David Sklansky’s 'The Poker System' Part #1 – Suitable for Online Play??

Looks At David Sklansky’s Automated Poker System For Tournaments
And Asks ‘Is This Suitable For Online Tourneys?’

In his excellent book ‘Tournament Poker For Advanced Players’, David Sklansky outlines a poker system used to give the daughter of a wealthy casino owner – who had never played poker before – a shot at winning the World Series.

The beauty of the system was its simplicity, either moving all-in or folding with selected hands. The lady in question ran into Aces at the end of day 1, however the casino owner actually final tabled a $2000 event using the same system!

Later the system was improved. It is this improved version that we will look at here. Again it is simple and involves moving all in or folding pre-flop. The difference between the improved and original system is the mathematical formula that allows situational factors to be taken into account. We will summarize the improved system below and then ask the question of whether this is suitable for today’s online poker tournaments.

David Sklansky Poker Tournament System - Overview Of How This Works

David Sklansky's Poker Tournament system works by deriving a ‘key number’ for each hand – then comparing the number to the chart below to dictate your action. Here is how the key number is worked out:

  1. First divide your stack by the total of blinds and antes.
  2. Next multiply this number by the number of players still to act
  3. Then multiply by the number of limpers +1

Here is an example to clarify:

You are in 4th position with a stack of 4000 chips and blinds at 100/200, 1 person limps ahead with 6 still to act.

  1. 4000/300 = 13 (rounded for simplicity from 13.33)
  2. 13* 6 (Still to act players) = 78
  3. 78 *2 (1 limper ahead +1) = 156

Before we get to the chart you will notice that the key number does not account for an opponent raising ahead of you. When this happens the rules are very simple – move all in with aces, kings and ace-king suited and fold everything else!

Here is the chart to use once the key number is calculated:

  1. Key Number = 400 or more: Move in with AA and fold everything else.
  2. Key Number = 200 to 400: Move in with AA and KK only.
  3. Key Number = 150 to 200: Move in with AA, KK, QQ and AK
  4. Key Number = 100 to 150: Move in with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, AQ and KQ
  5. Key Number = 80 to 100: Move in with any pair, AK, AQ, KQ, any suited Ace and
    any suited connector down to 5-4 suited.
  6. Key Number = 60 to 80: Move in with any pair, any ace, KQ, any suited king
    and all one-gap and no-gap suited connectors.
  7. Key Number = 40 to 60: Move in with everything above + any king.
  8. Key Number = 20 to 40: Move in with everything above + any 2 suited cards
  9. Key Number = <20: Move in with any 2-cards.

David Sklansky Poker Tournament System - Why It Works Against 'Good' Players, And Will It Work Online??

Both the original and the improved systems relied heavily on one factor. That ‘good’ players are not too likely to want to risk their entire tournament without a big edge. That is the better players are less likely to want to gamble early as this would not give them an opportunity to use their skill advantage.

Conversely, online tournaments – especially lower limit ones – are full of players who are only too happy to gamble early! Does this mean that Sklansky’s poker system is unsuitable for this environment.

The first thing to note is that many of the ‘gamblers’ will feature only in the early stages of the tournament. Sure, the lucky few will end up with big-stacks – but the majority will not last. The system of key numbers contains some inbuilt protection for this part of the tournament. Since the ratio of blinds to stack will be large you will only really be playing the premium hands during the first few blind levels.

This of course has its own drawbacks. The ‘dead-money’ available by outplaying weaker opponents in the early stages may indeed pass you by. Of course each argument has more than one side – you will naturally develop a tight image which will assist with stealing blinds once the stakes rise to a significant enough level.

One thing that the system definitely misses out on is the dynamic of stack sizes. Of course including this would make the whole thing unwieldy to use. The presence of very small stacks and very large chip stacks factors into any successful tournament players strategy. On one hand using the system may miss out on good steal opportunities derived from attacking vulnerable stacks at the bubble. On the other hand we can not properly account for the small and large stacks increased propensity to call.

Well, there are pros and cons to using the poker system as your online poker tournament strategy. The only way to find out for sure is to try it.

Part #2 will cover in-game observations from using the poker system and suggest some improvements to make this a useable online poker tournament strategy.

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ACR Poker Mark's Rec

Further Reading For Poker Tournament Fans:

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