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Semireg - MTT - $5-25

    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675

      I'm starting migration of main content from my old MTT blog in Russian community here. As soon as transition is completed, I'll continue here. It'll take some time...

      The main reason of migration is the need to grow further. I've got some side projects going, that will be presented to English-language community in the nearest future and it's already time consuming to support two languages.

      in progress...

      About me

      Several years ago I migrated to Canada. I'm a self-employed Java programmer and got some time to play poker on semi-regular basis. Poker is my main hobby and additional income source. Initially I started from MTT freerolls, then continued with micro-limit NL HM FR BSS cash and went with initial 50$ from NL5 to NL50. Then I switched to low-limit MTT and play them till now with goal to grow till mid-stakes MTT.
  • 99 replies
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      Here are links to navigate through this blog. Comments/posts mentioned here are supported on regular basis. It is recommended to get acquainted with this blog using this navigation.

      Common info:


      Analysis by field strength:
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675

      2011 results (in Russian).

      - I don't play cash anymore. Thanks to it a bankroll to play low-limit MTT was built, plus it gave me some basic poker skills and postflop in particular.
      - I play in several poker rooms/networks right now, mostly non-turbo GTD freezouts and re-buys corresponding to $5-15. Sometimes, lower midstakes $20-30 are tried.
      - Working on skills improvement to play mid stakes regularly.
      - Developing software for poker. usunpokertools open source and free project takes most of my time currently: (support thread in Russian community: usunpokertools - free integration with OPR, SharkScope, ProLabs and saving player notes into HUD )

      My MTT results:

      Stats since my registration in PokerStrategy. MTT, May 20, 2012:
      Tournaments: 1294
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675

      Content Migration
      1) General:
      Premature advancement to upper limits
      My main tools - usunpokertools for player search in online ranking systems
      My auxiliary tools
      About average tournament indicators
      How blog is useful
      Playing against monster regs/Game theory foundation

      2) Math:
      Advanced hand analysis

      3) IT stuff
      How to make VOD in Ubuntu
      Equilators in Java
      Integration with OPR
      Integration with Party Poker Java Applet
      Tunnelling internet traffic

      and add cross-refs everywhere
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      MTT for newbies - roadmap
      Since it is a MTT blog, I'll start with my opinion about the roadmap how to get into MTT for those who has no or very little related experience. The most popular game of NoLimit Texas Holdem is covered as a prime example here.

      I. High-level breakdown by stages
      1) Study basic literature.
      "The Harrington on Hold 'em" 3 books about tournament poker. The must read starting point, it is a strategic basic for tournament play. In general it's quite obsolete in many areas, but the central concept of M-ratio (see Vol.2) is fundamental.

      2) Meanwhile, it's recommended to build a bankroll for low-limit MTTs in some other poker discipline. 1.5-2k USD is required as start point for MTT.

      I won't recommend regular play for MTT micro buy-ins <$5, it's just a lottery and skills got there won't help much. However, you should definitely try them sometimes, just to get a flavour of tournament play and practise some very basic concepts learned from #1.

      Most popular choices to build start bankroll on micro-levels are:
      a) Micro-limit cash NL5-NL25/50
      BSS strategy, Full ring tables cash will teach basic poker play, bankroll management, how to use basic software, etc. Main strength you gain here is strong postflop skills, it will help a lot for non-turbo and especially deep stack tournaments.
      That was my way.

      b) Micro-limit SNG/MTSNG up to $10.
      Should give a lot of practise for tournament specific situations: pushbot, bubles, final tables. Preflop and math related to it (Nash equilibrium, ICM model) will get strong and it will help a lot not just for any tournaments, but fast turbo ones in particular.

      3) Tournament related articles and literature should be revisited. Start checking out tournament VODs (may be it's better to avoid mid/high stakes regs). On this stage you should focus on tactics of various standard MTT situations.

      Select tournaments to start your career and get prepared for them. Strategy for the selected set of tournaments should be prepared and ironed before you start playing them regularly.

      It is crucial to select right tournaments and rooms to start. I recommend to start with GTD ones, 300-800 players, non-turbo, non-deep regular freezouts - they are the simplest. Non-turbo re-buys are very good but should be added a bit later. Forget about satellites for a long time.

      It's better to start with weaker rooms, you shouldn't care much about sloppy software.
      Stay away from PokerStars, it's not a good place to start your career of MTT reg - their GDTs for Holdem are either huge >2000 field size with unacceptable variance for the rookie or full of multi-tabling regs if they are under 1000, with good prizes and blind structure.

      Sure there are several good ones, but it's not that easy to find them. Plus non-turbo MTSNG-180 are very as a practise for real MTTs.

      Acceptable blind structure, average field size and weak field are primary goals, you don't care about rakeback and promos, they are not important for MTT. PartyPoker, 888/Pacific are not bad, smaller rooms (like Microgaming, etc) might also be a good choice.

      4) So, at this point you got your 1.5-2k bankroll for MTT and ready to start. Start carefully, without much multi-tabling, polish your tactics, follow a strict session timetable. Effects of poor timetable are drastic in MTT.
      Normally GTD freezout $5-10 is a start point, a bit later rebuys 1.5-3 USD are added.

      In parallel, you should continue with studying software specific to tournaments, polish your tricks and weapon. Keep it simple.

      VODs are going to be your main source of information and major factor in skills improvements. Focus on them!

      5) Read additional books and go for more advanced concept. Math of Holdem, 2011 by Collin Moshman is a very good one, not just about tournaments, but main modern concepts and practices. PokerStrategy JonathanLittle's MTT book might be useful also. In general, there are few good non-basic books about MTTs, so read everything you can get your hands on.
      Revisit old articles and books.

      Start your own blog to have clear goals, track results and performance, drilling down own game.
      Post your hands for review and discussion, by that time you'll get enough knowledge to make this useful.
      Visit open trainings in PokerStrategy for tournaments. It helps a lot to listen and see how someones game is reviewed and typical mistakes are covered.
      By the time you get your first MTT victories and your bankroll growing steadily, you can think about adding more various tournaments into your timetable, more rooms (e.g. PokerStars huge tournaments with weak fields can be added as additional ones - it's a very long-term investment, or can be treated as kinda lottery :) ).

      6) On the next stage, main source of self-improvement is your own analysis of your game and more advanced concepts. The goal is to get to mid stakes and stay there. By this time, you may need to get help from professional trainers, to help to spot something you cannot and give long term advises about further steps.

      II. More specific steps
      Under construction, I'll update it as soon as add here main articles about strategy, tactics, software, essential skills, etc...
      Here is a MTT introduction package I composed so far, you can check them out in this order:
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      Poker Literature
      Unfortunately, I haven't read a lot of poker books, but from what I've read, here are my recommendations:

      1) "The Harrington on Hold 'em" 3 books/volumes about tournament poker.
      Should be read one of the first for tournament play.

      Vol1 – just an intro;
      Vol2 – the main book here. It's fundamental for all tournament theory. The main concept to master is M-ratio and how it affects your play. It also contains description how your game changes through various stages, standard moves are covered. HU strategy described here is still good as default one for low limits, it gives you a considerable advantage over average opponent you face in HU stage of MTT.
      Vol3 – just a worksheet.

      From my point of view, many moves and ideas in this book are obsolete, especially for modern online. In particular, starting charts from Vol1 are not so good, many moves through examples are questionable, SNG went a long way since that also, and math for pushbot is more elaborated now. Tournament play in later stages tends to become more and more aggressive, even on low limits.

      However, as a starting point this book is really good. You won't make too many mistakes with Tight-Aggressive (TAG) style as a rookie. On micro-limits with looser and passive opponents it's better to play more ABC poker. After studying this book you can start playing freerolls/microlimits just to see what is that.

      2) PokerStrategy articles
      Next step you should study all MTT related articles here. You can also read SNG related ones, especially for pushbot – but you should keep in mind that it's a bit different discipline.

      It's important not just read books and articles, but to study them, prepare own notes, charts, extracts, cheat sheets – it really helps to absorb new information. For instance, after reading Harrington's books, and PokerStrategy articles I prepared this package with main basic info for tournament play: – sorry for a couple of notes there in Russian, you can just ignore them.

      As for the package, it contains:
      Page #1 - Harrington's preflop strategy from vol.1 – it's a bit obsolete.

      It's a chart for M>20, open bet. For instance, for 55,44,33,22 hands, the note 55,44C;*F means that 55,44 – open limp, and all the rest * - fold. However, you should not open limp by default in modern online games, it's better just open bet or fold right away.

      As for the open bet sizing, it's easier just to stick to 4BB on very first level, 3BB until ante starts OR blinds 50/100 (normal starting stack), 100/200 (deep stack), after that it should be 2BB-2.5BB depending on opponents and their stacks. Do not vary open bet sizing on your hand, you can ignore info there about using clock to randomize bet sizing.

      Pushbot for M<=5. Even though it was taken from SNG, it's good enough as default one.
      Some general extracts from articles, basic moves on preflop and postflop. Some of them are based on Harrington's books.
      Final table strategy. Extracted completely from PokerStrategy article, it's a very good article.
      Harrington's HU regular strategy and some other for very short stacks – good enough.

      3. The Theory of Poker By David Sklansky
      This book is mandatory to read sooner or later. It's a theoretical basis of poker, any kind of poker.

