A while back PokerStars School’s own Ross Jarvis sat down with Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker to talk poker tournament strategy, preparation, handling one’s self at the tables, online vs. live, and preflop strategies. In Part 1, Chris discussed the general scene of tournaments both live and online, quick ways to spot weaker players at the tables, as well as planning and preparation for tournament play. In this part of the interview, Ross begins by asking Chris about his thoughts on distractions at the table and how they impact one’s game, bankroll management for recreational players, and then go on to discuss preflop strategy.
Ross Jarvis (RJ): How, obviously there’s a big correlation between like people who play poker and enjoy sports and like betting and so on. How distracting can it be to be watching football while you’re playing poker, or on twitter etc, do all these things really impact you negatively when you’re playing online poker?
Chris Moneymaker (CM): Obviously it does as any time you’re away from your thinking or from the game, it’s going to hurt in return. Honestly, I watch sports and I get on twitter and I do things that are sub-optimal. When you’re playing online you do have, most people have their HUD running, which keeps track of a lot of things. It’s obviously not 100% reliable and, there are ways to manipulate that, especially early on in a tournament, you can raise a lot to sort of mess with your stats, especially if someone doesn’t have a big database against you but, that HUD’s going to keep you kind of informed to what’s going on. At the end of the day really paying attention to the table, paying attention to the bet sizing, or they’re raising from the hands, that they are playing from certain positions, it’s going to give you a lot of advantage over your opponent if you’re paying attention to that stuff.
CM: And obviously, when you’re playing live, you can’t do this online, but when you’re playing live, one of the most important things you can do going into the day from my opinion, is to figure out the break board, and find out you know, if your table’s going to be breaking. If it is, that’s when I’m going to play my games more, if I know that my tables going to be one of the first to break, because you’re not going to be with those guys all day so there’s no point in trying to watch all the tendencies.
RJ: That’s interesting, so if you, if you are out on a really tough table but you know you’re going to break soon, what advice would you have for players who might feel like they’re in trouble.
CM: Well that’s a good thing, if you know you’re going to break, you know poker is a game where you don’t have to play. I mean unless you’re super short stacked, there’s really no need, if you’re playing superior players, there’s nothing wrong with just sipping it all in and not playing post flop if you’re playing against really tough players. Play your hands really strong and really fast and if you know you’re playing against tough players, play lockdown poker, play super tight, and you’ll get moved to a new table eventually. And if you know your break order then it’s really easy to play lockdown poker for a couple of hours and wait for a better table, for a better seat, I mean, there’ll be times when you’ve got a guy to your left or a couple to your left that are three betting every time you open the pot, and making your life miserable, and there are certain points where that player is really good, and it’s just better to wait and move tables and start afresh.
RJ: Just in terms of bankroll management and so on, if you’re a recreational player who doesn’t play that often, is it something that’s important to consider, or do you just play within your means and treat each tournament almost as a one off?
CM: I mean if you’re a recreational player I don’t think it matters that much. Honestly I would say that I would be doing it for the experience. I mean obviously you don’t want to play any tournament that’s going to hurt your finances, but as far as, if you go to a tournament series and you want to play a certain event, I would figure out, you know if there’s a PLO event or the high-roller, whatever it is that you want to play, I would definitely have my bankroll set so that I can play that, and then everything else. If you’re a cash game player try to play cash to ween yourself in or maybe play satellites. It’s really not that big of a deal to sort of bank roll those for the recreational player because for the most part, you’re just coming in for the weekend and it’s kind of a one off shot and it’s more of an experience thing, and if you make a score, great. If you don’t you’re going back to work on Monday and everything’s going to be fine. I mean the bankroll management really comes down to when you’re a more regular player or a professional player where that’s your sole source of income, and that’s where you have to make your decisions on the tournaments you’re going to play and how much of your bankroll that you’re really willing to commit to one specific tournament.
RJ: Perfect, OK cool let’s talk about some specific pre flop strategy tactics. So obviously a couple of years ago, 3 betting and 4 betting was happening every single hand, people 4 betting all in with pocket 8’s and so on, and it would be for value. What about in 2018, has it calmed down a little bit, and how aggressive in general are tournaments pre-flop these days?
