Aug 21 2008

#1: Do you want to play or do you want to win?

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During the very first two pre-flops, a beer hand usually won’t push all in but will often call all in (espe­cially against two or more oppo­nents). It’s fun to go to war with a 72 offsuit!

When it comes to THNL, nearly everyone enters a ULBPC event for entertainment, not profit. Nearly half of the players will go to the flop with any two cards despite any reasonable raise and regardless of their position. You’ll routinely bump into "all in maniacs" who see poker as a crap shoot. You’ll routinely sit next to outrageous bluffers who raise wildly every pre-flop and who love to show off every successful bluff. You’ll occasionally meet a 100% calling station who pays any price to see every flop and who will even pay to show down the river with zero chance of winning! And on rare occasions you’ll bump into a 100% raising station who will never call/fold.

It’s not that these people play poorly — it’s that winning is only an afterthought. They really just want to play. They see their entry fees as entertainment, not as an investment.

Play the nine-handed or ten-handed game?

Okay, so we’ve established you want to profit from your entry fee. "I play to win," you say. The number of players at a single table normally makes a difference in a sit&go. So, should you play a nine- or ten-handed game?

In any ULBPC event, (1) nearly all of your opponents will be fish, (2) ten-handed games last as long as nine-handed games, and (3) you’ll nearly always cross the money line before the blinds grow large. Statistically, then, the "310+20" ten-handed game generates slightly more profit than the "300+20" nine-handed game. Enter the "310+20" games to maximize profit over the long run.

If you truly want to push out the limpers behind you on either of the very first two pre-flops, you first need the vigorish and then you need to raise 11-17xBB. Just rea­lize that, more often than not, 1-2 players (espe­cially the SB) will pro­bably call it. This is espe­cially true if they’ve al­ready called 2xBB.

The best strategy is to sit out

Every professional will tell you to play in a style opposite to the rest of the table. The ULBPC events run so loose and so wild that the winning strategy is to play bizarrely tight. There is never a rush to accumulate chips in a ULBPC event — and this means a fabled tight-weak player can make a solid profit here!

Believe it or not, the single most successful strategy is to sit out. My spreadsheet shows I make an astounding +86% on these entry fees. I often register for two games (the maximum allowed) right before I drive to work and right before I go to bed. I also like to sit out two games whenever I play at a side table. I earn thousands of chips each week and I routinely take second place. Free play money!

Of course, every pro player insists "aggressive poker is winning poker." Yet here in the ULBPC events, "submissive poker is winning poker." Sitting out is a killer strategy! Of course this raises an obvious question: "does PokerStars allow a total sit-out strategy?" The answer is YES. Quoting from their website:

What these players are doing is not against any rule, and no action will be taken against them. For the same reasons, we cannot make changes to the system to discourage this activity. Once a player has paid their entry, they are entitled to play (or not play) every hand that their chips will buy them… If players are actually winning chips by sitting out the entire time, this is a sign that the play in these events is far too loose and you should adjust your play accordingly. You will find that this is often the case with all play money chip games … [and this is why] we have implemented a limit of 2 concurrent play money sit and go events per player.

Sitting out is profitable even in a worst-case scenario!
You can profit immensely by sitting out even in a worst-case scenario where your name is "Sïtting 0ut" and your avatar shows you sitting out. This player accumulated 192,000+ chips from 1,160 buyins over a five-month span. He took 7th place in one event; he took 6th place in two events; and he took 5th place in 54 events. Check out this player’s amazing profit margin:

Averages Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Profit margin  +41.9% +40.9% +52.0% +53.7% +37.8% +56.8% +62.8%
Finish place  3.18 3.25 3.10 3.12 3.23 3.05 3.02


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