      It won't give much practical skills, but you need to know it. It will help to better understand some other books and will simplify transition between different disciplines of poker. Some moves we know as essential in some types of poker will be completely wrong in others and this book allows recognizing them and gives better understanding why we do some things by default.

      It's not the easiest one to read, as any book by David Sklansky, that is why you can read it bit later, after gaining some experience.

      4* David Sklansky other books.
      Other Sklansky's books a more optional to read. I've read his book about tournaments – it was kinda useful and I got an impression it was opposing some points from Harrington's books. Advanced book about Holdem was also ok, but again quite complicated and not sure that so useful for MTT regs.

      5. The Math of Hold'em, 2011 by Collin Moshman
      I'd like to repeat the year - 2011. This is a very good and modern book about Holdem, math and online regular play. I highly recommend to read it. However, it contains quite advanced concepts, and it shouldn't be among your very first books.
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      Building bankroll: cash NL5-NL50
      As was already mentioned, micro-limit NL HM cash is a good option to gain basic poker skills, and get regular play going – with bankroll management and self control. The other main objective here is to get a 1.5k-2k bankroll to start low-limit MTT, which has a huge variance.

      If you are new in poker and want to deposit this 1.5-2k just to skip this step – you'll most probably waste them. MTT has a huge variance and it takes really long time to gather legit stats and distance, so it's better to make standard rookie mistakes on “simpler” discipline where you can get a feedback and correct common mistakes much faster (tilt, bankroll management, bad HUD stats interpretation, etc). Plus cash is better developed discipline with more specific introduction information, charts, VODs, better soft and larger community. I was lucky to get my first 50-100$ in free-rolls and bust them due to lack of bankroll management and bad game selection, so I was able to start with 50$ from PokerStrategy do everything right, according to articles from this second attempt.

      I recommend Big Stack Strategy with 100BB buy-in (BSS) on fullring (FR) tables. Even though Short Stack Strategy is simpler, it is not so profitable and doesn't give too much skills. If you like to push and short stacks - better check out SNG/MTSNG, at least it will help more with MTT. FR is better as it's lower variance and I don't expect you are planning to start your MTT career as 6-max regular. On the other hand, even tough 6-max is more complicated and results variance is higher here, the field is much, much weaker than in modern full ring in comparison. Anyway, I assume more classical path from fullring to short-handed and may be eventually heads-up.

      Here is my path:
      NL5-NL10 FR BSS
      First 50$ where used to restart my cash career in NL5 on Party Poker. Even bronze articles on PokerStrategy have more than enough to beat NL5-10.

      Here are charts and strategy I prepared based on PS articles, it should be enough to beat up to NL10 FR BSS (see also related topic NL BSS (Bronze) in 4 printable tables ).

      There are enough good VODs here for micro-cash. You should also get HUD right away, however PokerTracker 3,4, Holdem Manager 1,2 are kinda expensive for micro stakes players. I was lucky, we had Poker Strategy Elephant free HUD back then. Now free HUDs exist but are not so good as Elephant used to be: fpdb - and one more you can Google for is PokerHands (2+2 has somewhere latest release, not sure if I can give a direct link, seems PokerStrategy is somehow connected to 2+2, at least there is forum section dedicated to PS there). I personally started with Elephant, but later bought PokerTracker 3 using PartyPoker points and still use it, and happy with it.

      So with such preparation, I got up to 250-300$ and switched to NL10. I got an upswing there and moved to NL25 very fast with 700$. In addition, silver-section articles were really useful, and own session reviews and leaks busting played a big role. Every game session was reviewed, typical mistakes were gathered and tracked.

      NL25 FR BSS
      After hitting 700$, with significant help of 50-100$ couple of bonuses given by Party (I have no idea why I got them, because later I had to buy such bonuses and they were not cheap) I moved to NL25.
      NL25 is the last “micro” limit. It still has more or less simple opponents and reasonable rake. Here where the real challenged began. I got my first serious downswing here and fought through first desperation :) That was a point, where I started to deviate from ABC game and charts more and more. I started to realize what I was doing and moved my game to a new level. Local VODs from Hasenbraten played a big part in that success.

      For instance, here are revised NL25 preflop charts based on silver articles for FR and SH:

      Here is graph of that dark times on NL25:

      However, I still generated some rake with mild grind and reached even Platina PS status once. Thus, I was buying bonuses on Party and clearing them on regular basis, and there was a slow progress. PokerTracker 3 was bought using points during that period of time.

      That was the first limit, where table selection made sense. I haven't used 3rd party tracker mined data, it was strictly forbidden and discovered PTR ( for myself. Now PokerStars has a war with them, but the rest of poker rooms/networks seem too be ok if you use it even today. Initially, I searched for opponents manually and wrote down notes based on PTR data, but later I developed software to automate the process. You can also use it, it is part of my free open source project usunpokertools, see features list -
      Based on PTR data and HUD stats I set color labels and it really helped to beat that limit.

      NL50 FR BSS – and stop
      After reaching 1.5k, I started preparations to move to NL50. Table selection was absolutely mandatory there. I couldn't even afford to wait in a line and seat with complete strangers and only then try to find them in PTR. That is why, I wrote 1-time software (you can only find it in a raw state in sources, it's not ready to be used nowadays) and for a week was gathering names of all players online on NL50 FR during my play session windows. Then I just searched for several hundreds of the most reggy-like in PTR and prepared notes in advance. Oh, forgot to mention, PTR was completely free back then.

      So, after all preparations were done, I moved to NL50. And felt strong opposition and resistance right away. Weak fishes were not all over the place, you really had to search for them, regs were better and were attacking you more aggressively. Rake was hurting me really bad.
      I peaked 2.2k and downswing started. On my last regular session, I went on major tilt that caused me 500BB in one session when I made a huge mistake and joined max20BB tables or something like that, where I had no idea how to play. After such epic and unacceptable fail, I decided to finish my cash career and switched to MTT. I forgot to mention that by the time I moved to NL50, I made several attempts to play MTT regular, after first disasters, I eventually got it together and started to win tournaments that increased my bankroll by a couple of grands and removed a dependency on any cash games.
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      Personally, I believe it's better to play on several rooms, MTT profit doesn't really depend on rake paid. Therefore, there is no need to grind for points on a single room to get some higher status and better rake-back options. However, it's better to start on a single room.

      - better tournaments selection for your session, you can include minor rooms with a couple of very sweet MTTs; with online fields getting tougher and tougher every year, it's a major advantage;
      - spread bankroll and reduce risks; we all remember Fulltilt and how it destroyed many poker careers; in addition, some random hacker stealing your account on some room will not cause a complete disaster;
      - you've got a choice and don't depend on a single provider, so you don't have to suffer through some stupid rule changes and possible conflicts with room support, ban/block consequences are not so severe.

      - you'll need a higher bankroll, it's more complicated and time consuming to transfer funds from one room to other, so it's better to have safe minimum for each room; that is why it's better to avoid multi-rooming for beginners;
      - major disadvantage is a poker room client software; it's so different for all providers and not so good sometimes, it's really hard to get used to it and especially for multi-tabling, when you got tables from 4 providers and have to remember what color labels mean what, what rooms are lacking some features (timebank, sync breaks, etc), and general differences in user interface make it really tough;
      - third party software support: your HUD may not support or not fully support some rooms, online ranking systems like OPR, SharkScope, ProLabs/Top Shark support different set of rooms and may need additional integration software.
      - you'll have to track manually played tournaments, buy-ins, prizes and keep your own timetable; it's recommended to do yourself anyway, but for multi-rooming you don't really have other options anymore;
      - minor concern is lack of status and some bonus and promo options.
    • ains21
      Joined: 04.06.2011 Posts: 303
      Hey usun,

      Thanks for taking the time to write this all down here, it's very useful information. I've just started playing some SNG and MTT this month and need to get my game together for the latter. Your notes are very helpful. Good luck at the tables friend, I'll be checking back.
    • IngridN
      Joined: 02.03.2011 Posts: 12,162
      wow what a load of information, thanks for blogging with us usun and welcome to the English Community! :)
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      thanks a lot! :)

      Poker Rooms for MTT.
      Here is my opinion what poker rooms/networks are good/meh/bad to play low-limit MTT 5-25$. It is assumed that massive multi-tabling is not a requirement, so we can deal with non-ideal soft. It's important to choose the right one to start, as you won't have much opportunity for multi-rooming in the start.

      1) PokerStars – the biggest one, almost monopolist with strict rules and tough fields
      Software: the best one, all main features are here, is supported almost by all third-party products and services.
      Too bad it is in a state of open conflict with PTR (related to cash games only), the only room which forced all online ranking systems (OPR, SharkScope, ProLabs/Top Shark) to close ROI, Profits and somewhere ABI stats by default about their players recently. It makes tournament play even less comfortable for regulars.
      It also has the most strict rules for third-party software.

