On November 7, 2011, Party Poker launched its Winter Million promotion, an opportunity that spans the New Year and gives players a shot at part of a guaranteed $1 million prize pool at the promotion’s end on February 5, 2012. And the best part of all is that players can land themselves a seat in this million dollar event for as little as $1.
There are almost as many ways to enter the Party Poker Winter Million as there are ways to enjoy Winter, with five different qualifying structures players can choose from.
In one qualification structure, players choose between a $2 Winter Million Sub Qualifier Speed Rebuy and an $8 Winter Million Sub Qualifier Speed event, both of which seed players into a $70 Winter Million Qualifier, which awards one player in ten seats in the Winter Million $1,000,000 Guaranteed.
In another qualification structure, players start in a $1 Winter Million Sub Qualifier Speed Rebuy that seeds players into a $27 Winter Million Rebuy Qualifier which in turn sends one player to the Winter Million $1,000,000 Guaranteed for every $640 in the prize pool.
The direct buy-in for the Party Poker Winter Million $1,000,000 Guaranteed is $640. The event starts at 1:30 pm ET and utilizes a Championship blind structure.
There’s even a choice of Daily Country Specific Freerolls and Daily Player Points Qualifiers to enter, both of which lead to a Friday Winter Million Special, an event with no direct buy-in and that awards 5 seats guaranteed in the Party Poker Winter Million Guaranteed.
In today’s Texas Holdem poker world, tournaments can be found in just about every country. You can play large tournaments or small buy-in tournaments just the same. The prize money has even increased as poker rooms chip in to raise the size of the prize pool to lure in new players. But how much do you really know about tournament poker? Are you really ready to play or just excited because it’s popular? Since Moneymaker won it all in 2003 the game has become wildly popular and it seems like everyone is playing some form of poker these days. Just because everyone is playing the game doesn’t mean they are all good players. That is where you can take advantage by being prepared to play the game.
Know the Structure
The first thing you need to do before you pull out a wad of your hard earned cash is know exactly what the structure is for the tournament you intend to play. This means everything to you because it will somewhat dictate your approach to the game and how much risk you need to take in order to be successful. Basically there are two types of tournaments. There are fast tournaments where the blinds increase rapidly and the time between levels is below thirty minutes and there are slow tournaments that are just the opposite. The blinds increase slowly and the levels are anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Usually slower paced tournaments will attract a higher caliber of poker player and also cost more to buy into.
Be Honest about your Game
Being honest about how well you play the game of poker sounds relatively straight forward. But we all have seen the guy that talks the most being the first one to bust out of the tournament. You really need to ask yourself a few questions before you plunk down your buy in. Those questions should include:
What is the skill level of my competition?
Can I realistically compete in this format and structure?
Can I afford to buy into this tournament without hurting my bankroll?
If the answer to all three of those questions is yes then by all means pull up a seat and start building your stack. Too many players overestimate their ability to compete in tournaments. This is particularly true in slow structures where skill is much more of a factor. Many online players are used to playing fast paced sit n go’s and have been very successful. However, when you are sitting with $10,000 in chips and the blinds are $50/$50 with one hour levels you need to be capable of playing small pot poker. That is not the typical environment for most online players and some have difficulty playing in space.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. In order to win a poker tournament, particularly a live tournament, you have got to be capable of profiling players and being very accurate in your assessment of their play. This may sound easy but you would be surprised at how many poker players do not put the time in studying their opponents the way they should. When you sit down at the table and are not involved in a hand there are plenty of things to do to keep the game entertaining and your mind occupied. Profiling is your primary activity. You need to be involved in every single hand from a mental aspect. Paying attention at show down, watching betting patters and listening to your opponents banter are just a few of these activities.
If you are going to buy into a tournament and really make it worth your while it only makes sense to be prepared when the times comes for the cards to hit the felt. You will be glad you did.
Satellite poker tournaments have become increasingly more significant as the number of players have increased over the years. The reason for this is because many of the high priced poker tournaments now have online and live satellites in which to gain entry. Only a few years ago there were merely a couple of hundred players in the high stakes events. Now those numbers continue to grow due to the influx of online qualifiers via satellite.
Another reason why satellite poker tournaments are so popular is because they are inexpensive. Typically a satellite tournament will cost 10% of the buy-in for that particular poker tournament. This means that you are getting a tremendous bargain whether you are in a multi-table satellite or a single table satellite. Satellites also change your approach to the game as well. The idea of survival is even more apparent in these kinds of scenarios than most.
