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Tony Murtagh

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Filtering Poker Tournament Advice: Chip Preservation
9/20/2007 5:02:49 PM

Famous player X says that he never calls all-in preflop with AA in a tournament if two other players are already all-in and have him covered. Famous player Y stresses the importance of avoiding marginal confrontations early in tournaments.

Every well-known player has given some trinket of poker advice. You need to ask yourself whether those trinkets were properly worded when they were, most likely, given on the spot. You also need to ask yourself if those trinkets apply to the particular situation you’re in.

Tournament Variables

It’s tempting to think that tournament poker is just about the poker hands. However, it’s about much more. Driving forces behind your tournament decisions will also be the following:

• Blind Structure
• Stack Sizes
• Field Size
• Payout Structure

Whenever a famous tournament player is asked for an on-the-spot tip, you need to remember that those tips are “on-the-spot” and that they, most likely, are most applicable to the types of tournaments that the famous player typically plays in. If you’re playing $5+$1 turbo tournaments online, the advice that someone gives regarding playing the first hour of the WSOP main event might not hold water.

Forsaking Present Edges for Bigger Edges in the Future

A lot of tournament advice involves avoiding marginal confrontations in the present because losing those confrontations will prevent you from realizing greater edges in the future. Understanding this concept is important, but many players take this advice too far because they overestimate the impact that their skill will have in future hands.

Suppose you have AA, and you have 10 big blinds left in a large multitable tournament with a top-heavy payout structure. You’re on the bubble, and the average stack in the tournament is 14BB. You’re in the big blind, and two players that have you covered go all-in before you. Against two opponents, your probability of winning the hand is probably around 65%. A 65% chance of tripling up in a tournament featuring a top-heavy payout schedule is huge. You can’t pass it up. You’ll be eliminated 35% of the time, but how much skill can you honestly employ with a ten big blind stack? Not much.

Generally, deep stacks are needed to even consider forsaking marginal edges. However, even in those cases, players overestimate how much of a favorite they need to be in order to risk all their chips. Look at many of today’s top players, and you may be surprised to see that they are quite aggressive in accumulating chips; they are constantly involved.


Listening to successful people is important towards becoming successful ourselves. However, whenever listening, be active, and always think of context; as we all know, poker is highly situational. Deciding between preservation and accumulation is your call; make sure you make the right one!

Tony Guerrera is the author of Killer Poker By The Numbers. Visit him online at

Tony Murtagh Check out our Poker Blog for the very latest news of tournaments, bonuses and information. For some light relief go to

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