      Field: the largest variety of games, including exotic, non-mainstream types. The serious drawback of this popularity is that for the most popular disciplines like NoLimit Holdem it has high number of regulars. The natural result is either monstrous field sizes with thousands and thousands of participants for MTTs with ok average field strength with corresponding lottery-like variance of results. Or, if you find some nice GDT with good blinds structure less than 800 participants, I can guarantee you that it has abnormal ratio of multi-tabling regulars, so sure variance will be lower here, as well as expected ROI. Stars game selection will be very good when you reach non-mainstream disciplines (Stud, Razz, etc), non-standard types (like 4-6 max) and higher limits. The stronger you get as player, the wider choice of good MTTs for you personally will be available here.

      Support: Support is very good, never had issues with them they are fast to respond. Deposits and cash-outs are fast also.

      Conclusion: Not a good place to start with low-limit NL HM MTT – either high variance of huge fields or too complicated if acceptable by size fields. You can add this room later, lotteries like “The Big XXX” will be the first choice. Sure there are some good and soft even for beginners, especially CAP ones for lower buy-ins, and some MTSNG-180 non-turbo as a pre-step to real MTTs - but I just think there are too many wrong MTTs for beginners that can trap them.

      2) PartyPoker – good and quite big room with ok fields.
      Software: good one, all main features are supported. Is available for many third-party products (HUD, utilities) and services (OPR, PTR and the rest of online ranking systems). The only irritating thing is no sync break during first hour of tournament.

      Field: good game and tournaments selection. Blinds structure is not perfect, but ok enough. Field strength is also ok, but it's gradually getting tougher. This room has the tightest playing regulars for some reason, a lot of nits everywhere. PartyPoker is traditionally loyal to international legislation, no USA, France, Italy residents, so it's quite safe to play there without fear that US blocks it or something.

      Support: They really like security. First deposit and cash-out caused security and other checks I've never seen anywhere else (and I'm registered as a Canadian resident there). However, after I was done with them – no issues since that time, all money transactions are really smooth.
      This room has a fairly bad reputation in Russian community because of this checks and sometimes “random” bans. On some major poker site in RU-community it is officially recommended no to play there. On the other hand, it may be a good thing for someone else :)

      Conclusion: solid room, can be one of main ones for MTT low-limit regular play. Unfortunately, there is a gap in their time-table for North America 10am+, no good tournaments at that time - so I don't play much there.

      3) 888 (Pacific network) – it was excellent alternative a year ago, becoming too popular among regulars. PokerStrategy is not their affiliate anymore.

      Software: in general it is ok, but there are some issues:
      - no deals on final tables, and difference in TOP-3 prizes is high;
      - during multi-tabling I constantly timing out here, for some reason active table doesn't signalize about pending actions;
      - default table layouts are not so good; many people don't like them from the first glance;
      - no good replayer, but it's not a major concern, I don't use it much anyway and prefer hand text history available in HUD.

      Free OPR doesn't support the whole network. No problems with commercial SharkScope and ProLabs/Top Shark. Major HUD products (PT 3, 4, HM 1, 2) work ok, finally... There were a lot of small issues in the past.

      Field: ok tournament selection, ok fields, but they used to be much softer. Regs are starting to love this room, and it's very sad. Good structure $20+ regular MTTs have ridiculous high ratio of PokerStrategy members, it's much higher than anywhere else. Blind structure is quite bad for low limits, only deeps and rebuys somewhat fix this and leave room for actual game without early push/fold. Very strict prize distribution, ITM % is low, TOP-3 difference in pay out is high.

      Support: Cash-outs are quite long. Hasn't communicated much with their support, and heard neutral feedback about their work.

      Conclusion: room is solid enough and good for regular play, it can be one of the main rooms to play.

      4) bwin (OnGame network) – several good soft tournaments

      Software: it is bad. Important feature are missing: no synchronized breaks, no timebank. Table size and layout is bad, it's too big and doesn't fit well with other room tables. Player notes are inconvenient, not enough color labels. No later registration. Oh, and that f****** sound to remind you about action to make, it's impossible to switch it off, the only way to do it – change client room software locally, which is forbidden and can cause ban. There are rumours they almost merged with PartyPoker, and I can only pray they go with PartyPoker client.

      For some strange reason, this room is very well supported by third-party software. OPR, PTR and other commercial in particular.

      Field: not a wide selection of tournaments for low limits, but those you get have very sweet field strengths. Some of my most favourite MTTs are among those few available. Blind structure and payout structure are both good.

      Support: Seems to be ok, cash-out time was reasonable.

      Conclusion: good additional room, few tournaments there to select from, but they are really good. Shouldn't be your main room.

      5) bet365 (iPoker network) - meh
      Software: ok. No sync breaks though, and this is a problem. Free OPR doesn't support this network, commercial ones cover it ok. HUD providers do not support it ideally, some small issues are always open (for instance, with PT3 had to restart auto-import when changing tables during tournament).

      Field: there are some tournaments here, not bad ones, blind structure is good. However, the field strength is somewhat strange. I've heard opinions that tournaments are quite soft, well... I don't agree, I don't like them, too much regulars on good low-limit MTTs.

      Support: have nothing to say yet

      Conclusion: I don't like this room. May be ok as additional one.

      6) Carbon (Merge network) – finally they made a good soft, one of the few places with US players. PokerStrategy is not their affiliate.

      Software: used to be bad, but they recently released a new very good one. Carbon is the only room from Merge network which is supported by free OPR. Main HUDs do not always up-to-date with it. However, it was for older version of client, may be it's going to be better now.

      Field: There is ok choice of quite good tournaments, with good structure and small/average-size fields. US players is not such a good thing: they are a constant threat to the room existence, and they are not so sweet, ratio of regs is relatively high among them. Field strength is comparable to iPoker, may be a bit weaker.

      Support: very, very long cash outs, not the best support.

      Conclusion: ok additional room with additional risks because of US players.

      7) 24hPoker (IGT Poker network, former Entraction network) – atrocious software, used to have the softest tournaments I've ever seen.
      My opinion may be obsolete. I played there until Canada was banned in the whole network in 2011.

      Software: this is the worst poker client soft I've ever seen in my life (it doesn't even have labels for players). There is no point to described it, it's like a "hi" from early 00s. The only online ranking system supporting this network is SharkScope.

      Field: Very odd and bad blind structure, no antes at all. The only playable MTTs are deep stacks. 1K GTD with 10-25 EUR buy-ins were very sweet and profitable (the best I've ever seen). About 40% of my annual 2011 profit came from this room.

      Support: everything is ok

      Conclusion: good additional room if it is available from your country and survived, there was a a very bad tendency to cut prize fund and increase buy-ins.

      8) Unibet (Microgaming network) – good software. However, lack of PT3 support for tounaments and some measures against regs prevented me from playing there regular yet. I'm planning to dive in there in the nearest future, as soon as I add this network support to my tools. I'll try to use HM or PT4 for it.

      9) Fulltilt - RIP, I have a minor hope that I can get back my 10% of bankroll.
    • fruktpuff
      Joined: 24.09.2010 Posts: 3,982
      A belated welcome to our blogging section, and the English community!

      Wow, looks like a huge project going on here? Overload of information!!

      I'm interested and will be following.

    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      thanks a lot. yeah, expect a massive load of info :)

      Rookie mistakes. Bankroll introduction. MTT Selection.
      1) Bad bankroll management.
      The biggest and the most typical rookie mistake is bad bankroll management. It's not specific for MTT, but it has the worst variance and therefore player should follow the strictest rules. PokerStrategy got articles to cover this area, but information is quite basic, it just says 100 buy-ins for SNG and 150+ for MTT. However, this is very rough and quite aggressive, it assumes you can go on limits lower or just make an additional deposit to stay on current ones (less recommended). You'll have no lower limits to go in the start. Plus, I'd like to demonstrate briefly how bankroll critical point is really calculated (a detailed article will be provided later).

      Required bankroll = comfort * (standard deviation * standard deviation) / winrate
      comfort varies from the most aggressive = 1 (it usually assumes you can go to lower limits or get side financing), up to 2 (normal conservative approach, with 2% probability of bankruptcy) and the strictest 4 (your life depends on poker income and switch to lower limit and other financing is unacceptable, with 0.04% probability of bankruptcy).

      So, it might come as a surprise how your winrate influences bankroll required, this point it usually missed in basic articles.

      The biggest problem here for MTT to estimate your actual winrate (ROI) and calculate personal standard deviation (SD = square root of variance) which varies depending on tournaments played and playing style. In MTT there is no common advice like “150 Buy-in”, bankroll required is very specific to an individual and tournaments played.

      ROI is more or less tracked well for MTT (the distance required is not less than 500 tournaments, better 1000+, even only for medium and small MTTs), but standard deviation will most likely require some manual calculations, HoldemManager 1, PT3 trackers provides auto-calculation for cash only, as I know. I'll cover how personal standard deviation / variance is calculated for MTT in a separate article. Just as examples, SNG SD=1.6 buy-in, aggressive MTSNG-180 SD=8 buy-in, my personal MTT quite aggressive on average fields SD=8.9 buy-in.

      Even if we take a very-very good ROI=+50%, reserved SD=8 buy-in on good not big tournaments and solid comfort level as 2, the bankroll required is 2*8*8/0.5=256 buy-ins. Even the most aggressive approach with bankroll recovery options in the future can ever go below 125 buy-ins. It actually shows why we need at least 1.5k to start regular MTT career on $5-6 freezouts.

      This mistake was the reason of my first failure and bankruptcy in poker.

