Monday, February 26, 2007

In Reflection of the 2006 WSOP

In Reflection of the 2006 WSOP

2006’s WSOP was a lesson on the dramatic impact of variance. Variance, in simple terms, means that you will win a certain number of hands based on your holdings versus your opponent’s holdings over time. An example would be A-K versus Q-Q, which is basically a coin-toss situation. Math dictates that you will win with either hand roughly half the time, Q-Q being the slight favorite. Variance, however, could mean that you win with the A-K 20 times in a row, but over time, the Q-Q will slightly overtake the A-K in the number of times it wins. Variance also means that you could lose with the Q-Q versus A-K, a seemingly impossible and mathematically improbable number of times. And the bigger the fields, the more variance you will see in each individual tournament.Over time, it will even out, but it will always seem like you lose more times than you should in bigger field tournaments. The problem is that you have to survive many more coin-toss situations and survive against more draws than you would face in turnouts with fewer players.In this year’s WSOP, you had to negotiate record-breaking attendance and what seemed at times to be insurmountable odds. The number of coin flips and dramatic situations you faced increased over previous years. The luck factor also increased over previous years, simply because of the number of players in each event.

Combating big fields

A few years ago, pros talked about small-pot poker in their approach to the WSOP Main Event. Although it’s a sound theory, the problem with it in these enormous tournaments is that you will simply face too many situations in which your chips will be in jeopardy. This means that different tactics are necessary, unless you’re intent on leaving everything to chance, hoping to pick up huge hands when it matters.Odds say, however, that you will not pick up those hands exactly when you need them. That means you have to change your tactics and practice new things to combat the changing dynamics of these tournaments. Players are generally more aggressive now and aren’t afraid to gamble with you. They are overplaying their hands and overvaluing their holdings, forcing you into confrontation more and more. I can’t even tell you how many times players moved me all-in during the WSOP tournaments when I was sitting there with top set on a safe-looking board, only to beat me with some obscure draw. In a case like that, there is really nothing you can do but pray that your hand holds.To combat those inevitable situations, I feel you need to take risks early in a tournament, with the objective of getting chipped up to absorb the inevitable beats and drawing situations that players will force you into. This affords you the opportunity to make plays that your opponents cannot reasonably make. It also gives you the necessary cushion you will need to survive those situations where you are forced to go all-in to protect your hand or when an aggressive player puts you all-in while he is on a play or draw.

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