"Everybody loves a winner
but when you lose, you lose alone."
-- William Bell
Roy Cooke wrote a fine Card Player column about how poker differs from blackjack in that rigid rules are normally not applicable.
He looked at it mostly from a tactical decision-making
angle, but this idea is also important to understand when thinking about our overall strategic approaches to the game.
In the tournament world, some casinos use Tex's TEARS structure. TEARS is a computer program that adapts limit increases to the number
of players and the length of time a casino (and theoretically the players) wants a tournament to run. It can be used to make earlier
limits shorter and later limits longer, or other innovative ideas, but to date it mostly has not been used this creatively. Mostly it
has been used in its most basic application -- smoothing limit increases and having tournaments run an approximate length that is
known before it starts.
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Another article could be written as to whether this is good or bad (I think it is mostly good, but I would like to see tournament
directors start incorporating the idea of increasing time-limits once the point of the final three tables is reached). The point here
is that a TEARS tournament requires a different strategic approach than an “old” structure where the limits increase at a faster
pace (and the length of an event can vary a lot based
on how many entrants sign up).
There has been some criticism of TEARS where it is alleged that it disfavors “good” players by adding more play at the beginning of an
event, while lessening play at the two and three table point. This is pure nonsense. What TEARS does is simply make it necessary for
“good” players to adapt to a different structure. After all, that is precisely what good players do -- adapt!
a result of TEARS is that stacks are more even when players get to three tables -- that is, unlike the “old” structures, with TEARS
there are seldom huge stacks mixed with puny nubs, instead more people have middling stacks -- then if you are a good player you need
to understand that each decision at this stage is far more critical for all players than would commonly be the case the old way. And,
when individual decisions become more important, good players have an even greater edge.
Skill comes into play here just as surely as when
stack sizes vary much more. It’s just a different sort of skill that is called for now. If you are “good”, adapt. If you can’t adapt,
you really aren’t that “good” after all.
Some tournament players are successful by having a personal strategy that just happens to be pretty well suited to the old style of
tournaments -- deliberately try to “get lucky” and
accumulate a lot of chips in the early rounds,
bully with a big stack in the later ones. If
these players don’t think about how TEARS differs from the old way, they will no longer be successful. They won’t be playing an
effective strategy. This doesn’t mean that "good" players are being punished by the TEARS structure -- far from it. Good
players think on their feet and play sensibly based on the circumstances they face. Good players always find the right way to play.
If you are first under the gun and choose to limp-reraise with AA in a Holdem game, you need to understand that you will face
different sorts of opponents than you would if you open-raised. The limp-reraiser will face more opponents with hands like 98s, while
the open-raiser should expect opponents to have hands like 99. The point here is not to say which way is better, but merely to show
that the same hand in the same position can face different
tactical challenges depending on how you strategically approach the game. If you like to trap people, then expect to face speculative
hands like suited connectors. If you like to come out blazing, then expect to face more obvious hands like big cards and
Profit from poker can come from several styles, strategies and approaches. There is no one, single way to play every hand or every
game every time. Analyze the game or situation you face, adapt and adjust to it, then go get the money.
See also The 'Wall' in Tournament Poker and the
Trinity of Poker