      2) Bad tournament selection.
      And here comes the second most popular mistake, I personally also made it and buried my second shot in tournaments.

      a) Field size.
      As was already mentioned, it is crucial to select right tournaments to start. They shouldn't be too small (<150 participants) – as it's rather MTSNG and falls under this other discipline strategies and tactics. They shouldn't be too big (>1000) – you'll never survive the variance and won't get critical feedback and stats in time to correct your game, MTT selection and bankroll.

      b) Field strength.
      You need a weak field to increase your ROI, soft tournaments are primary goals. You need to guess what can be attractive to casuals. In most cases, GTD (guaranteed prize fund) tournaments are the first choice. I also do some analysis for some tournaments, when I search for players from there in online ranking systems and calculate the ratio of weak and regular players. I'll be posting these results into blog.

      c) Blinds structure.
      You should generally avoid speed, turbo tournaments in most cases as a rookie. Yeah, you may be better prepared for them if your path laid through micro SNG/MTSNG. Anyway, keep in mind that you cannot get high ROI here, short stacks leave less room for mistakes for your opponents, you won't have enough room to use full arsenal of regular player, just an elaborated pushbot and math. Turbo means much higher variance and standard deviation as a result. As it was shown already, lower ROI and higher variance/deviation affect drastically your bankroll. Tournaments with bad blind structure, even if they are not advertised as turbo fall in the same category. The rule of thumb is – if during some stage of tournament (except may be last few players on final table) average tournament stack regularly falls under M=5, it's a tournament with a bad structure.

      Normally, MTT regular player tends to add turbo tournaments later in their career when they are capable of massive multi-tabling grind without loosing much concentration. Primary goal is just to fill regular session and get higher winrate per hour, especially for cases of early finishes in regular tournaments. So, turbo/hyper turbo are loaded later in a session on demand with general goal not to exceed estimated session end time – but that's another typical mistakes area I'll cover in further sections.

      d) Unfamiliar tournament types. Especially satellites.
      Play only types of tournaments you really know how to play with adjusted strategy and tactics for its specifics. Shootouts, knock outs, exotic shorter tables, etc should be avoided initially. From the very beginning you can also avoid rebuy/addon tournaments, there are very good, but you need to add them bit later, as it has a different strategy.

      Forget about satellites. They don't just have a different strategy, the whole goal to get on higher-limit eye-candy tournament to fulfill your dream is corrupted. If you are not able to buy-in into final event and play it profitably according to bankroll – never buy-in into its satellites. You'll be a deep-fried fish for higher stakes regs there. In fact, after you grow up to mid stakes, tournament selection in many cases will start with checking out if there are any satellites for it – as it's the major source of fish on higher stakes tournaments.
      Participation in satellites is just a way for regulars to reduce their variance and increase ROI a bit by investing additional time. There is another goal for regulars to play this, especially on PokerStrars, play them for profit, i.e. do not buy-in into target event, just exchange your won ticket to tournament money and either spend it on regular tournaments or sell for real money to other regulars. It's a very profitable idea, but again requires good knowledge of satellites specifics.

      Deep stacks can be tricky also, it requires advanced postflop, steel nerves and stamina, as it lasts 10-12 hours easily. That's why I don't like them yet :)

      Conclusion: I recommend to start with GTD MTT, 300-800 players, non-turbo, non-deep regular freezouts - they are the simplest. Non-turbo re-buys are very profitable but should be added later.

      3) Lack of MTT tactical skills.
      MTT discipline is not so well covered as cash or SNG in books and articles. A lot of MTT specific situations like bubbles (they are very different from SNG ones), resteal-stacks+, prefinals, chip leader play and pressing table, stats and online ranking systems info interpretation are not studied enough by rookies. The best way to cover this – watch VODs, it's a primary source of such kind of info.

      Several years ago situation with MTT VODs on PokerStrategy English-language community was bad, really bad, there was no useful info there for beginners. In fact, I had to transfer to Russian-language community which surprisingly has a wide selection of MTT VODs, including very good ones (by the way, I highly recommend evype MTT VODs for PokerStrategy translation into English, in the same way as JonathanLittle is translated to Russian). And that was a turning point for me, only after that VODs I was able to add missing pieces and develop strategy and tactics for my regular tournaments and that paid off.

      Nowadays, the situation is much better in English community, JonathanLittle and AaronLambert are examples of good MTT authors. You should be a bit careful about JonathanLittle, he is from higher limits and also is offline regular player, and there is so much info from him on PS, so many VODs - some of his earlier ones (or recent where very old hand histories are reviewed) are questionable, and might be confusing for beginnings.

      Another useful source of information is forum and blogs like this one :)
      I highly recommend to read my further articles about online ranking systems (OPE, SharkScope, Top Shark), HUD stats interpretation, player notes, etc, they are not covered so well, and will really help with MTT start.

      4) No strategy for regular tournaments.
      Even after you read available books, articles, study VODs, you'll be most likely overwhelmed with all this new info, and it'll be bit confusing how to apply all this to actual play. What you really need is to get it all together as set of strategies for those tournaments you are going to play. It's the hardest info to find about tournament play, I personally haven't seen much about this.

      That is why, I prepared a couple of articles with first two strategies you can use:
      - low-limit non-turbo freezout MTTs, average-size field;
      - low-limit non-turbo standard rebuy&addon MTTs, average-size field.

      I'll post them soon.

      5) Bad session management.
      This is specific to MTT. In cash you can just go ahead and load tables you like and you can end play at any moment. It's not a case at all in MTT. Standard average non-turbo MTT lasts 6-8 hours. Your MTT profit really depends on late runs, any mistake and neglect here after 6 hours of play is critical. You should prepare session plan in advance and be ready to play the longest path in your schedule. Normally big or deep tournaments are loaded first, then smaller regular goes, and finally the smallest or turbo are loaded on demand, in case of massive early busts in regular tournament.

      It's important to pay attention not just on time you spend, but on your concentration, it's better to start 4 tournaments, bust in 1-3 of them, but maintain the full concentration on the last one - as it's your best shot and your long-run profit depends on how you handle your "last tournament", you shouldn't be bored or tired. Thus, I recommend to avoid later registrations into irregular tournaments for rookies, better concentrate on what left or go study earlier and watch an extra VOD in case of early session end.
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      MTT strategy: low-limit non-turbo average-size freezout.
      Here is a strategy for non-turbo freezouts, low-limit 5-15$, average size with 300-800 people. No-Limit Holdem.

      It's for beginners who has some experience in tournament play and are familiar with main literature. It is assumed the player knows Harrington's M-factor, and read all PokerStrategy articles related to MTT.

      1) Early stage.
      ABC tight-aggressive style. Fold all marginal hands. Play for value. On first rounds you can actively and cheaply play speculative hands. On these tournaments there are usually at least 2-3 loose fishes on the table and that makes this tactic work.

      In details:
      - Play strong hands aggressively on preflop, make your opponents pay;
      - Play speculative hands cheaply and passively:
      * Low pocket pairs – just drag them to the flop to hit your set or fold. You can comfortably call a bet using Call20 rule, it's ok to be in a raised or multi-way pot, you have a very easy decision on postflop. You either hit a monster – set - and continue or give up. First in – raise pocket pair, to disguise it; after someone's limp – limp behind, or isolate with 99+ vs predictable opponent or even lower pocket pair, if you are sure you won't get multi-way pot too often and limper is weak on postflop.
      * Suited connectors and suited aces – try to play them cheaply and in multi-way pots, the goal is to hit strong draw. If hit top pair weak kicker, just give up if someone started action before you. It is highly recommended to play in unraised pots (sure it's ok to be aggressor yourself). Drawing on 1/3 of your stack and then folding is a pretty bad mistake. Thus, open bet in late position as a steal with such hands, limp behind after other limps, fold vs other bets and raises, even with good odds in multi-way pot – the reason is that's a good chance you'll have to call on flop and turn by pot odds if hid a strong draw – it's really expensive. Many regulars won't agree with me here, but I prefer to play such speculative hands more actively on higher limits or in cases when there are less than two loose fishes on the table, who will pay off my value hands and who will tend to call my semi-bluffs lightly. There is an exception, it's ok to call 2BB bet vs 1 opponent with 100BB+ effective stacks when sitting on button without maniac on blinds – it's cheap and no risk to play it passively in position. In general, you'd prefer to play such hands in position.
      * Complete on blinds, call min bets on blinds in multi-way pots widely (including somewhat connected or suited hands), you need around 1 to 11 pot odds to hit your doper, trips+ on flop right away and lead out for value. Sometimes you'll be dominated, but it's more like cooler. If you hit some draw – give up against bets, you won't get paid off and won't be able to draw cheaply without position. Any medium hit postflop – give up.
      * Do not play marginal hands at all. For instance, do not call ATo, KJo vs standard bet from unknown opponent. You'll be dominated too often. Don't defend your blinds, and don't steal with trash.

      a) Get your nuts and double or triple up by weakest fish, before they are busted out by someone else. You can even take a reasonable risk on preflop and, for example, over-push TT,JJ,AK vs multiple weak limpers on first rounds, on weak tables there are enough opponents to call you with small pocket pair or even weak ace. We are also not afraid to stick it in lighter vs maniacs. If we are ahead and get 60+% equity vs opponent's range it is always ok to be all-in in MTT, you cannot really wait for anything better. You'll need at least three double ups to get to bubble ITM with average stack anyway, and you'll have to go even for riskier moves when M is rapidly going down in middle stage.

      b) You should avoid marginal situations and preserve your initial stack. 1/3 of initial stack lost in early stage on multiple medium pots usually means you'll need additional double-up during the tournament and it hits your chances for overall victory.

