Welcome to the second installment of PokerStars Blog’s new 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.
Yesterday, Lex Veldhuis discussed how to approach the opening stages of one of these events, and today Dario Minieri takes us through day two. How should you approach the day with a small, medium or big stack? What difference do antes make? How can an amateur improve his or her game?
Over to Mr Minieri…
Keep your eyes on the others
I am going to say the same thing as Lex did yesterday: the best strategy in poker is always to try and figure out how other players play. The most important thing to do on day two, whatever stack you have, is to study the table, register information, and to try and figure out good spots.
Of course, when you have a big stack, you can take more risks. If you suspect something, you don’t have to wait to be sure about it: you can take a risk and play more aggressively against players that even after ten minutes you have decided are easy spots. You try to play pots in position with them.
When you are a medium stack, you’ve got to be a little bit quieter. You’ve got to wait a little bit, gather more information. You try to be sure about what you’re thinking. But you still keep going for the easy spots when you are in position.
When you are a small stack, it’s not about these spots. It’s about your cards. Let’s say you have ten blinds. You will wait to find a good hand to push. Or if you have increased your stack to 20 big blinds, you should be looking for spots to re-raise all in. If someone has made a raise of two-point-five times the big blind, I can win a good pot if I shove.
Assessing your stack size
Usually I think 25 to 60 big blinds is a medium stack and over 60 is a big stack in a tournament. But if the structure is so good, like it is in an EPT main event, I would say it’s different: 30 big blinds or less is a small stack, 30-70 is a medium, 70 or more is a big stack.
The ante, and what is does/doesn’t mean
I don’t really count the ante. I mean, if the blinds are really small then the ante doesn’t really exist and I don’t really care at this stage about stealing blinds. But when you get a bit deeper, I do start caring about the size of the blinds and the antes; it becomes very important in a poker tournament. You have got to steal the blinds when the ante is in and the blinds are high.
Don’t get ahead of yourself
I have a goal in a tournament, but it’s not about the numbers. It’s about myself: try to play my best poker, and keep going and going and going. It is not a good idea to decide that you want to reach the end of the day, or you want to make the final table. You should just try to play your best poker at every moment and the other things happen by themselves.
Stick to what you know
All players should just play their own game, where they are most comfortable and confident. The most important thing for new players is that they continue to learn and learn and learn. The most important thing in poker is learning. Even a very good player is still learning a lot of things from everyone all the time.
For a really new player, who has made it to day two with a 40 big blind stack, perhaps I would tell them to wait a bit, play the good cards, try to wait for good spots and good players to play against. For instance, if there is a player who limps, which is bad in poker, try to raise to isolate him – let’s say three-point-five the big blind. By this stage, you should have gathered some information on him. You should know when he has a hand and when he doesn’t have a hand. You should also try to get information about other players – you are a medium stack, and you have to be careful. You should try to pick these spots.
It’s different live to online
These stages are really different in live tournaments than they are online. It’s really different. Even at this stage in a live tournament, there are players who will spew a lot more. Pay attention at this stage because there are other really aggressive players. Maybe you want to play a bit tighter. That’s not bad. Normally you want to play aggressively, but I can understand that if there are many easy spots at the table, there are many reasons to stay a little bit quieter.
Still study the table, like you are playing online. Once you have information, try to find out the best strategy. But it is a bit more complicated live.
Studying the seat draw is over-rated
You can sometimes look at the players who you will have been drawn against, and you can maybe research them online. But I don’t think it is really worth it. You still have to make your decision based on what you learn when you encounter these people at the table.
Playing on TV
Even if you have been drawn on the television table, you shouldn’t really care about that. It’s just one more thing that doesn’t matter. It’s still the same table, but the only difference is that there’s a camera there.
Whatever table you are on, you should be concentrating the most you possibly can. Try to shut out everything else. I would say to myself: “I don’t care about anything else, I can only do my best.”
The longer the play, the more you can learn
Beginners should never worry about making mistakes. Everyone does. Don’t worry. If you realise you have made 100 mistakes, you are much better than a player who thinks he has only made 10 mistakes. You both have probably actually made 1,000 mistakes, but the better player is the one who notices the most. Then you will get better and better and better. Learning is the most important thing in poker.