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Why I think the early chip-up is extremely unprofitable

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  • Why I think the early chip-up is extremely unprofitable

    In a tournament, we all love that spot where we get AA and opponents are shoving into us.. Christmas come early!

    However I wanted to focus more on the Chip-Ups that come from Pairs vs Better, post-flop.

    We all love AA but if we ever get flatted and give our opponent(s) the opportunity to see a flop, do we love our pair now when we get strong action and call it down to see we are behind to a pair or a set?

    There are a couple of factors that make early levels very risky.


    Players (especially fish) are more likely to gamble early levels. They often over-value set-mining, draws and speculative hands. Some players will call massive preflop raises or continue to call the flop/turn whilst behind with the massive implied payout if they hit.

    You can not put as much credit in a big pair like AA pricing out weak hands and restricting the calling range to big pairs / broadway cards.

    So the variance is much higher and typically a pair is not as strong when you are playing opponents with such a wider range.

    I do agree that there is the opportunity to win small pots but the second the price goes up and it becomes a big pot - we are more likely to be stuck due to the wide ranges played.

    Chip Value

    This is something I only started looking at recently and think there is a lot of value in the maths involved.

    If you find a spot to improve your stack with a monster, this doesn't apply, nor does stacking off preflop with AA/KK - I am talking mainly about pairs played postflop, mainly big pairs or AK.

    So what happens if we get to stack off early levels - We get x2 our stack.

    Lets look at a 45-man tournament.
    We start with 1,500 chips
    Our goal is the top 3 spots
    To get to the top 3 spots we need 1/3 of all the chips in play which would be 22,500 chips
    At the start of the tournament we hold 6.6% of all the chips we need to reach this goal.

    By doubling up we increase our stack to 13% of the goal chips - nice work.

    However the key metric here is the improvement we made, which was about 6%.

    Let's compare this to making the exact same play when we are deeper, say at a stack of 3,000 chips.

    We take our stack from 3,000 to 6,000 and we go from 13% to 26%. This is an improvement of 13%

    Immediately by comparing these two numbers we recognize that doubling up later in the tournament is a lot more valuable. This is kind of obvious though right?

    Let us look finally at the more reliable short-stack shove/fold spot. We play it patient and reach the 50/100 levels with 1,000 chips.

    We find a spot to shove with a pair of 9s, we doubleup and go from 1,000 to 2,000. This is an improvement of 4%.

    So the difference between making the confident, early level play with Top Pair and the short stack shove of 9s in mid levels only has a difference of 2% improvement.

    2% --- is that all??

    It seemed like the early chip up was so much more valuable, it gave me a big cushion into the mid levels and made my game a lot less stressful... 2%! seriously??

    There is a difference between getting it in with AA preflop and getting it in with just AA once your opponent has had the chance to see a flop. By letting them see a flop you are giving them a fit/fold option they didn't have before and whilst some fish would call you preflop regardless, the majority will be looking to play a speculative low pair and gamble on catching a set, folding when they don't.

    I am thinking a lot more about my early level play here because for only a 2% difference towards my goal being held in the difference between stacking off early and doing so when short.. I really can't value that, even when I have AA early and someone wants to risk it all once they have seen 3 cards.

    EDIT : The value of 2% is only based on 45-man, in a 90-man the same sum would be a 1% improvement and the higher the player count, the more and more this becomes unprofitable!

    What are your thoughts?
    Last edited by baud2death; Wed May 14, 2014, 10:46 AM.

  • #2
    Hi baud2death!

    "Chipping up early" is NOT unprofitable. The more chips you accumulate, the better. It doesn't matter if it is the first hand or the 50th. However, I completely agree with your underlying premise of not spewing chips early and definately not taking big, unnecessary risks in marginal spots. Taking big, unnecessary risks early will be "hugely unprofitable".

    In general, I am quite tight the early levels in tourneys with 1500 chip starting stacks. Nonetheless, as you say, there are a ton of really bad players in the early levels. I do look for spots to play against these players spesifically because they are so bad and so easy to play against postflop. If I can double up early I am thrilled. The deeper my stack, the greater my options no matter which level we are at. With a short stack we quickly end up in push fold mode. A deeper stack will allow me to play a wider range of hands in a wider range of ways, both preflop and postflop.

    In other words; my chip value may not have improved much by doubling up early, but my options have improved tremendously.

    So, even though I am quite careful the early levels, I don't want to miss out on good opportunities to accumulate chips.


    • #3
      I did caveat it further on by saying that the analysis focused on stacking off with pairs post flop when early levels.

      I agree that stacking off with a set is very profitable
      I agree that playing small pots with a pair is profitable

      My focus was on valuing pairs early on when the risk is high.

      Later levels, a pair can be a monster when the SPR is strong but early levels a pair is much weaker because our opponents range, willingness to gamble and overall chip:to:risk ratio is poor

      Get the good spots when you can I 100% agree but this is more about side-stepping the AA vs two pair/set scenario that I and many other players walk into early levels. They just put it down to a cooler but when you think about it

      a) You are more likely to run into this spot early because of the gambling/speculation going on by your opponents, even decent opponents are set mining
      b) You don't actually gain a great deal by doing this early levels

      So in the negative column you have
      - Wide hand ranges
      - More fish still in the tournament
      - Players willing to speculate with negative pot odds

      In the positive column you have
      - a marginal increase in your stack vs your long-term goal.