      2) Medium stage.
      Standard tournament play, pretty much described in Harrington's books and articles. You should gather notes about opponents, looking for weaker links, targets we are going to steal from. Check all your opponents against online ranking systems (OPR, etc), you should know who are regulars, who are casuals and their main peculiarities (e.g. high percentage of busting out on early stages – tendency to stick in lightly; too high ITM and low percentage of leaving in easily stages – too tight). You should work on your image, it can be solid but not too tight, your value hands should be paid off sometimes. If table allows, you can try to steal with any hand from weaker opponents, if table too tight and you have stack large enough and feel an edge over opponents – you can try to press table a bit and prepare loose image, but it's more complicated and requires experience and table dynamics tracking. In general, blinds + antes become valuable enough to fight for them.

      If you get under half of average tournament stack it's time to pay additional attention to this tournament. It's not the primary factor to guide your actions, but it's better to keep above average, it will help on pre-bubble/bubble.

      Tactics with resteal-size stacks and aggression zone under M=18.
      If you get under M<=5 it's just push/fold. You don't have fold equity for 3bet push, so it's either value AI, or light open push, when given an opportunity according to charts, you can take SNG charts mentioned in previous articles (can be found in PokerStrategy articles) or bit looser.

      When your stack is between 6<=M<=9 it usually time to go for loose aggressive resteal pushbot, you cannot wait much and should not skip good spots for light open push in late position, light push vs weak limper, light 3bet push in position or resteal pushes. You cannot open bet – fold already, except tight passive opponents.

      With M>=10, you can steal-fold a lot to resteals. And if there is no much resistance you should steal a lot and not try to go to M<9, where your arsenal gets more limited. With this stack you can call in position with good playable hands and try to outplay predictable aggressor on postflop with some floats, semi-bluffs, etc. Squeeze pushes are also good. You can attack weak limpers not just with pushes, but regular 3BB raise or so.

      M>=13 – very profitable weapon light 3bet-fold become available. In position you can polarize your 3bets and call good medium strength or well playable hands in position. In addition, 2bet-light 4bet push becomes handy as a weapon against aggressive regulars.

      M>18 – is outside the dangerous zone and you can play any style you like.

      M<10, and M<19 stages are covered in details here:
      MTT. Tactics for 6<=M<=9.
      Non-turbo MTT: Tactics for M<=18. Aggressive adequate tables.

      All standard push situations are calculated and analyzed, both MTT charts and detailed guidelines for loose aggressive game are provided:
      MTT charts: loose aggressive pushbot in resteal stacks with reduced risk.

      There is good article on PokerStrategy I highly recommend it as a default approach:

      Goal: keep it going, standard play, try not to get too short.

      3) Pre-bubble/bubble ITM.
      It's better to have stack above average, the ideal is 1.5-2x+, solid image and notes about all opponents on the table. Switch on additional aggression and hyper aggression, especially if you cover your opponents well. Press all tight medium and shorty stacks who are just waiting for the money both on preflop and postflop.

      Spot all regulars based on online ranking systems (OPR, etc) info. They'll most likely activate here and will attack with steals weaker opponents or attack you with 3bets if they think you are pressing and can give up. You should be careful against them, you can switch focus from trying to steal from tight blinds and 3bet lightly against not very strong activated regulars some times, to get an initiative. However, keep in mind they can easily light 4bet themselves. On very aggressive tables avoid any wide 2bet steals, try to open with intention of 2bet-light 4bets. It's better to avoid confrontation with big stacks that cover you well.

      In general, it's ok to bust here, you don't care much about ITM in middle/large MTTs, it just 1.5-2 buy-ins, main money are in TOP-3. You shouldn't go for reckless gamble, all your actions should be +EV, we just are not afraid to push or call other's push if we feel it is profitable.

      If you are very short and your fold equity is very low, just wait for the money yourself.

      Goal: ideally get 2x+ of average stack. Survive till ITM if you got crippled just before it.

      4) Late stage.
      So ITM started, and 40-100 peoples left on medium-size fields. If your stack is good, immediately switch to very tight poker. At this time shorties will actively push for gamble double/triple and get a stack to play for overall victory. Besides, if you actively pressed the bubble, you need to restore a bit your table image. Just play your cards for value.

      If your stack is bad, much lower than average and M is not so high and your fold equity is not so good - go for gambling on any slightly good spot, you cannot wait anymore, and there is no point to wait.

      Starting from somewhere middle of ITM and even before that – game is the same as in middle stage.

      Next stop to turn on additional aggression is the last 3 shortened tables with 19-22 people left. Press this bubble of last 2 tables. After getting last 2 full tables 18 people, take a short break, and get prepared to pre-final stage.

      Goal: at least keep average stack, you can seek for coins if get much lower than average. You need average stack+ for final table and good stack to abuse pre-final/ final bubble.

      5) Pre-final / final table bubble
      Last 14 or less players, 2 short tables left. Again tune in, press a lot if your stack allows that. Opponents will be bit stronger here than on bubble ITM, and you do care to get to the final table yourself. You should avoid marginal calls, but abuse those with shorter stacks.

      Goal: get to final table; average stack+ for final table.

      6) Final table.
      Just follow the excellent PokerStrategy article

      Small tip: if money here are significant for you, try to forget about this, do not even look at pay-out structure. If someone busted ahead of you, don't check out how much you are getting now. Just try to play your game.

      Goal: get to TOP-2/3 (depending on payout structure).
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      MTT strategy: low-limit non-turbo average-size rebuy.
      Here is a strategy for non-turbo rebuy&add-on tournaments, low-limit 2-5$, average-size 300-800 people. No-Limit Holdem.

      It's for beginners who have experience in MTT freezouts and are familiar with main literature. It is assumed the player knows Harrington's M-factor, and read all PokerStrategy articles related to MTT.

      After you played low-limit freezouts regularly using the strategy described in the previous article, you can start adding rebuy&add-on tournaments corresponding to the same limits, may be bit higher ($2-5), as they are softer. In general, rebuy MTT is couple hours longer than similar freezout, and after add-on is over it is much deeper. That means you can normally play even worse blind-structured rebuys.

      Underestimated tournaments.
      I am under impression that rebuy&addon tournaments are much softer, it may be the case because of:
      1) Casual players don't know how actual buy-in is calculated here. Typically, for standard non-turbo ones you can multiply buy-in/rebuy amount by 4, or buy-in + rebuy (always do double rebuy) + rebuy (in average, one is lost) + add-on (always do add-on). Thus, casuals are unaware of or ignore much higher actual price usually paid, and such tournaments are more attractive to them.

      2) Some newbie semi-regs knows only how to play freezouts and don't know rebuy specifics. They just play the first hour like a freezout.

      So, how should you play rebuy&addon? In fact, only the first hour matters, after add-on you just get into middle stage of deeper stack freezout and can continue normally.

      1) In case the tournament allows only limited amount of re-buys and add-on(s) on lower limits, like 2R1A on PokerStars, on average-size field you just make all rebuys right away and add-on(s) when they are available. Therefore, I don't consider it as a rebuy&add-on type, it's just type of freezout with same strategy. The only difference is sometime you may skip additional rebuy or add-on if you were lucky to build huge stack early, but I still suggest to buy every chip possible.

      Once again, 2R1A, 1R1A dramatically differ from standard unlimited rebuys + add-on(s) because of the common restriction that you cannot rebuy if your stack is more that double from initial. This makes gambling with slight +EV and coins a good idea when your stack is within double rebuy area. The goal is to get at least 4*initial and then you may switch to much tighter mode, coins won't be so good anymore. The idea is to remove at least one required double-up from your path before freezout starts, it alone significantly improves your chances for the victory. Plus higher than average stack might help to apply a bit more pressure on your shorter opponents starting after add-ons are over. However, you shouldn't go for mindless gambling with -EV and just waste rebuy after rebuy – it'll eventually overweight the positive effect on ROI of this big initial stack. If there were no good spots or you lost all gambles – it's ok, double rebuy+add-on is also playable in non-turbo tournaments.

      Thus, in 1R1A and such we cannot really go for a loose coin in early stages, it's just a freezout. 2R1A is pretty much the same, but you've got a choice – either start with triple initial stack or rebuy a bit later, at least when several opponents become deeper, in order not to miss an opportunity to win their bigger stacks. There is an interesting approach I've seen on higher limits for 2R1A – just sit with initial stack and go for loose moves and gambles and create a maniac image, in case you loose – just double rebuy and switch to normal freezout tighter approach with an image to get your value hands paid off. In case you win on that crazy gambles, just skip some rebuys if you are above tournament average and save an expensive buy-in money. Well, may be for higher limits it makes sense, but for lower ones with several hundred participants, don't be fancy and just rebuy and add-on everything you can.

