Mike Caro poker word is Stuff

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2008) in Poker Player newspaper.

Continuing our series of entries in which I’m allowed to both ask and answer questions that interest me, today we focus on all kinds of unrelated stuff. And, by cosmic coincidence, “Stuff” turns out to be Today’s word.

We left off with question 73, so let’s move forward…

Question 74: How often should you move all-in to protect a hand in a poker tournament?

It depends on how much of an overall advantage or disadvantage you have against opponents.

When you analyze poker strategy, it quickly becomes clear that weak players should move all-in much more frequently than strong players. How come? It’s because strong players risk more by moving all-in. Strong players have a theoretical edge against opponents that has future value. Therefore, surviving the next hand means more to players who have that overall advantage.

On the other hand, weaker players have a long-range disadvantage and when they’re a clear favorite on a hand, they should be more willing to risk everything. Look at it this way… Let’s say that you’ll average a 10 percent advantage over opponents on all future plays. Let’s also say that right now, you have a five percent advantage on your current hand by moving all in. Should you?

Most profit

Not if your goal is to make the most profit from a proportional-payout tournament that offers a percent of the prize pool to first place, a lesser percent to second, a still-lesser percent to third, and still-smaller prizes on down the line. Even if your advantage is slightly greater on this hand than on average for the tournament, you should tend to avoid pushing advantages that may lead to sudden elimination.

Oddly, there are many situations where a weaker player might move you all-in at a small disadvantage and, knowing this, you must fold, anyway. You’re anticipating bigger edges later on, so you don’t want to risk elimination on a theoretical profit that is less than your equity.

The best examples of this center on drawing hands: Weak players should pursue expensive drawing hands liberally, and strong players should avoid doing so.

Question 75: Should you protect a superior hand by moving all-in in regular ring games?

In a ring game, you don’t worry about survival.

You can lose all your chips and just buy-in again. For that reason, if a weak opponent moves you all-in and you have even a tiny edge, you should call — assuming your bankroll is big enough to comfortably absorb the loss. So, that’s different than what you should do in a tournament.

But this question is about what to do with a superior hand in regard to betting, not calling. You’re less likely to lose if you move all-in, so many players theorize that they should bet all their chips to protect the hand. But that’s wrong.

Protecting a hand really has no bearing on your decision. You need to think about making the most-profitable bet. In effect, when you know you’re holding the better hand, you have something to sell. You need to price it right. Sometime that means moving all-in, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Question 76: How big does a tournament field need to be to make playing worthwhile?

Two players works well for me.

First, that gives me a better shot at the trophy, which is really the reason I’d play a poker tournament. But, beyond that, the notion is nuts that it isn’t worth risking, say, a $1,000 buy-in in pursuit of a small prize pool if only 50 players enter.

The truth is that a larger field of opponents simply makes your possible profit greater while reducing your chances of winning. It pretty much evens out.

The main negative factor about playing in small tournament fields is that sometimes these tend to mean stronger competition. If larger fields mean a lot of late-entering weaker players added to the hardcore participants, then a larger field may be better. Otherwise, I prefer short fields.

Question 77: Have poker tells become less reliable in recent years?

Less reliable, yes. Less profitable, maybe not.

A percentage of players are more aware of tells these days, but they’re in the minority. And once you’ve seen an opponent reverse a tell, this can actually work to your favor.

You know he or she is “tell aware,” and you can adapt your decisions in accordance to this. You can make money by using traditional tells against them — in reverse.

Okay, we’re done with “stuff” for today. Next time we’ll deal with more stuff, but I’ll think up a new “Today’s word” for it. See you then. — MC

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Mike Caro

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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. at least this time you mention /include T and Ring games! in Ts you still find idiots who dont understand better hand might be all in!

  2. Interesting article yet again, I was just discussing all in moves with my group on FB asking if they could fold Pocket K's in the early stage of a tournament with 2 all in's in front of them.  Of course again it would depend on the size of the prize, tournament. opponents, and effective stack size, but most goog poker players can lay this down.

  3. What you are saying is true but at the table things can change and cards will run hot and cold. Yes you can make moves and at times I do but for the most part getting out of hands when the cards turn from hot to cold is money in the bank. Many players wait too long thinking their run is still going hot when in fact it has turned stone cold. All in when you have turned stone cold is like hoping that train coming at you has good brakes.

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