Chipping up early is vital to winning in poker

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Editor’s note: This is Part II in a series on playing SNGs to work on your tournament game.

We play our best in January because we are clinging to those resolutions, but unfortunately old tendencies resurface and leaks creep back in like a fog in the night.

The most difficult adjustment for a strong, solid, tight-aggressive winning cash player to make in his tournament game is to get loose and chip up in the early stage of a tournament. Most opponents are playing tight. We must embrace the math that proves the value of your stack is decreasing over time as the blinds increase and we must adjust. Obviously, this is not the case in a cash game, where patience trumps cunning. Let’s get down to brass tacks.

You’re playing a nine-handed SNG online. You’re playing for the purpose of practicing your tournament game. The first three rounds are considered early stage. Your immediate goal is to chip up to 1,900 or more. To accomplish our mission, we must get busy. So busy, that the starting two cards almost become irrelevant. This is easier than it sounds. First off, opponents are playing the standard SNG strategy of tight. Note that they’re also multitabling, which makes them easy targets. We can define their range; conversely, they don’t know where we are. This means we’ll pick up more than our share of uncontested pots.

Our newfound style will help encourage us to take more flops in a big multitable live tournament. The great tournament pros, and you can take this to the bank, do not fear the flop. This is how the great ones gain their edge. This holds true for the Player of the Year players who accrue many cashes and lots of points.

After several uncontested pots, we have managed our first goal of 1,900 chips. Just imagine if we can do this 75 percent of the time. Our results will speak for themselves. We hunker down, change gears and our astute opponents have us pegged as loose with their poker-tracking software. We have them right where we want them. Dazed and confused.

We have now entered Phase 2 of our SNG strategy: the middle stage.

A few things to keep in mind:

• We’re practicing like a golfer who goes to the range.
• We’re tracking our early stage success and results.
• If we run into a wall and our stack becomes less than 1K, we will alter our plan.
• Our big-picture goal is to cash 40 percent of the time.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima Community College. Email him at pokermoses@phxpoker.com.