      2) Speed/turbo rebuys with very low buy-in and fairly large prizes – just keep away from them, it's a crazy lottery first hour with half of table constantly pushing and calling very wide. The default stack when add-on is over is unplayable because of blind structure, so you'll have to go for AI fest to get any shot in this tournament. It's very easy to loose control and go on tilt here, plus variation is bad, so I don't recommend them.

      3) There is an interesting sub-type when you get a really huge add-on for relatively small amount of money, whereas unlimited regular rebuys are small an relatively quite expensive. There are examples on PokerStars (with 1$ buy-in/rebuy and 30k addon, for instance). The strategy here is opposite, just survive till add-on and don't do much. Yes, you'll be like default double rebuy + add-on after the first hour, and it may be half of average tournament or less, you may be quite short (but at least M>=5, with some fold equity, otherwise don't play such bad structures), but it just means extra double up. Yes, it makes it less probable you win, but on the long run you are constantly spending several time less money on buy-ins and it will be better for your ROI and variance in the end.

      4) Cases of unlimited and unrestricted rebuys and/or add-ons (e.g. “Wild West” on 24hPoker, when you can buy just virtually any amount you want first hour) are not covered here. I don't know the optimal strategy and they are too exotic. I can only assume it's better to keep more or less average tournament stack and cover biggest fishes on the table if it doesn't cause some ridiculous race in rebuys.

      5) Thus, I'm playing only classical non-turbo unlimited rebuys + 1 add-on after the first hour with a restriction you can not rebuy more than double amount of initial stack. By default, the following information is related to these sub-type unless explicitly stated otherwise.

      Common Sklansky's strategic advices for any rebuy&add-on before add-on is over:
      - Play like cash, you can always rebuy if loose something. It's ok to chase draws by odds and gamble for clear +EV here. Do rebuys and try to cover your opponents.
      - Mathematically price of chips you are buying during add-on is a bit overpayment if you got more than tournament average stack, and it's very good bargain if your stack is lower than average. Therefore, you must add-on if lower than average and you may consider whether to do it when deeper than average (I still highly recommend always do it on average-size fields).

      My strategy for classical rebuy&add-on tournaments - #5 sub-type:
      - Always do double rebuy, starting from the very first hand. There are enough very weak or crazy (they may act as ones during first hour, even regulars) players to grant you their stacks in the beginning, so you should both cover them and even if they all short – it's ok, their smaller stack will add to your maximum-allowed default anyway. It's a disaster to win a medium pot with single initial stack, it'll block a double rebuy for a long time and in that period some weaker players can get deeper stacks and you'll potentially loose those not covered chips when get them with your monster.
      - Have some sort of stop-loss, for example 5 buy-ins for each tournament. Otherwise, it's very easy to go on tilt and waste significant amounts.
      - In general play as standard TAG, like in cash. It's ok if you don't double up over default double rebuy + add-on, it's still deep enough to play medium stage and it's not much less than average. However, there is a significant difference from cash play – go easily on slight +EV and coin within double rebuy default area. On weaker tournaments (do not do it on Carbon, or iPoker by default, it's just a waste of good hand there:) ) moves like over-pushing TT-QQ, AK vs multiple limpers are even better, not just weak fish will be willing to gamble for a double up.
      - The main goal is to double default double rebuy, as soon as it is done – turn to tight mode.
      - In case of smaller-size tournaments and higher buy-ins there may be considerations to skip add-on if having much more that average. By default, always do it, even with huge stack. These extra chips can grant you couple of rounds of tight play or rise to significant amount after several double ups.
      - Do not judge players by how the play first hour, any note here should contain reference that's before rebuy over (BRO). They often change their game dramatically after add-on finishes.
      - If you were left crippled just before add-on, so you cannot do a double rebuy - you may just give up and skip add-on and hope for miracle series of micro double ups.
      - It's ok to dump a small amount (much less than 1 buy-in amount) if your stack is within double rebuy area, in case this small extra is blocking full rebuy. You may try making it less obvious - like some steal or contbet.
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      HUD stats in MTT.
      HUD stats in MTT are way, way less significant than in cash. It's just one of many info sources that affect your decisions and evaluation of opponents. Tournament play is heavily affected by tournament stage, stack sizes, current table dynamics and type of opponents. In fact, HUD average/total stats give more information about casuals, they just don't adjust their game much according to current situation like regulars. However, stats still show general tendencies like aggression on preflop, readiness to call others bets and play postflop without initiative, aggression postflop. Plus HUD is still a mandatory tool during multi-tabling, especially if it shows stats specific for this table only, just for a quick verification of your own image and other's images before planning light steal or 3bet, there is a big chance that considerable amount of your opponents use HUD also.

      I will not assess or compare HUDs from different providers, PT, HM commercial ones are both very good for MTT.
      - Classical commercial: PokerTracker 3, HoldemManager 1
      - Recent big commercial releases/betas (will be main default options very soon, if not already): PokerTracker 4, HoldemManager 2.
      - Free HUDs (very limited support): open source fpdb ; PokerHands (main focus is exotic types of poker) the latest release and support thread is here - you may try Google something else.

      So, I'll write it once again, it's better to avoid any big conclusions based solely on HUD stats, especially about adequate regular-like opponent. Rebuy tournaments can also be very confusing for stats, first hour there is unique. Stats should go together with info got from online ranking systems (OPR, SharkScope, Top Shark), own player notes gathered, current tournament context, table dynamics. Meanwhile, Fish doesn't care about context and current situation, with exception of bubbles where they tend to play tighter and just wait for money. And sure fish doesn't pay attention on effective M-factor for stacks, something that change regular's play dramatically when particular boundaries for M are passed, especially with blinds up. Typical regular on low limit just play tight on early stages on freezouts and becomes more and more loose aggressive with effective stack going lower M=18, some regular moves may appear, or disappear completely after any blind up or win/lost significant pot.

      Here are my personal HUD stats for MTT, PokerTracker 3:
      line #1: player notes icon {white if no note, yellow if there is a note} / player name {white} / (hands) {blue} / M factor {blue}
      line #2: VPIP {green} / PFR {orange} / open bet or PFI {pink} / steal or ATS {vinous} / limp {green} /  call PFR {yellow}
      line #3: preflop 3bet {orange} / fold to preflop 3bet {white} / total AF {red} / WTSD {green} / cbet flop {white} / fold on cbet flop {white}

      It contains what I really use most of all. Some subset of these stats are also shown separately as table average. In general, if you go for some additional stat to often into pop-ups – add it to HUD. If you noticed something is not so important for you anymore or you rarely look at – just remove it from HUD. Less info it contains – the better, especially for beginners.

      As you can see, my HUD is more oriented on preflop – it's because of pushbot stages during middle and late stages where I start paying additional attention and really need to estimate ranges of open bets before I attack with light 3 or 4 bets. In particular, modern regs have a tendency to steal more from middle positions, as early-position steals are more risky and late-position steals are too obvious and can easily provoke resteals – so it's important to recognize opponents stealing patterns. For more rare postflop, you can just check HUD pop-ups. A few postflop stats I get here are really to have idea if I should attack the opponent on preflop and what expect from him in general, especially against my standard aggression postflop.

      If someone is interested, here are my HUD settings for Poker Tracker 3 for MTT:

      For complete newbies, for MTT tournaments you may add in the beginning only: player name/hands/VPIP/PFR and may be M-factor to avoid manual calculation it every time (but you still should be able to do it as HUD refreshes it with some delay). All the rest – add on -demand, it should be only your own preferences.
    • sinsas
      Joined: 22.09.2009 Posts: 380
      Holy &*^% that's a lot of information. Read some now and I will read at least some of it later. Good stuff
    • pucilpet
      Joined: 09.03.2009 Posts: 694
      What a great blog! Really helped me a lot and I'm sure it will help many others.

      Thanks and keep up the good work!
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      thank you for your kind words :)

      Online ranking systems (OPR, SharkScope, ProLabs/Top Shark).
      This topic is not covered at all in general poker literature. For some bizarre reasons it's not even covered in MTT VODs in English community. I am not sure is it some sort of local policies about third-party systems, but Russian community VODs or any trainings use them all the time.
      Anyway, it may come as a surprise, but online ranking systems (I also refer them as “host systems”) are mandatory for modern MTT regular player, their importance is the same as HUD, that is why lack of information about them is shocking.

      These systems and info from them is a primary source for initial opponent evaluation, most of fishes and strong regulars can be detected immediately based on them. Again, it's just one of the sources, you shouldn't solely depend on it, it gives the first impression which can be very misleading, so you shouldn't stick too much to it. The main approach is to check an unknown opponent and see if you can roughly categorize him based on online ranking system data. Later your conclusion will be corrected by HUD stats and own notes and observations you get during live play.

      Many tournaments under various rooms may be not tracked at all by some online ranking systems.

      Some history and rules.

      Online ranking systems are relatively new, that is why last couple of years there were conflicts between poker rooms and these providers. In particular, Fulltilt banned commercial SharkScope, Top Shark explicitly and free OPR was officially not recommended during live play. PokerStars used to forbid SharkScope, Top Shark during live play but allowed OPR without restrictions. Recently PokerStars had forced all online ranking systems to hide by default ROI and Profit stats for their players, and they can be shown only if player explicitly allowed that. All systems added that restriction for PokerStars players and they officially lifted ban from commercial systems. So, right now all mentioned online ranking systems for tournaments are allowed without any restrictions by all major poker rooms and networks. At least I investigated poker room rules, policies, terms and conditions for all rooms I mentioned in the previous articles. You can find my discovery results here:

      It won't hurt to double check your poker room policies before using them. 3rd party tools using online ranking systems for integration are usually also allowed by poker rooms during play.

