More About Big Preflop Folds In Tournaments

Strategy, Tournaments

October 8, 2007

As a result of Saturday’s column, I’ve had an interesting email conversation with Mike Caro about the subject of big folds in tournaments. I suppose it’s always a little bit dicey criticizing someone’s work, because you never know how they’re going to respond, but I’m glad to report that Mike and I had an interesting discussion and reached common ground on the subject.

We agreed on the following points:

  1. The example in the column was broken, but could have been fixed by adjusting the stack sizes
  2. There are cases where it’s correct to make big laydowns in proportional payoff tournaments, up to and including folding aces
  3. These situations are very rare
  4. These situations are sensitive to inputs – minor changes in stack sizes, prize sizes, etc. radically alter the results
  5. People who construct these artificial scenarios make use of a few elements that are somewhat to very unusual. Most scenarios use multiples of these
    • Very flat payout structures (perhaps not that unusual given multi-table satellites)
    • Players with exactly equal stacks
    • inexplicable play by your opponents
    • huge discrepancies in stack size
  6. These elements make the scenarios largely artificial

The fundamental issue at discussion was whether these extreme examples if constructed correctly are a good way to illustrate a more generic point: there’s often benefit to be had from letting your opponents eliminate each other . That’s unquestionably true, but I’ve never liked the teaching method of using an extreme example to illustrate something about the more general case. My concern is that people tend to mistake the example for the point. I think that’s happened here. The point is not that you should be looking for places to fold QQ+, but rather that there are cases, the vast majority of which have you on far more marginal hands than QQ, where it’s best not to get involved and instead let your opponents move you up the payscale by knocking each other out. However I think it’s safe to say that it you went your whole life and never even considered folding a premium pair on a M=7 stack, you would not give up any substantial expectation. It’s an interesting theoretical oddity rather than a staple of good tournament play.

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