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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pillow Talk: Improving Your Performance on the Mattress

Volume II – Preparing for the Main Event

In 2009, the Mattress Poker Tour introduced a somewhat subtle change to the Main Event tournament structure. The change is rather small – neither the blind levels nor the length of the levels were changed. However, in the grand history of tournament structures being changed subtly so players don’t often notice the difference, the starting chip stack has been changed. However, in this case, the chip stack is increased – approximately 40% more chips – not the usual decrease associated with cost savings by host casinos.

This change in chips has some affects on the play of the tournament and therefore should be considered when approaching the overall tournament and each hand individually. Let’s review the stages of the tournament and how the different chip stack will affect the game. It might seem strange at first, but we will start at the middle of the tournament and then move forward and backward. Hopefully, it will become clear as we go through the discussion why we are doing this.

The middle stages of the tournament, actually remain pretty much unchanged. The quick levels and logarithmically raising blind structure used by the MPT once the blinds clear 50 100 render the relatively small increase in starting stack mostly inconsequential to play. This is because by this point players chip stack will vary greatly. This means that though individual stacks may remain out of the danger zone a little longer, the collective table will have stacks in the danger zone at about the same point in the tournament.

However, the polar ends will be effected. In the beginning, players have an extra 1000 chips to gamble with before reaching the danger zone. The move in zone is coming at about the same time anyway and having 2500 chips versus 3500 chips at that point isn’t going to make that much of a difference. Therefore, those extra 1000 chips can be used for a different purpose than a players first 1000 chips in a normal tournament starting with only 2500 chips. This must be adapted for.

Specifically, this is going to let the better postflop players take some more chances and see more flops in the early levels. Whereas a raise to 100 off of a 2500 stack may scare some players off – the extra 1000 chips allows the players to take more of a risk without dire consequences and also allows for a greater reward if they hit a big hand and can get it paid off. This play then makes for more interesting postflop play as there is also more room for bluffing. The end result is that much more care may be taken in postflop play in the early going as bigger hands and bigger bluffs are more likely.

The very end of the tournament may also change. With 3 or 4 players left, the distribution of the chips will be such that the extra chips in play (say 8000 if there are eight players) will not have that great an effect as they are very unlikely to be evenly distributed and someone will most definitely be on the hot seat as blinds clear 200 400 and beyond. However, when the game gets to heads up, now there are 8000 or so additional chips in play and that is significant if the stacks somewhat even out. That many more chips in play may allow for a little more play at the end of the tournament, with a few flops seen, rather than just preflop shoving.

Remember to take your larger stack into account and here’s hoping it helps you to go deep on the mattress.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pillow Talk: Improving Your Performance on the Mattress

Welcome to Pillow Talk, the MPT's post tournament analysis series. Pillow Talk's aim is to disect and analyze various portions of a recent MPT event with the aim of stimulating conversation and enhancing performance. As this is the first in this series, this article is going to take on three topics to give an idea of the kind of items that can be considering as players attempt to raise their stacks - an analysis of one individual hand, a specific situational strategy, and an overall tournament approach.

In the early going of the tournament, Bigfus was standing on nearly double her starting stack when she tangled in a hand with rookie teammates Trouble who were sitting on just about the starting stack. The hand held several nuances as will be analyzed momentarily, but the bottom line was Bigfus was very lucky to only lose about 900 in chips rather than nearly twice that.

The hand became interesting as the turn put three hearts on the board. A keen observation of Bigfus as the heart hit the board showed clear unconcious indicators of a very strong hand as her eyes immediately darted to her opponent's stack and her foot began to bounce. Couple that with a tight player leading out for a significant bet and it was clear Bigfus was holding a flush. At this point, the rookie team of Trouble calls, but that doesn't tell much. By watching prior hands, it should be known that they could be calling very light here ("calling light" means calling with a weak hand). Further, because of their inexperience, it is difficult to guage a lot from their tells as it is unclear if they will understand the relative strength of their hand.