Lastly, satellite poker tournaments are a tremendous way to help you manage your bankroll. They also have the potential to have a huge impact on your bankroll should you go on to win the big tournament. Just ask Chris Moneymaker.
Now that we have explained the benefits to playing satellites I am going to go more in-depth in how you should approach them to maximize your edge.
Single Table Satellites
Single table satellites are just that, they are one table satellites with 9 or 10 players that usually pay 1 or 2 seats into the main event. This means that you are going to see some extremely aggressive play and you need to play these tournaments to win them. There is definitely an approach to playing and winning these kinds of satellites. The typical poker strategy you may use in a normal poker tournament does not apply here. Aggression is extremely important even to the point of taking a big flush draw with 7 players or less left to position yourself to finish in one of the top two spots. I do not encourage slow play in these tournaments for obvious reasons. You are not going to be the only one that is hungry for a shot at the big money.
Tighten up early and allow other players to bounce around and get knocked out unless you are picking up premium hands. The real satellite play doesn’t start until things get short-handed at 6 players. Then the more astute players get more aggressive and pick up the blinds and antes if there are any. This is extremely important at this stage because the structures are usually so fast it becomes an all-in fest because the levels are only 10 minutes or less. You also need to open up your hand selection when you are short handed as well. If you are not a very good short-handed poker player then I would stay away from single table satellites. Conversely, if you are comfortable playing a fast structure with 6 or less players then you will likely do well in single tables.
Multi-table satellite poker tournaments are my favorite. Why? Because they usually pay out multiple seats into the main event and I can usually put myself in position to win one of those seats if the cards break even. Most of the larger online poker tournaments on various sites get the majority of their players by running these low cost high reward satellite poker tournaments.
The approach taken in these kinds of poker tournaments is a little different than in a single table format. First, you do not have to “win” the tournament and that takes a certain amount of pressure off. However, this does not mean that you can be lackadaisical in your approach. You still need to accumulate chips as the tournament progresses. Unless you have a monster stack with only 1 or 2 players left before winning your seat you are going to need to be smart.
My approach to these kinds of tournaments is a little different. Instead of laying back and waiting to open up as in single tables I prefer to play a lot of hands early in hopes of accumulating lots of chips. Once I do so and hit the break with a better than average stack I will usually slow down a bit unless my table is so passive that it would be detrimental to do so. I also try to stay away from players that can seriously hurt me unless I have the nuts. Again, the idea here is to get the seat and not necessarily to win the poker tournament.
Ultimately, you have to find the platform that fits your game best.
Have you ever noticed the difference between small ball and long ball poker players? Did you ever wonder how a player took a draw for their entire stack on the first hand of the poker tournament? If so, then you have witnessed a player that plays the long ball high risk style of poker. This is the kind of player that takes maximum risk at all times in hopes of building a monster chip stack early. A small ball player is the exact opposite and will meticulously win pot after pot while building their stack of chips one pot at a time until reaching the final table. Both styles of play are viable. It all comes down to what style works best for your poker game.
As I indicated earlier small ball is a style of play that encourages measured risk and slowly building your chip stack by out playing your opponents after the flop. Poker players like Dan Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth both love this style of play and it clearly has served them well. There really is no down side to playing small ball poker. Actually the more skilled poker players prefer small ball poker because it allows them to out play their opponents after the flop. Small ball allows you to make moves like check calling when your opponent is weak and then raising on the turn or river to take the pot away. Deep stacks poker tournaments tend to lend themselves to small ball poker tournaments. The fact of the matter is that the more starting chips you have in relation to the blinds the more you will need to be able to play in space and that means playing small ball poker. Typically slow structured poker tournaments lend themselves to this style of play. That means that the blinds are going to go up every 30 minutes at the very least and you will have plenty of chips to start relative to the blinds. These kinds of poker tournaments allow you to play many hands and generally the more skilled players will make their way to the final table.
Long ball poker is a high risk style of play that tends to lend itself to fast structured poker tournaments where the levels are less than 20 minutes and the chip stacks are less than 100x’s the big blind to start with. In order to compete successfully in any poker tournament you must accumulate chips. However, the structure will dictate how fast or slow you must play the tournament and accumulate chips. For some poker players these are ideal circumstances as they tend to be impatient and unable to balance between long and small ball poker. You simply cannot play one style of play all the time. One thing about long ball poker player that I have noticed is that they are extremely volatile. If they can get their hands on a lot of chips they can make things miserable for the entire table by raising and re-raising pots and putting a lot of pressure on people. Conversely they are easily trapped because they tend to over value hands like Ace King in spots that are easier to navigate with a flat call or re-raise to find out where they are at. They will also chase flush draws and outside straight draws for their entire stack if the situation warrants it and this can happen at any point in the poker tournament.