CM: Well when you play the lower buy-ins, there’s not much 3 betting going on to be honest. It’s a lot tamer. I think the game in general has sort of reverted back to previous days where people are not 3 betting and 4 betting as often as bluffs, doing so more for value. There’s obviously still a lot of 3 betting going on, especially in the higher levels, it’s just the hands that they’re doing it with is not what people were doing back a couple of years ago, when people were 3 betting and 4 betting all kinds of suited connectors, basically any 2 cards a lot of times. Whereas now it’s a lot more defined, the fact that people are 3 betting ace rag suited and, hands that basically, people are 3 betting more times than they’re 3 betting for value really good hands. And then they’re 3 betting the hands that don’t play well post flop that are at the bottom end of their calling range are generally the two categories of hands that people are 3 betting, whereas before there was probably 4 or 5 categories that people were 3 betting. When you play a tournament like the PSPC, you’re going to get some pros that are going to say, for example like Justin Bonomo and Mike McDonald, both of them are under the school that, they aren’t going to 3 bet anything in the main event. I don’t think the PSPC is sort of like the WSOP main event. You’re going to get such a wide mix of pros and amateur players so Justin and Timex don’t 3 bet hardly at all during the WSOP main event because they feel like their post flop play is so superior that they don’t want to add variance to the game against weaker competition. And then you’ll get others that will 3 bet really wide and put a lot of pressure on the amateur.
RJ: And where do you rate yourself with this aggressive skill, sort of 3 betting skill, are you incredibly aggressive or very passive?
CM: It depends on the, my whole strategy depends on the opponent. I mean if I’m playing against an opponent, and he’s on my right and he’s more a fit or fold guy, or he’s going in to play only flops that he hits, then I’m going to be 3 betting him pretty liberally. I’m going to be bloating the pot and just making a continuation bet knowing that he’s going to, if he doesn’t hit the flop he’s just going to fold. If a guy is really sticky and really tough, then I’ll probably just end up flatting a lot more and playing post-flop in position. Also if there’s a lot of bad players behind me, I’m going to 3 bet a lot less because I don’t want to really isolate bad players out of a pot, where if I have really experienced players behind me I’d rather 3 bet more, so it kind of depends on the table make up and who’s around me.
RJ: Is there a style that you enjoy more when you’re playing at the table? Is it fun to be that aggressive 3 betting guy or would you rather lower the variance and just play smaller pots?
CM: I like to think that I’m pretty comfortable playing both ways. I mean I just got, in RIU Reno I was 3 betting probably every time I entered the pot, but in the circuit event, I don’t think I 3 bet all day long. It was just, 2 different tournaments.
RJ: Is this because of more inexperienced players who are like, maybe their first live tournament or something like that, is that the main reason in that specific event?
CM: Actually Reno, the situation where I had, on day 1 specifically, I had some pretty confident players to my left, and all the amateurs where to my right. So every time that the amateurs to my right opened, I kind of wanted to isolate them and get the more experienced players to fold hands that they would, you know if I flat then they’ll going to be flatting behind me more often, or if I’m 3 betting, a lot of their hands you know their ten jacks and a jack queen, those type of hands are going to go away or even ace ten ace jack, they’re going to be folding those hands, and they would normally call suited connectors. I will isolate the weaker players so I was 3 betting a lot more because I had the weaker players to my right and the more confident players to my left.
RJ: Last thing, on limping. What about the very specific situation where it’s folded to you and you’re in the SB, let’s say you’ve got a half decent hand like a 67s, do you advocate limping there just to compete and see a flop or is that still a better position to raise?
CM: Blind vs blind play is a completely different topic. It’s obviously completely acceptable to limp in the SB. First of all especially when you’re super deep, I’m going to limp most of my SB’s, especially against a player that’s going to call a very wide range in the BB. Because essentially what you’re doing by raising is bloating the pot out of position in a deep stack game and that doesn’t make any sense. And if he’s going to be calling, you know if I’m the BB I’m going to call super wide, and I know other pros are going to be doing the same, so actually it makes more sense to limp and keep the pot small. That gives you a lot more opportunity to reopen the betting if he does raise, it’s always as hard but when you’re OOP keep the pot small. So the Blind vs Blind play is a little bit unique.