The river is a very interesting card because it offers so many options on how to play the hand as it pairs the board. First, let's look at the play from Trouble's point of view. At this point, though it is unlikely anyone at the mattress knew it, Trouble now has a full house. And here they make the best play they possibly could at first by checking. It is clear from both her physical tells and her bets on the turn that Bigfus has a flush and a check will almost always get her to bet. Indeed Bigfus did bet 300 in chips giving action back to Trouble. Here, however, Trouble made a rookie mistake. The pot is over 1000 in chips already and Bigfus has a strong hand that will be nearly impossible for her to fold, especially against an unpredictable opponent. The check raise amount that they made was the minimum possible, 300 more than the original bet. That gave Bigfus a calling opportunity of only 300 to win about 1500 in chips. This was a trivial call. Too trivial. WIth the pot near 1200, a reraise near to 1000 more (say 1240 total (940 more)), especially from an unpredictable opponent, would have forced Bigfus to call. So, by checkraising to only 600 total, Trouble shorted themselves from winning an addition 650 or so chips on this hand, or more than 1/4 of a starting stack.

Now, perhaps a more interesting investigation is to sit in Bigfus's seat on the river. With a strong flush and an inexperienced opponent, value betting is definitely the right play. With a pot near 400, the goal should be to bet as much as possible and still get a weak hand from an inexperienced player to call. In this case we want to avoid round numbers as they are scarier to our opponent and make the calculations easier. So, instead of the bet of 300, a slightly better bet would be something like 285 or occassionally 315.

Be that as it may, Bigfus raised 300 and was checkraised an additional 300. Given the opponent's experience level they may be way overvaluing their hand. There is no way that folding should be considered seriously here. Instead, the question that needs to be answered is whether to call or to reraise. The two biggest considerations here should be the lack of experience of our opponent and the size of Bigfus's chipstack versus's Trouble's. First, as discussed, Trouble is very inexperienced and may not very well understand the strength of their hand. Despite the river checkraise, Trouble's hand could have been a weaker flush or three Aces or even two pair. There is good reason to reraise their checkraise here for value. However, there is a further consideration that should be taken. For the most experienced players, survival in the tournament while there are weaker players still in is of utmost importance as there should still be relatively easy chips to win. In this hand, if Bigfus's stack was not significantly larger than Trouble's, then calling would be appropriate as there was one higher flush possible, and, of course, a full house or quads. However, Bigfus has twice a starting stack and twice Trouble's stack. Given this situation, despite what hindsight tells, reraising the check raise is probably the best approach. In this case, keeping the reraise at the minimum 300 again would serve two purposes - juicing the pot without scaring our opponent off if they are weak. It, however, also controls the pot and encourages our opponent, if they are really strong, to make another critical error and only mini reraise again (rather than making a large reraise which is going to give us a difficult decision and cost us a lot of chips) and not make it extraordinarily expensive to call. If that happens, then it is time to just call.

Of course, with hindsight, calling the first time would have been better than reraising based on the actual cards. However, given the situation and a consideration of the hands Trouble might have had, mini 3-betting on the river has to at least be a consideration, if not the play you make.

There comes a time in some tournaments where calling a bet or posting a blind will leave you with almost no chips - less than a small blind in many cases. It is very common for a player in this situation to, rather than just calling, to throw the additional chips into the pot because they think it is the right thing to do. This is very wrong, especially when multiple other opponents are in the pot.

First, it is important to realize that putting your extra few chips into the pot, when they are less than a big blind, is not going to get anyone to fold. It is also important to recognize that if anyone does raise, you are compelled to call once such a high percentage of your stack is in the pot. That, however, does not mean you have to put your last chip in if your opponent does not make you. There are several reasons to guard that last chip. First off, without it, you are out of the tournament. There is obviously no chance to move up in the rankings, sneak into the money, claim a cheap bounty or even win the whole thing. Your last chip is your most valuable chip as it represents your tournament life. Don't just throw it into the pot before the river because it has no friends. Only do so if you are forced to.

Another consideration is if you have multiple opponents. Let's assume you are on the button with 450 chips while the blinds are 200 400 and one loose player has limped and it is action on you with AJ. The correct play here is to call. Raising the last 50 in chips will not get anybody to fold. Indeed, it will do the opposite. The small or big blind may be considering raising, but a raise on our part, even a measly 50 chips may dissuade that action. The common action of many players when an opponent is all in is to "check it down" in order to eliminate that player. So, many players will just call if we are already all in.