It really does not matter what style of play you choose. Anyone can be successful with any style of play in poker and poker strategy is not confined to one particular way of playing the game. Ultimately you have to find the style of play that fits your personality best and execute it with strong fundamentals and you will be well on your way to being a successful tournament poker player.
Playing a short stack is something that has become more and more in vogue in no-limit Texas Hold’em in recent years. The expert short stack player usually buys in for 20% of the table maximum and then looks to shove all in either pre-flop or on the flop with a good hand. It is a good strategy to adopt if you are an inexperienced player as there are many advantages to it. Firstly you are only buying in for 20% of the maximum which would be $20 in a NL100 game.
This means that your deep staked opponents would not have the ability to outplay you down the streets. So you are essentially totally offsetting their skill advantage over you. Usually skilled short stack players are not big winners in the game although the ease of the strategy means that you can play an awful lot of tables this way and you can never make a huge mistake. Also it does not take any skill to play a short stack as you are basically sitting and waiting for strong hands and simply pushing them for the maximum that you have in your stack.
Let us look at how this works in practice. You have A-Qs and it has been folded around to the button that opens for $3.50 in a NL100 game. The small blind folds and you have $17 after going through the blinds twice. There is $5 in the pot and you shove all in for your remaining $17. If you win the pot then your stack rises to $22 which is more than the $20 that you started with. This gives you some more time to go looking for that double up that you are searching for.
But here is where short stacking can really pay off because you are often facing deep stacks. The opener may have a huge stack of say $150 and so calling the extra $12 is not going to faze him. There is $22 in the pot and it only costs him $12 to call and they will often call with dominated hands like A-J and A-10 etc. So you often get loose calls when players look you up. But here is the real kicker because you could be sitting on a table full of professionals and world class players and they could never outplay you.
Many people are very critical of players who short stack and it is certainly true that they are indeed a hindrance. But they do provide a tremendous amount of liquidity to the game as players are short stacking for one simple reason, because they want to. So by making these players buy in for more money or driving them from the game then you run the risk of driving these players away from poker for good. If I have short stackers to my left then I will be careful with regards to how much I raise as if they come over the top with a raise then I know that they have a tiny range of hands. Likewise if a short stacker limps in, if they are a skilled short stack player then I will automatically suspect a limp re-raise here.
A popular variation of the typical 9 or 10 handed ring games, is the short handed 5 or 6 player games which can be found on nearly every site that offers online poker. Many players prefer the faster speed and increased amount of decision making that this type of game requires. It is important to take a look at the differences between short-handed and full tables.
Why Loosen up?
When playing short-handed it is a necessity to win more pots than one would normally at a full table. The blinds come around twice as often, and as such a player can’t just sit back and wait for the premium hands like they could at a full table. Seeing half as many free hands each round requires every player to begin playing less than optimum hands otherwise they will find themselves being blinded right out of the game.
Changes in hand evaluation
The main changes in starting hand evaluation when moving from a full to a short-handed table are in regards to high cards, and drawing hands. Drawing hands (like medium or small suited connectors) go way down in value since their will rarely be enough players in the pot to justify playing this type of drawing hand, and there won’t even be pot odds to pursue the draw even if there is a flop that hits the hand. Conversely, high cards even Ax or Kx are often playable if nobody else has entered the pot yet. Hands which would be trouble hands at a full table like KJ, or QT can be raising hands at a short-handed game. Quite often both players will miss the flop completely, so being the aggressor with high cards will often allow one to steal the pot if their opponent misses as well.
Winning small pots
The easiest way to win more pots to off-set the increased number of blinds that must be paid, is to win small pots, whether stealing the blinds, or betting out on the flop hoping the opponent missed as well. To improve the chances of successfully stealing blinds or winning pots early, it is important to show power in the opening round of betting. If one has a good position and feel they have the best hand; that player must not hesitate to raise. While in most cases not everyone will fold (although if they do then the blinds are immediately won by the raiser), the pre-flop raiser will often have the impetuous to continue betting on the flop, and pick up the pot if nobody else has hit.