      Once again, ROI and Profit numbers for PokerStars players are currently hidden by default on all systems!

      Normally regular player start actively using these systems in later stages, when there are less tables left and they are focusing on tables and opponents left. It's because by default they manually check players one by one, they just don't have time to do it earlier and prefer ABC play on earlier stages.

      However, there are tools to automate the process and lift this restriction:

      1) Commercial systems SharkScope and ProLabs provide their own desktop applications/HUDs with main data to all their subscribers. In most cases they are allowed by major poker rooms, but check room policies just in case.

      The drawback is that subscription cost money and may be you won't be happy to have multiple HUDs from multiple providers on the same table (like local tracker HUD PT, HM + online ranking system HUD). The positive is thing is that it will be very well supported and won't break when host systems change their Integration API sometimes.

      2) Free OPR doesn't have its own desktop applications and HUD, and it's clear why, they live from banners and ads, and don't have much money to support anything else except their main site.
      There are some 3rd party automation tools/HUDs integrated with OPR, but you should always remember that they are not officially allowed by OPR and their usage can easily cause ban by IP from OPR.

      Anyway, here is a commercial HUD for OPR:
      Its support topic is in Russian-language community:

      It was very popular before PokerStars forced OPR to close ROI/Profit and even ABI stats. There is a minor risk to get banned by OPR, because it searches for player only on demand, by user clicks, and therefore it shouldn't generate high load on OPR.

      It is officially allowed by PokerStars.

      3) Here comes my own project to support integration with online poker ranking systems and multiple rooms, it's free and open source:
      usunpokertools -
      Its support topic is in Russian-language community:
      It'll be presented to English community after next major release 1.4, when I expect to polish it completely.

      It is officially allowed by PokerStars. It is officially approved and licensed by SharkScope.

      The main idea here is to provide integration with multiple rooms, and online ranking systems (OPR – officially it's just a demo but there is full functional support, SharkScope – officially approved, ProLabs/Top Shark – no response from them, but should be ok to use with them, PTR for cash only – no response from them, but should be ok to use with them). It doesn't have it's own HUD, it reuses other local tracker HUD(s) as simple containers, i.e. based on data retrieved from host system(s) tools generate one or many player notes and store them as local tracker HUD player notes (PT3,4, HM1, HM2 – for HM2 only limited support).
      It provides both tools to search players manually one by one, and to enable auto-scan and auto search for everything from hand histories (it keeps elaborate local cache to avoid duplicate searches).

      Auto scan for OPR can easily case ban by IP from them. Right now it generates quite high load with multi-threaded auto search. By default it is configured to auto-restrict 5-10 searches per 2 minutes but the danger of ban is still there - you can play around various settings. Sure, I support advanced support for list of proxies which is a workaround, but it's not so convenient and is kinda for advanced users.

      Data from Online ranking systems/host systems.
      1) OPR –
      This the only major fully free online ranking system, and therefore the most popular. It only tracks PokerStars, PartyPoker, Ongame Network, Carbon from Merge Network, Fulltilt.

      It doesn't have side applications, like own HUD or Integration API for 3rd party software. It is the only host system that explicitly forbids automated 3rd party search via it. If they think there are two many searches going from some IP, they just ban the whole IP, and user can only see redirect to “” and after that can really use only proxy to access it.

      OPR provides all standard info except graphs, it also shows a very important and underestimated info – breakdown by finishes by stages.

      It's highly recommended to start with it and use manual search in the start to reduce risks of bans.

      Let's go through some standard info provided by it: ROI, ITM, distance, ABI, AFS, R&A ratio, prizes, profit, fish by stages breakdown. For the rest host systems it's pretty much the same, differences will be covered explicitly.

      Example page (it's a bit old):

      - For some players stats are explicitly hidden, so you can mark this fact in notes, it may either mean that player is good reg with significant distance or some weak fish with huge losses, or may be just don't like to show his stats. In any case, at least this player knows what is online ranking system and therefore he is not a complete newbie.

      - Distance is amount of tournaments played. It is important stat. 484 in example here. On smaller fields and rooms usually 300 is minimum to draw some conclusions, 500 is default ok distance, >1000 is more or less certain for average fields (AFS < 1000). If less than 100, it usually means no distance at all and all info can be ignored.

      - Return of investment (ROI) in %. Is considered to be main financial stat, hidden for PokerStars by default. (-100%;-15%) is quite bad, it's a loosing player. From -8% up to +5% is around zero (“rakebot”). +45% is excellent and very strong, especially on higher limits. You should be careful with this stat – it can be heavily affected by swings on lower distance, fluke victory in huge tournament or lucky shot on much higher limits than his regular ones.

      In this example +170% ROI is a clear sign that distance is not so big and player is in upswing. It's better to check may be it is a lucky shot in some huge or high-limit tournament. In this particular example, it appeared that player has 12 finishes in TOP3 in regular tournaments of the average buy-in, medium-size, but with abnormal high TOP-1 ratio. So, looks like regular but on major upswing. Low limits medium size won't likely give more than 100% ROI on significant distance, and on medium stakes it won't be higher than 50% normally. The higher limits – the lower ROI. The higher AFS – the more ROI can be, especially on swings.

      - In the money (ITM) in %, additional somewhat important stat. Normal values for regulars are about 15-17%. It can be higher on smaller tournaments (check AFS) and lower down to 12% for larger tournaments, especially for loose aggressive regulars. If player has something like 20% on medium-size fields and not high ROI – it usually signals that here is too tight around bubbles, and he is a good target to abuse on pre-bubble/bubble stage. 10% and lower is a clear sign of weak player. If player has -15% and lower ROI and under 10% ITM on some distance it's almost sure a fish. If his finishes by stages are shifted to earlier stages – it's a guaranteed fish. Even if player has a good positive ROI, but ITM under 10% and bad finishes by stages – I'm sure that this is a lucky fish and just need to check what fluke big or high-limit MTT he's won (I don't even bother to check, just set “fish” label – it's just one more example how ROI stat is overestimated).

      The conclusion here is that even with hidden ROI stat for PokerStars players we still go enough information to detect typical fish on open stats left.

      In the example provided, 16% is normal for regular.

      - Prizes in $ – not so important stat; just to see the volume. I don't consider player with less than 10k prizes as a regular, maximum semi-reg. 100k+ may mean something in combination with ROI and ABI stat, it can be a minimum requirement semi pro+.

      Here we get 12k prizes, might be some reg.

      - Profit in $ - additional stat of actual + or - results. Hidden for PokerStars by default. You don't really care much about it, ABI and ROI are more important.

      +7.6k in example doesn't mean anything.

      - [I]Average buy-in[/i] in $, this is an important stat to see on what stakes player usually plays. It's even better to look all stats breakdown by limits/buy-ins. Beware that for rebuy tournaments actual total buy-in paid by any player is an estimated figure. They cannot track individual rebuys and add-ons, only average ones for each tournament. In “breakdown by limits” section, ABI displayed is not actual ABI paid, but just nominal buy-in, i.e. $3+0.3 rebuy&addon is displayed as $0-$4.99 limit in this breakdown. Seems total ABI is a normal one – consists of total estimated actual money put into the tournament.

      9.24$ in example means low limits.

      - Average field size (AFS) – to get an impression what tournaments player usually participate in. It really affects distance required to draw any conclusions. For AFS 500, it may be enough 300+ tournaments to tell something, for AFS 1000, it should be closer to 700 tournaments, for AFS 2000+, it starts from 1000+ tournaments and it's not a linear dependency, hardly anyone ever get legit distance for big tournaments.

      523 in example – typical medium tournaments.

      - Rebuy & addon ratio (RA) in %, it is useful to get the estimation of how many rebuys are in stats, it really affects how should we look on ABI. If you seen 90% RA in limits breakdown for $0-$4.99, it means that player doesn't really play micros, and actual buy-ins there are more likely to bee in 5-25% range.

      There is one more important thing about rebuys in any online ranking system – they have no way to know how many rebuys and add-ons each player really made. They can only track the overall total of all rebuys and add-ons made in each tournament and record an average for every participant. Therefore, the higher RA, the less correct are ROI, Profit, ABI figures.

      - Finishes by stage breakdown – it is very important and grossly underestimated stat. As already described above, it's not only the main stat in combination with ITM that can indicate fish with certainty, even regardless ROI, profit stats. It is also the only stat that can tell you a lot about player's style. High finishes in earlier stages (like 20/20) shows player sticks in very lightly near the tournament start – it means he is either very loose aggressive and not afraid to gamble or may be trying to build huge stack right away, or may be it's just a weak fish and calling station or maniac, who has no clue when it's time to fold.
      30/30/20/15/5 – this is the main fish pattern with clear dis-balance leaning towards earlier finishes who rarely survives till later stages (5% late is very low, it usually shouldn't be less than 10% for plus players), if you see something like this – it's almost certain is a fish regardless all the rest stats.
      15/20/30/20/15 – this is very dangerous loose aggressive player, late stage is very high and finishes are gradually distributed – he starts fight and table press from the first hand. If he lucky to build a big stack early, he won't wait for anything and will squeeze everything from this advantage.
      11/20/40/19/10 – this is a real-life example of mid stakes+ very strong and very loose aggressive regular. This is really close to fish stats, but 14% ITM tells us not o jump into conclusions, and high ROI on big distance makes it clear who we face.
      5/10/45/25/15 – typical stats for good reg who is tight in the start and getting more and more aggressive later in the tournament.

