Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Coin-Flips In Poker Tournaments – Back To Basics

Caught up on a few PokerXfactor videos last night, have been a member there since 2006, though only stop by occasionally these days. Hatfield13 was running through a tournament and reminded me of the topic of multiple coin-flips…

Now, this might seem basic to more experienced members, however it is always worth a refresher:

- If you get all-in with the best hand multiple times, you are usually a favorite to be out of the tournament!

We all feel hard done by when our ace-king gets cracked by ace-jack right? Well here is an example of my favorite demonstrations of why we should not worry… lets imagine 3 confrontations, in each case we are the favorite to win by a reasonable margin. 1) AA vs KK (almost 82% favorite) 2) AK vs AJ (73% favorite) 3) QQ vs AQ (69% favorite) Now I’ll add the numbers… after the first 2 hands we are still in the tournament 60% of the time and out the other 40%. After all 3 we are out 59% of the time and still in 40%.

Of course these are independent events, whether you won or lost one time makes no difference to the next hand.

However the cumulative probability that you are still in the tournament stands – try making one of these a 45% / 55% coin-flip and your chances of still being in the game plummet.

The most interesting thing for me here is the perception of being ‘unlucky’ when we do bust out while favorite in a hand. Conversely, players do not often consider themselves fortunate when they win the 3rd hand as a favorite… the chances are you wont get there folks – so you can start feeling grateful when you do!

Avoiding all-ins where you do not have an opponent covered is one common approach employed by successful players.

Others simply take their chances to build a big stack, relying on volume of play to make them profitable over time. One thing that could be of practical use came from the video. If you were heads up at the end of a tournament facing an opponent who was better than you and have a chip lead you might be better off getting the money in twice as an underdog rather than letting your better opponent chip away at you.

Imagine you are facing Ivey and have a 150k to 50k advantage. Phil will not call you with worse and will outplay you if you ‘go small ball’. How about getting it in twice as a 60% / 40% dog instead? Your opponent needs to win twice to bust you. Hand 1: 40% of the time you win the tournament Hand 2: of the 60% that Phil survives you win 40% (24%) So, you win 64% of the time – ok, that’s not quite the 75% / 25% ratio your chip stacks indicate… but if you think you are good enough to reduce Ivey’s edge to 11% against you then more power to your elbow!!

Check out more sensible strategy articles in our Online Poker Tournaments section GL in those coin-flips, Mark

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