit. When people know you for what you do at a poker table, you get 2 effects: they put you on a bluff more easily or they’ll give you far too much credit. It’s now your job to figure out which case you’re handling here.
When people get after you just for being you, the only thing you need to realise is that, however arrogant it may look or sound, you’re probably a better player than they are. Stay calm, play your game. Whatever you do, don’t change your style. If you’re really that much better, you’ve probably already implemented a change in gear to deal with more action on your hands, and in the long run, you should do just fine.
Well, next post will most likely be after TPC X, and I hope I have some good news to tell you by then.
Should you have some questions about this all, find us, we’ll be the ones with the spot on our back.
Untill next time, take care,
The Mad Man
Lately the swing is getting a bit too much!
These last few weeks I’ve been a bit less “into the game” than what people are used of me.
I have a small profit combining all my gambling activities, but that is mostly due to prop betting and non-poker games.
I have a big credit still open from one guy who wanted a game of Gin Rummy and ran into a 124 – 0 game on basic stakes that are about 10 times as much as the standard and double my normal amount, so that was a nice win. It’s still not paid off completely and I’m being pretty lenient on this guy, mainly because I don’t want to be the “gambling goon” going after my winnings too strong, also, I let him off the hook for a 100 – 0 game, waving the final 24 points.
A second huge success came in a prop bet about the NHL. When I was 9, the Pittsburgh Penguins had just won their second consecutive Stanley Cup, sporting a team with super heroes like Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux. I was a kid, unfamiliar with this highly spectaculair game and saw a piece of the ’91 – ’92 season in chunks and bits, and I had found my team.
Over the years, I lost track a bit, even though I usually around playoff time always checked where we were at, the first few years, but my hockey passion got a bit dormant when the team lost it’s place among the top contenders.
I had vaguely heard something about financial troubles early in the new millennium and that Lemieux had become the owner of the team now, but the Pens were still at the bottom of the league and I didn’t really made time to renew my passion for the game.
Then in 2005, the Pens struck gold. The league had just gone through its worst crisis with the 2004 – 2005 shut out where not a single game was played due to differences between the NHL and their players, and so the drafts that year were full of young talent. All of them however had to humbly bow their heads to a kid of 17 that literally could do anything with a stick and a puck. Sidney Crosby might be the best player to have ever hit the ice since Lemieux in ’84. In a team that managed to obtain Marc-André Fleury in 2003 (1st draft pick) and Evgeni Malkin in 2004 (2nd overall pick, behind only Alexander Ovechkin of the Washinton Capitals) this was the cherry on top. “Sid the kid” would start his career so succesfull that Lemieux announced on January 24 of 2006 that he would retire a second time as a player, having found his replacement. It didn’t stop him though to pick Jordan Staal (2nd overall pick) in 2006, making sure the Pens had now Crosby – Malkin –Staal to fill up the centre position on their first 3 lines.
Succes was bound to come and in 2008, Crosby led his men to the Stanley cup finals facing the Detroit Red Wings of Nicolas Lidstrom.
The NHL started a series of commercials to make the game more popular in the US. One theme was pictures of the game coming to live. The Crosby version showed the Pens mere minutes after their loss in game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, having Sid say “I never want to be in this picture again”.
One year later, lightning did struck twice when the same 2 teams met up again to play for the title, and this time Pittsburgh had no intention of letting the cup go.
Now, I have this online buddy, currently living in Florida, US, but originally from about 15 km outside of Ottawa and he’s probably the heaviest Senators fan you can imagine, even to the extent of flying back and forth about 4 times every season to catch a few live games.
Imagine our reaction when the Penguins ended up 4th seed, leaving the Atlantic Division title to the New Jersey Devils for 2nd seed, meeting up with 5th seeded Ottawa in the first round of the post season.
In the last 4 years, this was the 3rd time the Sens and the Pens battled it out in the first round of the playoffs and the series were equally split 1 – 1 with Ottawa missing the road to Stanley in 2007 and the Pens being the reigning champion.
In the season both teams took down their 2 home games for a split in points there and we eventually settled on making the Crosby bunch a favourite, with Ottawa missing their star forward Alexei Kovalev.
We worked out a 21 to 18 deal with a clause to 25 to 18 should Daniel Alfredsson get injured in the first 2 games or 18 tot 18 mirror bet when Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin end up in the sick bay before going to Ottawa for games 3 and 4.
I had a very sickening experience when Ottawa fought their way to a 1 – 0 lead in the series by taking down game 1 on Penguins ice, but, the Pens are a post season team and took down the second match before sweeping the Ottawa trip for a 3 – 1 rush, forcing Afredsson and his guys to defend their chances on an away game. The Sens, however did just that in a game going into triple overtime, and we both realised that whoever took game 6 would probably take the series. After two periods Ottawa had a 3 – 1 lead and I was already giving up when of all people 4th liner Matt Cooke was the one keeping Pittsburgh in the game with a tying goal for 3 – 3 about 12,5 mintues into the 3rd period, Pascal Dupuis eventually ended up scoring the game winner and the Penguins go through to the Eastern Semi-finals, leaving me with a nicely won bet. I’m now currently rooting for the Boston Bruins and Monreal Canadiens to take their series against the Buffalo Sabres and first seeded Washinton Capitals, since this would result in a match up between the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, a team we do not like (oh no!) and which would once again mean prop action for me. I do however fear that Ovechkin will not let the Habs take his Capitals out, which means we’re most likely meeting the Bruins in the semi’s.
