News Front Page

Poker Rooms

Poker Strategy

Odds Calculator

Poker Rules

Poker Games


Player Profiles



Poker Blogs

Poker Software

Poker History

Home Poker



Super System Theories and No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments

By Marc Weinberg

There's a touch of blasphemy in this article, at least for some poker players, so consider yourself forewarned. The issue I intend to explore is whether Doyle Brunson's famous advice for playing no-limit hold'em in his Super System books should be applied to no-limit hold'em tournaments. I believe that the strategies outlined by Texas Dolly, while undoubtedly brilliant for no-limit cash games, are not as uniformly successful when employed in tournament poker. Furthermore, there is money to be made by disagreeing with some of Brunson's theories, not only because tournaments are so different to cash games, but also because so many of your opponents are Super System disciples. By going against generally held tendencies, which is essentially what made Brunson's strategies so successful thirty years ago, you carve out an edge.

The key to Brunson's no-limit hold'em philosophy is pithily summarized in the following remark: "If you want to be a winner - a big winner - at no-limit hold'em, you can't play a solid, safe game." Now I wouldn't be caught within hollerin' distance of Doyle in a cash no-limit game. He would break me precisely because he is a gambler who wants to get his money in when he is behind. He wants to project a super-aggressive persona, and he wants to chase hands. One, he might catch his hand and take all the chips of an opponent, and two, when he does have a strong hand he will entice callers because no-one believes his bets indicate strength. But this philosophy is not optimal for tournament poker. Let me qualify that by saying it is not optimal for a freeze-out tournament, or any tournament that does not allow for re-buys or add-ons.

The majority of tournaments are contested with a set number of starting chips, and you cannot replenish those chips. You either acquire all the other chips or you are eliminated. Now, if you followed Brunson's strategies throughout you would either be eliminated early, or you would gather up a lot of chips quickly and then continue to press relentlessly. You would continue to get involved in huge pot after huge pot, and eventually you will whittle away your own advantage. The optimal tournament strategy is to begin cautiously, slowly increasing chips at minimal risk to your own stack, merely keeping the ratio between your chips and the blinds constant. At a certain point, either when you have the cards, or artificially, when the starting pot size (blinds + antes) / chip ratio drops below 1:15, you then need to play like Brunson. Attack, make moves, and push players around.

The value of switching mid-stride is that it will take other players a long time, if they see it at all, to realize that you are making a strategic change as opposed to catching a "rush" of cards. You didn't start out like a maniac, so when you suddenly turn up the heat after two hours at the table your opponents are invariably caught flat-footed. Then, once you have a big chip stack, and I don't care if this happens early or late in a tournament you should tighten up again. You want to get to the final table in 6th place or better. There are no prizes for having the chip lead when the final table starts. There are also no prizes for staggering along with minimal chips and being eliminated in the bubble. Your aggression must be connected to the ratio of your chips to other player's chips, and the ratio of your chips to the starting pot size (blinds + antes).

So, instead of bullying consistently, I am advocating a tight-aggressive-tight style of play that refines Brunson's no-limit concepts especially for no-limit tournaments. If you are playing a tournament with re-buys, add-ons, or to a lesser extent with short-handed tables, then Brunson's ideas become more tenable. Now you can push from the outset because you can replenish your chips if you fail, or build up a huge stack and attack weaker stacks all the time. There is a far bigger advantage to holding the chip lead at a six-handed table than at a ten-handed table. It is no surprise to me that Doyle won the short-handed no-limit event at the WSOP this year. His style of aggressive play with the second-best hand is well suited to that format. I think he could also still win a re-buy WSOP event, but would be very surprised if he ever won another typical major no-limit tournament.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that so many of your opponents are playing based on concepts they have learned from Super System is beneficial to you if you buck the trend and devise your own style. You know that a few of these guys are going to knock each other senseless on huge drawing hands early on, and you're happy to sit back and watch it unfold. It doesn't matter if someone at your table triples up early, but it matters a lot that two players are eliminated from the event. During the first few limits, with the blinds low, you need to concentrate on survival, and pace your move for later. This isn't a cash game where a big moves scares the opposition witless, this is a marathon of guile and cunning!

♠ ♣ ♥ ♦

$600 First Deposit Bonus at Poker Stars

♠ ♣ ♥ ♦

Poker News - 2016
Poker News - 2015
Poker News - 2014
Poker News - 2013
Poker News - 2012
Poker News - 2011
Poker News - 2010
Poker News - 2009
Poker News - 2008
Poker News - 2007
Poker News - 2006
Poker News - 2005
Poker News - 2004