However, if we are not all in, this forces a player to raise preflop or bet on a later street in order to put us all in, which is exactly what we want as it may thin the field, increasing our chances of winning the hand. And if they don't, we can check down the hand (unless it is a definite winner) and survive even if we lose the hand.
There is a final reason not to bet those last chips if you don't have to. Those final chips are worth a lot more than your other chips because they can win more than your other chips. Usually, when you have say 20 Big Blinds or more, when you get your 20th big blind (last chips) in, you are facing usually only one opponent. Meaning your 20th big blind can only win 1 additional big blind. However, when you have less than one big blind in total, you can often find a raised pot where everyone else including the blinds may fold, meaning you can win 3 times your chips while only facing 1 opponent rather than 1 time your chips. Thus, your last few chips have higher earning potential and should not just be thrown into the pot for the sake of throwing them into the pot.

When you sit down to play a poker tournament, it is essential to determine your situation as soon as possible and adopt a strategy to maximize your chances of succeeding given your situation. A tournament amongst known opponents such as the MPT makes this skill critical. Because of the familiarity of this tournament type, it is easy to do this, so if you are not doing it, you will quickly find yourself at a disadvantage against your opponents that are.

In the just completed tournament, Rowanb did this masterfully. This tournament presented an opportunity to play against inexperienced players that would likely be calling too much as well as some experienced MPT veterans which Rowanb had position on. His tactic appeared to be a nice blend of trying to play hands against the less experienced players while also trying to isolate them by raising his more experienced opponents out of hands when they attempted to limp in with weak hands. Once in a hand with the less experienced players he recognized that against this set of opponents, making hands was the way to win so for the most part he checked when he didn't have a hand and value bet when he did, with fewer than normal targetted bluffs. This was critical because opponents were calling with weak hands, making bluffing less effective and often costly, but value betting very profitable. Against inexperienced opponents that are calling too often, this simple approach is the best way to win and Rowanb played this tournament with a master stroke all the way to a well earned victory.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Statistical Notes Following MPT 2011 Event #6

Observations following the sixth event of the 2011 season,  held at the Borgata Water Club in Atlantic City on November 19, 2011.

  • The Borgata became the sixth different venue to host more than one MPT event
  • RowanB has now won both events held at the Borgata
  • The two-player team named Trouble was the 47th different player in MPT history (and the first two-person team)
  • Mr. Lucky is the 30th different player in MPT history to participate in more than one event
  • Mr. Lucky became the tenth different player to cash in more than one MPT event, and the first since Betdponies and Bigfus did so (in the first two events of the series) to cash in his first career two events
  • Baccarat King was the first player in MPT history to be eliminated on the first hand
  • Baccarat King tied the Amazon for longest career streak without cashing, which currently stands at eight events
  • RowanB ended a streak of five events out of the money, which tied to fifth longest streak of all-time
  • Bigfus ended a four tournament in the money streak, which tied the second longest streak of all-time
  • Sass' absence from the tournament ended her streak of 29 straight MPT events played
  • RowanB was the first player in MPT history to win with pocket Aces on the final hand
  • Baccarat King tied Betdponies for the most career last place finishes, being the first player eliminated first for the sixth time in his MPT career

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pictures from MPT 2011 #1

Pictures from MPT 2011 Event #1, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Saturday, May 28, 2011 in the Caesars Atlantic City Centurion Tower.

Ging, Bigfus, and Demon in the early stages of the tournament

A wide look around the table as players and spectator look on

Bigfus stands during an important hand, while Harv29 deals

TSS777 studies his opponent intently, while his hole card camera records his play

Bigfus tries to hide from her opponent's glare

Sass, enjoying the early rounds of the tournament

TSS777 throws in a call

TSS777 stands up to record the cards on the board to review later

The dealer reveals the next card to the camera before dropping it on the mattress

TSS777 watches, something

While feeling no pain most of the night, Sass finally experiences the agony of defeat

The prize money for heads-up play and the new bobbling chip trophy on display

The final hand, after a less than epic heads up battle

The champion receives the trophy from the Tournament Director, who was also the runner-up

While absent for most of the tournament, the MPT Monkey returned for postgame ceremonies

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bigfus Wins 2010 MPT "Rising Star" Award

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - In 2008, she cashed in seven out of eight events, led the money list, and finished five points away from winning the Sealy Cup, but Bigfus was not yet a "star". The following year saw her finally break through and win her first MPT tournament, but Bigfus followed that win in the season's opening event with a streak of six straight out of the money finishes. 2010 was to be an important year in establishing Bigfus' MPT career.

