Targeted poker quiz 37: Tournaments (advanced)


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. This 39-part series of quizzes, originally published (2004-2006) in Poker Player, is based on the Mike Caro University of Poker library of research and advice. In each entry, Mike Caro presents 10 questions covering a category of poker, targeted for beginner, intermediate, or advanced players. Answers with explanations appear below each quiz, with the questions repeated for easy reference.


The MCU Targeted Poker Quiz series

(See the index to this series)

Tournaments (level: advanced)

  1. Early in a tournament, you should…

    (a) try to eliminate opponents whenever you get the chance;

    (b) play conservatively if there is no rebuy and play more aggressively if there is a rebuy;

    (c) never bluff;

    (d) all of the above.

  2. In a shoot-out tournament, the winner of all the chips at the table advances and everyone else is eliminated. A good tactic in such tournaments is to…

    (a) play similarly to the way you would in a non-tournament cash game;

    (b) play very conservatively in the first half hour;

    (c)avoid making small-profit raises, putting an extra premium on survival;

    (d) all of the above.

  3. Who was the main visionary behind the push for shoot-out tournaments in the 1980s?

    (a) Eric Drache;

    (b) George Hardie;

    (c) Bob Thompson;

    (d) Craig Kaufman.

  4. Which tournament director was the first to offer a non-smoking tournament as a major event?

    (a) Jack Straus;

    (b) Jack McClelland;

    (c) Phyllis Caro;

    (d) Eric Drache.

  5. According to Mike Caro’s estimates, how often should a world-class player win the first-place trophy in a field of 1,000 typical tournament players (ranging from poor to superior and mostly average or slightly better)?

    (a) Once in 1,000;

    (b) Once in 300;

    (c) Once in 50;

    (d) Once in 25.

  6. How many championship bracelets at the World Series of Poker did Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth have combined at the start of poker’s big popularity surge following the 2005 main event?

    (a) 29;

    (b) 7;

    (c) 11;

    (d) 18.

  7. Given no other information, if all three remaining players are equally skillful and playing similarly, what are your chances of winning first place with $20,000 in chips if two opponents have $500,000 each? (choose closest answer)

    (a) about 1 in 1,000;

    (b) about 1 in 5;

    (c) about 1 in 50;

    (d) about 1 in 500.

  8. Actually – despite elaborate arguments – there is never a time when you should fold aces before the flop in a tournament.

    (a) True;

    (b) False

  9. The winner of a poker tournament always got lucky.

    (a) True;

    (b) False.

  10. Who pays the biggest mathematical penalty in a typical proportional-payout poker tournament?

    (a) The person who is last to get knocked out before reaching the money (the bubble);

    (b) The second place finisher;

    (c) Whoever takes the big blind last;

    (d) The first place finisher


Answers and explanations (with questions repeated for convenience)

Tournaments (level: advanced)

  1. Early in a tournament, you should…

    (a) try to eliminate opponents whenever you get the chance;

    (b) play conservatively if there is no rebuy and play more aggressively if there is a rebuy;

    (c) never bluff;

    (d) all of the above.

    Answer: (b) Usually, you should play the early phase of a tournament conservatively – putting a priority on survival – if there is no optional rebuy. But if the opportunity to rebuy is available, you should play somewhat more aggressively and if you go broke, buy again (assuming you can afford to).

  2. In a shoot-out tournament, the winner of all the chips at the table advances and everyone else is eliminated. A good tactic in such tournaments is to…

    (a) play similarly to the way you would in a non-tournament cash game;

    (b) play very conservatively in the first half hour;

    (c)avoid making small-profit raises, putting an extra premium on survival;

    (d) all of the above.

    Answer: (a) In a shootout tournament where the table winner advances and all others are eliminated, you should play similarly to the way you would in a non-tournament cash game. That means that you shouldn’t sacrifice any everyday-profit plays in order to survive. Your best regular-world game is usually correct here.

  3. Who was the main visionary behind the push for shoot-out tournaments in the 1980s?

    (a) Eric Drache;

    (b) George Hardie;

    (c) Bob Thompson;

    (d) Craig Kaufman.