For as far as poker’s concerned, we picked our WSOP-teams on Saturday and I was aiming to catch Ivey for my team together with some young guns and consistent pros. I managed to get Ivey on my 10th pick. That one went perfectly. I tried to end up with the most points left to outbet everyone should I be able to pick up Ivey on my last spot. I did get the chance to put up Ivey in the auction on my last pick and only Michiel Maes had more points left, but with 3 spots left on his team he needed to keep some behind to fill up his roster, meaning Ivey was mine. The seasoned pros were no problem either, I easily got Elky, had only a little fight to pick off Deeb from Mickey, swept Alaei, and off course, already had Daniel Negreanu. I still stand behind my decision to lay a lot of faith on the young guns, unfortunately, I picked them a bit too young. Thomas Marchese, Sorel Mizzi, Yevgenuiy Timoshenko and Tyler Reiman are all legit in Vegas, but I went after Harrison Gimbel as well (considered him a “must have” even) only to realise that the PCA is not played on US soil and finding out that Gibler321 is only 19. We haven’t even started and I’m already handicapped! Maybe it’s the poker gods levelling the field since I do have both Negreanu and Ivey.
In cash games I’ve been playing horrifically lately. Spewy moves, bad calls, frustrated plays, I did them all, these last few sessions. My results were consequently very bad. For once, however, luck did end up on my side at the very end of the game, resulting in a 800 BB big pot between Michiel Maes and myself in a match up between his full house vs my quads. For a win of about 125 BB to end the night.
For now, I’m mainly looking forward to TPC X, where all ex-champs will be present with a bounty on their heads. I don’t know what effect this is going to have, but hey, who knows, I might run into a hot streak of cards and make myself a masacre all the way to the win.
Untill next time,
The Mad Man
I’ve been having a good run the last times I played poker. I showed a profit in two cash games, and I took down my first HSOP title. I’m very proud of this last achievement, because it is the H.O.R.S.E.-Event that I won.
It was last week Friday that we got together to battle for maybe the most important HSOP-Event. It was an event with double buy-in, and more important, double Player Of the Year Points. After coming second in the first Event, I knew that I could accomplish my goal of top 3 in the POY-Race.
We began with a deep chipstack, which provided for a lot of play early. I started out very tight, taking some pots here and there and losing one bigger one to Thomas, who flopped a set in the Limit Omaha8 round, and I didn’t get my low on turn or river, paying him off with two pair. After that I didn’t get into big pots, until I started to build up some chips and took advantage of good cards. I basically doubled up against ‘Madman’ Stijn when my rolled up 10’s held up against him. The next big pot for me was against the – up until then – chip leader, Thomas. I scooped the pot in Limit Omaha8 with the Wheel.
By then I was a huge chip leader and I played more cautiously. Stijn was the first to hit the felt. The pot against me crippled him, and he came back a little, but it was hard to avoid busting for him. Next was former chip leader Thomas. He started out running hot, and commented that he’d rather run good later, but that didn’t happen for him. Then the game was 3-handed: Mickey, Michiel and me. I had about 70% of chips in play, so it was just a matter of one of them busting. It was a pot against me that was the end for Michiel’s tournament.
The it was heads-up: Mickey against me. I had a huge chip lead, so everyone thought it’d be over soon. But Mickey is much more experienced in HU H.O.R.S.E. than me. I took me almost an hour to get a straight on 7th street in Stud to cripple him. Then we basically flipped for his stack 3 times, and I won the last one.
I was very excited about my win, earlier this year I announced that the H.O.R.S.E.-Event was one of my objectives, given its prestige. For now I am first in the POY-Race, leading by 8 points over Mickey. I won’t be able to play the next event, so I can use the big lead.
Then this week Wednesday we played and edition of Togenblik After Dark: a 6-handed Sit-and-Go. I didn’t do too well, as in most NLHE tourneys. I busted in first and was disappointed. Then I played a HU HA-session against Stijn. I was very focused and also running good, which resulted in a 150 BB win, when Stijn decided he had enough of me sucking out on him. Then yesterday I had a good NLHE cash-game session full of live ones, Quintupling (5x !!!) my stack by the end of the night.
I must say, I’ve been running good the last few times I played. The only big loss in TAD, there were Aces needed to bust me. Even so, I won’t be playing a lot the next weeks,.I’m going on holiday to South Africa, maybe I’ll find some action there with old friends.