For the second year in a row, Bigfus won the opening event, but this season she followed that result up with a second place in the season's second event and cashes in five of the last six events. Two wins, four runner-up finishes, a Player of the Year title, while breaking the all-time records for money won and points earned in a single season, not to mention that all-time lead in cashes, points, and earnings, proved that Bigfus is and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with on the MPT circuit. She has finally earned her place as one of the true starts of the Mattress Poker Tour.

Bigfus Wins MPT Player of the Year in Record Setting Season

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - Bigfus rebounded from a disappointing 2009 season in a big way. After leading the money list and finishing second place in the player of the year standings two years ago, she fell to fifth in the Sealy Cup standings, failing to cash in the last six events of that season. Bigfus won the opening event of the 2010 season, repeating her feat from the year before, but this time backed that win up with five finishes in the money in the last six events. In October, Bigfus also became only the second player in MPT history to win two tournaments in a single season , joining TSS777.

TSS777 was the only other player with a chance at the Player of the Year prize going into the main event. The two players dueled throughout the season, winning the first three tournaments. TSS777 won the two most prestigious events of the season, the Main Event and Las Vegas Spectacular, but that was not enough to overcome missing two events. His three victories set a single season mark, but it was Bigfus who set a series of records, smashing her previous record for money won in a season and also topping Sass' record for points in season by a considerable margin. She did fall short of one record, however, cashing in one fewer event than in 2008, but she did not win a tournament during that season.

After 2010, we don't expect to see 2010 Mattress Poker Tour Player of the Year, Bigfus, fall short of much anymore.

Here are the complete "Sealy Cup" point standings for the 2010 season.

1. Bigfus (94)
2. TSS777 (75)
3. Sass (57)
4. Harv29 (55)
5. Betdponies (42)
6. RowanB (37)
7. Hammah (20)
7. 2timeace (20)
9. Amazon (17)
10. Pixie (15)
11. Demon (14)
12. Janek13 (11)
13. Civicmon (10)
14. Tennis_bum (9)
14. Judykq (9)
16. mghenry (8)
17. Syrorange3042 (7)
18. Sherlock (6)
19. Ghosthunter (5)
20. JTinLV (4)
20. Cushla (4)
22. Eileen (3)
22. Noahcat (3)
22. Stumerrian (3)
25. Cocktail Master (2)
26. Baccarat King (1)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bigfus Tops 2010 MPT Money List

Two players dominated the 2010 Mattress Poker Tour (MPT) season. TSS777 won three tournaments, but Bigfus cashed in six out of seven events and joined TSS777 and the only player to win more than one tournament in a single season. Her record $495 in a single season, topped the previous single season record, also held by Bigfus in the 2008 season.

Here is the complete list of money leaders for the 2010 season.

1. Bigfus ($495)
2. TSS777 ($405)
3. Sass ($270)
4. Harv29 ($145)
5. Betdponies ($125)
6. Hammah ($100)
7. RowanB ($70)
8. Janek13 ($55)
9. Demon ($50)
10. 2timeace ($40)
11. Civicmon ($25)
12. Judykq ($5)

MPT 2010 Schedule

Mattress Poker Tour events were played on the following dates and locations during 2010.

  • April 17 - Harrah's Atlantic City
  • July 2 - Fourth of July Spectacular, Bally's Atlantic City
  • August 1 - ECLVA Las Vegas Spectacular III, Las Vegas Hilton
  • September 25 - ECLVA Fall Classic, Stone Harbor, NJ
  • October 23 - Resorts Atlantic City
  • November 13 - Trump Taj Mahal
  • December 28 - Main Event, Bally's Atlantic City
NOTE: This information is being posted now for archival purposes.