The other day I was playing a huge buy-in poker tournament where the majority of players have spent years working on their playing style and studying the game from many different angles. But given the behavior of the players at the table, it was evident that the simplest way to increase your edge was going unnoticed. Get your notepad ready, because here is the one simple trick that is going to undoubtedly increase your hourly rate:
As many of you know, over the past few years I’ve gone from just strictly playing poker as a career to dividing my efforts between playing poker, coaching poker students, working with poker rooms to promote and improve their products, and most importantly doing more charity work. In 2014 I founded the Charity Series of Poker (CSOP) and over the past three years we’ve raised $150,000 for Habitat for Humanity, food banks and Brad Garrett’s Maximum Hope Foundation which provides financial assistance to the families of terminally ill children.
With the incredibly popular $560 buy-in, $2 million guaranteed opening event of the 2017 Borgata Winter Poker Open upon us, I figured now would be a good time to give the readers of the Borgata Blog a few pointers on how to approach tournaments with fields so large they almost seem insurmountable. You’ll frequently hear players refer to big field tournaments as lotteries, luck fests, and other names that imply that skill somehow isn’t a factor like it is in tournaments with smaller fields.
On a few different occasions I’ve heard players wonder what all of the backpack-toting poker pros are carrying in their bag. Cash game players have the luxury of getting up and leaving the table any time they get hungry, have a headache, start to lose focus or go on tilt but with tournament days often lasting 12-14 hours or more it’s important to stay prepared in order to remain focused and avoid distractions at the table. Here’s a list of what I consider the essentials when I pack my bag for a tournament.
Now that summer is underway, a lot of people are asking me about the proper “rules” for staking with the Borgata Summer Poker Open coming up (and that other little tournament going on in Vegas). I just wanted to post a blog outlining the ins and outs of staking deals to help people understand how each type of deal works
In recent years there has been a huge shift in the format of tournament poker. In the beginning tournament poker was always played with a freezeout format, meaning that once you were eliminated you could not get back into the tournament. You were required to lumber away from the table, defeated, and find something else to do with the remainder of your day.
Then, several years ago, casinos and online poker sites began offering players the opportunity to buy back into the tournament if they were eliminated early enough in the event. This enabled operators to boast gigantic payouts for a small buy-in. When you can offer a person the opportunity to win a life-changing sum of money for a relatively small buy-in it’s obviously a huge selling point. That’s one reason why you see Borgata packed to the brim with poker players every time they host the $560 buy-in opening event.
Recently the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL hosted the World Poker Tour’s “Tournament of Champions” which was a $15k buy-in event exclusively for players who’ve won WPT main events. While the shot clock has been tried before in the occasional preliminary tournament and super high roller event, this marked the first time it has been used such a prestigious tournament and has led to a lot of discussion about the idea and implementation in poker circles.
Each dealer was given a tablet with a timer and players were given 30 seconds to act on their hand regardless of what street the decision was being made on. In addition to these 30 seconds to act, each player received 5 “time chips” which could be used to extend the amount of time they were given to act for tough decisions. Players who made the televised final table were reset to a total of 4 time chips whether they’d used their previous 5 or not. If you weren’t facing a bet and time ran out, your hand was automatically checked. If you were facing a bet and ran out of time, your hand was declared dead.
The World Series of Poker recently announced that many bracelet events this summer in Las Vegas will start at 11am rather than the usual noon start time. I expected to hear complaints from poker players, pros especially, when this change was announced but I couldn’t have predicted just how much backlash there would be from the poker community.
I personally would prefer to keep the noon start times, but as with any change that impacts many people it’s important to look at the overall effect(s) of the change rather than one’s personal preference. I believe it’s a bit short-sighted to complain about the change in start times in much the same way that it’s short-sighted to complain about the slower pace of play, bright lights, showing your cards to the camera/RFID reader, and other annoyances associated with being on a streamed or televised table. When you look at the big picture, tournament poker has flourished in the past 13 years mainly due to televised poker bringing in masses of people who watched poker on TV, especially the WSOP and WPT.
When it comes to the 11am start times, I think it’s important to consider which demographics are more likely to prefer which start time. I can tell you from many years of experience playing Borgata tournaments, which typically start at 11am, that recreational players tend to be on time much more frequently than pros and they don’t seem to mind the earlier start time. The earlier start time at WSOP is accompanied by an earlier bagging time, which is a big consideration for recreational players who aren’t used to being up until 2am, much less playing high stakes tournaments at that hour. I think Borgata has been getting this right all along and I’m glad the WSOP has caught up from a “good of the game” perspective.
Although there have been European Poker Awards since 2001 to recognize the accomplishments of both players and organizers in the poker industry, we had nothing similar in the US until recently despite the fact that the roots of the 2003 poker boom took place right here in the US. That changed last year when the Global Poker Index began hosting the American Poker Awards.
While I thought it was cool that poker was finally going to have an awards ceremony on this side of the pond after all these years, I honestly never expected to be nominated for an award unless I went on some insane heater, especially since there wasn’t a charity category in the European Poker Awards before then. So I was surprised, honored and excited when the Charity Series of Poker (CSOP) was nominated for one of the inaugural American Poker Awards last year in the Charitable Initiative of the Year category.
I was also, however, pretty disappointed when we didn’t win the award to be perfectly honest. I used that disappointment in the most productive way I could. In much the same way, I tried to use my 2nd and 3rd place finishes in major events as motivation to keep improving my game in preparation for the next opportunity. I tried even harder in year two of operation than I did in year one, and the results followed.
The CSOP inaugural event at Planet Hollywood in Vegas raised nearly $15K for Three Square Food Bank which wasn’t bad, but was nothing compared to the $42K the event raised at the same price point in Season 2. Our event at Seminole Hard Rock in Florida went from $15K to $34K raised for Habitat for Humanity of Broward County, and our most recent Borgata event was also on the uptick from $8K to over $13K raised for Habitat for Humanity of Atlantic County and the Community FoodBank of NJ.
Anyone who has played poker before has heard this question asked before, usually rhetorically. It’s the first step in a series of disdainful comments made by a player who is offended that someone would call the clock on them. It can lead to awkward confrontations, especially when the player who had the clock called on him just lost a big pot.
I’m here to tell you that the person who is out of line is probably the one who had the clock called on him, not the clock caller. Although the ability to call the clock on another player, after which a player has one minute to act, has been a rule in poker for decades, it seems that in the “old days” of poker it was somewhat taboo to do so. Well, it’s a new day, especially in tournaments where the blinds are constantly going up and there’s a lot more pressure to increase your stack than in a cash game.
Tanking has become an epidemic in poker tournaments and is very bad for the game. Not only does it make the game more boring and less enjoyable when you have to sit through 2 to 4 minute decisions throughout 8 to 10 minute hands, but it also makes everybody at the table a little less likely to win the event. Per-hand edges are small – the less hands you play per hour, the harder it is for you to accumulate chips and give yourself a chance to win the tournament.
Tournament directors and organizers have gone so far as to consider instituting a “shot clock” in poker tournaments and providing Tournament Directors the ability to call the clock rather than relying on players to do it. I personally stood up at the Poker Tournament Directors’ Association’s (“TDA”) most recent summit while they discussed this idea and told them that while I appreciate their efforts, I think the onus is on us as players to speak up when someone’s tanking habits are out of line. While I think a shot clock would combat the tanking epidemic effectively – and I initially liked the idea – I’ve realized that it would probably be bad for poker in the long run.