    Answer: (d) Craig Kaufman was the visionary promoting shootout-style tournaments in the 1980s.

  4. Which tournament director was the first to offer a non-smoking tournament as a major event?

    (a) Jack Straus;

    (b) Jack McClelland;

    (c) Phyllis Caro;

    (d) Eric Drache.

    Answer: (c) Phyllis Caro was the first tournament director to offer a non-smoking tournament as a major event.

  5. According to Mike Caro’s estimates, how often should a world-class player win the first-place trophy in a field of 1,000 typical tournament players (ranging from poor to superior and mostly average or slightly better)?

    (a) Once in 1,000;

    (b) Once in 300;

    (c) Once in 50;

    (d) Once in 25.

    Answer: (b) According to Mike Caro’s estimates, if there are 1,000 entrants in each tournament, then a world-class player should win one in 300 tournaments against typical opponents – a little better than triple “fair share.” (In other words, it’s a little more than three wins, rather than just one, in 1,000.)

  6. How many championship bracelets at the World Series of Poker did Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth have combined at the start of poker’s big popularity surge following the 2005 main event?

    (a) 29;

    (b) 7;

    (c) 11;

    (d) 18.

    Answer: (a).Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth had 29 World Series of Poker gold bracelets combined. Brunson and Chan had 10 each and Hellmuth had 9.

  7. Given no other information, if all three remaining players are equally skillful and playing similarly, what are your chances of winning first place with $20,000 in chips if two opponents have $500,000 each? (choose closest answer)

    (a) about 1 in 1,000;

    (b) about 1 in 5;

    (c) about 1 in 50;

    (d) about 1 in 500.

    Answer: (c) If you have $20,000 as one of three remaining players in a tournament and your two opponents have $500,000 each, your chances of winning are about 1 in 50. The assumptions were that all players were equally skilled and playing similarly. The reason is that your chances of winning are roughly determined by the amount of your chips measured against the total amount of opposing chips. That’s $20,000 versus $1,000,000 – a 1:50 ratio (which would be 1 in 51, by the way). You were asked to “choose the closest answer” for a reason. The ratio of your money to theirs isn’t an exact measurement, because there is actually a mathematical advantage to being short and going all-in against same-skilled opponents. It means you’ll sometimes get to draw out with hands you would have thrown away if you’d had to pay.

  8. Actually – despite elaborate arguments – there is never a time when you should fold aces before the flop in a tournament.

    (a) True;

    (b) False.

    Answer: (b – false) There really are times when you make more profit by folding aces before the flop in a proportional payout tournament.

  9. The winner of a poker tournament always got lucky.

    (a) True;

    (b) False.

    Answer: (a – true) The winner of a tournament always got lucky. Just good skill isn’t enough to win against even a small field of opponents over a few hours or a few days, much less win against hundreds of opponents. Skill matters a lot in tournaments, because it gives you a better chance of winning, but on any day that you actually win, you held better-than-expected cards. Therefore, the winner of a tournament always got lucky.

  10. Who pays the biggest mathematical penalty in a typical proportional-payout poker tournament?

    (a) The person who is last to get knocked out before reaching the money (the bubble);

    (b) The second place finisher;

    (c) Whoever takes the big blind last;

    (d) The first place finisher.

    Answer: (d) It’s the first-place finisher who pays the biggest mathematical penalty in a proportional-payout poker tournament. That’s because first place wins all the chips, then gives away most of their value to players already conquered.


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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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  1. Phil Hellmuth has won 11 bracelets. Also, to do with another quiz, why would you keep raising someone with jt on an ajt board. Don’t you have a trouble hand. A9/A8 will fold, Aj,At have you in deep trouble, and Ak,Aq have 10 1/2 outs. So shouldn’t you play it cautiously and check/call out of position?

    1. anmol,

      Phil didn’t win the two until after this article was created. Also, A9, and A8, might not fold given the circumstances, its hard to put someone on two pair. AJ and A10 likely would be folded to multiple raises from good players but still likely. i dont know where you came up with a half an out, but even 10 outs is only about a 40% favorite still a big underdog and u have to remember, the jack ten still can improve (i.e a jack or a ten giving the aces top two or top and bottom two)

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