      In example we got 2/10/53/21/13 – falls under the last category, compatible with typical regular and plays tight in the beginning and then loosen up. You should think twice before calling his all-in in early stage.

      By the way, my usunpokertools would generate the following player note based on this data:
      opr3Jun12: +170ROI/16ITM/484($9)/$12k(+7.6k)/523AFS/28RA 2/10/53/21/13

      And here are initial conclusions we can make based on this:
      - there is enough distance for initial conclusions, taking into consideration field sizes
      - player is a winning regular of low limits;
      - doesn't really wait for ITM and is able to move;
      - standard style as tight in the start and more loose aggressive the further he goes in the tournament.

      2) SharkScope -
      Commercial system with only 5 free searches per day and 150 or 500 searches per day depending on the subscription type. Has its own desktop application with own HUD (I never used it).
      It supports the widest set of tournaments, rooms and networks. It is very friendly to 3rd party systems/tools integrated with them, has official Integration API and promotes any tool that use it.

      Data returned in comparison to OPR:
      - Doesn't have finishes by stage breakdown info – this is the main disadvantage of this system.
      - Default total ROI displayed is normalized by buy-ins. i.e. it is not total money ROI, but rather an average tournament results ROI, which is more important. ROI and profit are also hidden for PokerStars players by default.
      - It has very useful graphs for player results, it really allows immediately resolve any uncertainty caused by standard stats contradictions and strange values. Regular MTT graph looks like a ladder steadily going up in the long run. Big swings usually indicate very loose aggressive style or tournament selection with huge variance (like hyper-turbo). Here we can easily see if +ROI/Profit is really caused by some single random big win with a clear downward tendency - then it's a clear fish. They are disabled for PokerStars players by default.
      - It doesn't display Prizes $, and that is why ABI is not hidden here for PokerStars.

      3) ProLabs/Top Shark -
      Commercial system with only 10 free searches per day and 200 or higher searches per day depending on the subscription type. Has its own desktop application with own HUD (I never used it).
      It supports the wide set of tournaments, rooms and networks (but less than SharkScope and started many rooms tracking later than SharkScope).
      It doesn't have official Integration API yet, but seems doesn't care about 3rd party tools and doesn't try to block them.

      Data returned in comparison to OPR:
      - Has the same finishes by stage breakdown stats. They are disabled for PokerStars players by default.
      - It has similar very useful graphs to SharkScope.
      - It doesn't display Prizes $, and that is why ABI is not hidden here for PokerStars.
    • usun
      Joined: 06.01.2009 Posts: 1,675
      Notes in MTT.
      General approach.
      Player notes in MTT play a bit different role than in cash games, therefore they have a different format. There is a popular opinion that classical notes in MTT are useless and even misleading, especially in later stages of tournaments. I strongly disagree, but notes writing approach should be more sophisticated than in cash, it should focus not on some specific hands, but rather on deviation from standard expected lines, interesting tricks and general non-obvious tournament tactics should be covered. Besides, recent commercial HUDs (especially HoldemManager 2) automates simple notes generation, specific hands with showdown are covered and simple tendencies that can be derived from HUD stats and history.

      There is a different approach for notes depending if opponent is a fish or regular, what stage of tournament is it, table dynamics, etc.
      - For instance, information about fish limp-pushing A3o is highly valuable, such players and their odd moves are golden opportunities for early double-ups, so no need for you to wait for some monster vs calling station or cooler.
      - Another example are some tricks of regular players – they worth a note: reg in the late stage who always open first hand on new table or the one who always 3bet such new table openers; or who open-pushes by default any two cards from SB and possibly BU when falling under M=9; or switches to ultra aggressive/maniac mode on bubbles. Thus, with regulars we assume he knows what he is doing, so we are only trying to discover his non-standard moves in the given context. Writing down some specific hands for regs is not so useful, they vary their game too much depending on current situation and multiple factors.

      If you play same regular tournaments over and over again, writing notes will pay off, sooner or later about 1/3 of each new table will have non-generated real notes with useful info how to exploit them.

      My notation.
      Well, first of all, notes should be written in Latin alphabet, to avoid possible issues with encoding. I don't even know why I'm stating this in English community :)

      I. Note template.
      1) First line can be data from online ranking system (if you don't use software for auto-notes generation or 3rd party HUD for that). It should contain short overview who is that, like uaggr PF/p postfl, LCD which means (ultra aggressive preflop, passive postflop, light call downs).

      If you really play various disciplines and very different tournament types – it may be a good idea to group all notes by these disciplines (e.g. SNG, HUSNG, hyperturbo, 6max, Omaha HM mixed games, etc). But I don't expect you are going to play that regularly in the start of your MTT career, so I won't mention this anymore.

      2) Next line(s) can be conclusions about player strategies and typical interesting tricks/tactics used, including some context info.

      Example: PF AI 33+,Ax+ BRO to build stack; vtight ES; vaggr big stack MS+; aggr bubble; ch-r vs cbet on low F – means likes to push preflop such range before rebuy over within default stacks to build stack aggressively; very tight on early (freezout) stages, very aggressive if has big stack starting from medium stage; aggressive on bubble; likes to check-raise contbets on low flops.

      3) Further lines are just really interesting hands played. Information for each hand includes: tournament stage, M number, starting hand if it is known, table position, preflop actions, board of community cards, postflop actions for each street. Even though HM2, for instance, generated such kind of info automatically as a note, you still should be able to describe using some structure and notation any interesting hand. It helps not only with player notes writing, but also with your current session review, you can quickly write down main action or typical situation without posting raw data of the whole hand history.

      LS:M>20:JJ EP:o3BB-c3bet vs M=15 BB; ch-minr 228o F, 1/2b-с 7s T, ch-1/3c 5ss R – means that in the late stage of tournament, with stack M>20 and JJ hand in early position, player opened with 3BB bet and calls 3bet vs player on BB with stack M=15; on flop 882 offsuit he check-min raised; on the 7 turn that made possible flash draws he betted half of the pot and called the raise; on 5 river, which completed possible back-door flash draw, he check-called 1/3 of the pot bet.

      prefinal:M=7:A5o CO: PF AI vs 2l weak shorty MP – means prefinal/bubble of the final table stage, player shipped in A5o from cut-off with M=7 on preflop vs two short weak limpers in middle position.

      II. Notes preparation workflow.
      1) First of all, search player against online ranking system(s) like OPR and write some standard info from there. This step can be skipped if you got a software to automate this process. It might be also skipped on earlier stages, when you don't have time to do this manually because of multi-tabling.

      My usunpokertools will generate automatically note like opr3Jul10: ?+120ROI/16ITM/332($9)/$6.9k 3/11/50/22/14 and will put in into local tracker HUD player note as the first line.

      2) Based on this info, and possibly some HUD stats you already got you can set the initial color label.

      3) You right down interesting hands or tricks and general observations. In case of any conclusions – they are written on first lines. Pay attention on deviations from expected behavior for such opponents, especially if there was a showdown.

      4) While gathering some raw data and initial notes, you can draw some conclusions and delete raw data on which it was based to keep notes shorter, if some hand is well enough covered by conclusion/general description. You'll update color label based on new data.

      3. Tips.
      Here are main abbreviations I use by categories.

      DnB! - do not bluff against him, usually goes together with LCD – light call down.
      CS – calling station
      2nB – second barrel
      aggr/a, t, l, pass/p - agressive, tight, loose, passive, with possible additional modifiers:
      v - very
      u - ultra

      Tournament stage:
      BRO – before rebuy/add-on over period
      ES – early stage
      EMS – early-middle stage (for long tournaments)
      MS - medium stage
      prebubble – pre-bubble ITM
      bubble – bubble ITM
      LS – late stage (already ITM)
      prefinal - bubble of final table
      final – final table
      final SH – few players left (short-handed) on the final table
      HU – final tournament heads-up, I highly doubt you are going to write any notes here, it's almost a zero chance to reuse this.

      Table positions are standard: UTG3, CO, BB, or just EP (early position), MP, LP

      ch – check
      b - bet
      f – fold
      r - raise
      l – limp
      cbet – continuation bet
      AI – all-in

      with possible modifiers like:
      o – open
      min, etc

      and their combinations like ch-minr-c AI (check, then min raise the bet, and call the re-raise to all-in)

      PF - preflop
      postf - postflop
      F - flop
      T - turn
      R - river

      Board structure description:
      Axxoс - A and two small/blank cards, offsuit (no possible flash draw), not connected (no obvious straight draw)
      xs – blank or small card, that made flash draws possible, xo – rainbow blank; xc – blank with possible obvious straight draw.
      KJxss - suited flop (3 cards of the same suite) with king, jack and small card.