      If you play with this in mind and let THEM make the mistake of playing a big pair vs your two pair + then great
      If you play with the idea that AA is unbeatable early levels, you will become the fish

      EDIT : So in summary, don't just fold AA early levels fearing a set but give a lot more value to stronger hands early on because the likelihood of someone calling your PRF with rags is much higher here and you can't be as confident about being ahead.
      Last edited by baud2death; Wed May 14, 2014, 11:43 AM.


      • #4
        Originally posted by baud2death View Post
        If you play with this in mind and let THEM make the mistake of playing a big pair vs your two pair + then great If you play with the idea that AA is unbeatable early levels, you will become the fish


        • #5
          I completely agree with Roland's take on this.

          It basically boils down to ICM, which is often summarized as "chips you win are not worth as much as chips you lose."
          Despite what many players think, ICM is not just relevant on the bubble. It's actually a factor on hand 1 of the tourney, because - in a raked game - your chips are already worth less than you paid for them! In addition, the aim of the game is to win 100% of the chips, but that doesn't mean you win 100% of the prizepool, unless it's a (rare) Winner Takes All format.

          Doubling your stack doubles your share of the chips in play, but it doesn't double your tourney equity. Every time you bust someone, your share of the prizepool doesn't double. Your opponent's buy-in doesn't go directly to your account. In fact, his equity is divided among everyone still in the field (although you get the bulk of it).

          In essence, you shouldn't take "flips" early on in tournaments, because although they may be breakeven or slightly profitable in terms of chipEV, they are NOT profitable in terms of net dollar EV. Also remember that you can't win a tourney or even double your buy-in on level 1. You can only lose it.
          This is proven every year in the WSOP ME. Note that the chip leader on day 3 almost never makes it to the final table, let alone goes wire to wire and wins the thing.
          Bracelet Winner


          • #6
            ICM is such a strong concept but I think that my brain works better when I tie together the specific cases of

            a) Early Level big pair spot


            b) Mid Level short/shove spot

            I was shocked that the difference between these two spots was extremely marginal for how it improved your chance of chipping up in comparison with the chips in total.

            If the goal of the game is to get ALL of the chips (which it pretty much is) you give yourself much more of a chance to do this by folding non-monster hands early.

            For one you aren't actually improving your situations as much as you think, and early chip up feels like it helps you, you can take it easier and aren't looking to "get-it-in" as soon but the progress it makes you in the journey from the start-line to the finish-line is minimal.

            Furthermore, since the flip side of getting it in early is that you CAN be knocked out, you have sacrified pottential chances to chip up with much more dominating hands between the point you didn't fold to the point your remaining stack would be blinded off. All of that pottential is gone.

            So I go back to what I said originally in my OP, the bargain for an early chip-up vs a later level chip-up is valuable only if you have a strong edge over your opponents and during the early stages, aggression isn't really an edge, your stack sizes are all the same so thats not an edge, position isn't as much of an edge as well ... the only edge you are have are your cards.

            So if your cards are supreme post-flop (since that is where the majority of early level play is held) then an early chip-up is an option in your horizons.

            If your cards aren't fantastic.. the horizon looks like there is a big pot of gold sitting on it but its going to be unlikely you will see it.

            In summary, I need to be in way-ahead situations early levels if I am stacking off, otherwise I want to get thin value from my hands and cushion my progress to the mid-levels.

            I really believe that if I tweak this area of my game then I will improve a good amount.
            The key i need to find is avoiding the other extreme which is folding out big pairs early levels for fear of getting stuck. Really.. I need to be a NIT preflop as much as possible and then explode into a TAG once I hit something to extract max value.


            • #7
              I agree with much of what you said, but I just want to comment on this:
              Originally posted by baud2death View Post
              I need to be a NIT preflop as much as possible and then explode into a TAG once I hit something to extract max value.
              The way I look at it is that in the early levels I should be playing hands with decent implied odds, but be very cautious with hands with reverse implied odds. Small pairs and suited connectors are great when stacks are deep, because they are easy to play. You either make a monster hand and try and stack someone's top pair/overpair, or you miss the flop and fold.
              It's the smallball approach: see a cheap flop when stacks are deep, make a straight or flush and get an easy double up vs someone that overvalues their aces. Dave has mentioned this hand in training a few times. It's a perfect example of the strategy, with great commentary from Norm.

              Later on, when stacks are shorter, you need to play "big cards" (and pretty much avoid anything speculative), because then it *is* +EV to stack off with top pair/overpair.

              There's certainly nothing wrong with playing nitty early on, but if you see some great spots to speculate with an 80bb+ stack, then go for it!
              Bracelet Winner


              • #8
                Originally posted by ArtySmokesPS View Post
                Despite what many players think, ICM is not just relevant on the bubble. It's actually a factor on hand 1 of the tourney, because - in a raked game - your chips are already worth less than you paid for them! In addition, the aim of the game is to win 100% of the chips, but that doesn't mean you win 100% of the prize pool, unless it's a (rare) Winner Takes All format.
                ICM considerations are a factor, but the data needed for the calculations is huge and the specifics don't change to conclusion: An early double-up does not increase your expectation anywhere near as much as one does in the late rounds.



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