David Sklansky’s ‘The Poker System’ – Suitable For Online Play? Part #3

Analysis Of Online Poker Tournament Play Using Sklansky-System And Suggestions For Adapting This

The Tourney Poker System by David Sklanksy is designed for people with no poker knowledge to have a chance of winning a big tournament. This series of 3 articles looks at the poker system and asks whether it is suitable for online poker tournaments? Part #1 gave an overview, and part #2 was a summary of using the poker system online. This article brings the previous pieces together, concluding that some serious – and possible overly-complex – changes would be required to successfully adapt the poker system.

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Sklansky Tourney System - Designed For Different Opponents??

The first thing to ask is whether the premise on which the system was designed actually applies to lower buy-in online poker tournaments. This is that most players will fold good but not great hands when faced with an all-in bet. The logic here was that players prefer to let their skill advantage show by playing hands over multiple streets.

In a $10 online poker tournament players are not thinking this way. Depending on their experience level and general playing style their definition of what constitutes a hand good enough to call an all-in bet varies. As we saw in part #2 this can be as little as a small pair or an ace-ten off suit.

Another dynamic prevalent in a low buy-in online poker tournament is that too many players are playing a very large range of hands. This leads to most pots becoming multi-way before the flop. Limpers, and indeed minimum raisers drastically influence the ‘key number’ calculation. A single min-raise making a hand that would have been a ‘push’ into a fold.

Sklansky Tourney System - Changing Our Approach To Min-Raises

This leads to the first suggested change to the poker system for online play – min-raises should be treated as limps for the purpose of key number calculations. While the ratio of blinds to stacks are high this will not greatly affect the hand selection. However once this starts to decrease the number of ‘push’ hands will go up, particularly when there are few players left to act.

A second observation was that there were many opportunities where implied-odds (the chance of being paid off handsomely for a small initial investment) would suggest limping. Examples being small pairs in the starting blind levels. The poker system could be adapted to include playing pairs without adding too much complexity. Our ‘novice’ poker player simply limps all pairs when the big blind is less than 5% of their current stack. If a set comes on the flop they push all-in, otherwise fold. Of course we would also need clear instructions to fold to any raise in these situations.

Sklansky Tourney System - Blind vs Blind Play Risk / Reward

The next observation was that blind vs blind situations (and to a lesser extent playing from the button) when folded to were too risky in online poker tournament play. Having only one opponent reduced the key number to a point where most hands were ‘pushes’. The issue here was that the potential for being called was affected by the stack size of your opponent – very large or very small stacks being more likely to call. The suggestion here is to add 50% to the key number when in a blind vs blind situation and 25% when folded to on the button. Sure the chances of only a few players having a hand that can call are small, but we need to take account of the fact that calling ranges will be wider as players are less likely to ‘believe’ a button raiser.

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Sklansky Tourney System - Higher Blind Pushing Ranges Too Wide?

The final observation from using the poker system online is that the ‘push’ hands appeared to get too wide as the blinds went up. Once again the main point being the wider calling ranges of opponents online when compared to the big live poker tournaments that the system was designed for.

The suggestion here is to remove some of the easily dominated hands from the pushing range for the low key number situations. Since we know ace-x hands are in many opponents calling ranges a simple solution would be to remove the smallest aces (and to a lesser extent kings). The result of this would be that we would have ‘2 live cards’ more often the times we are called.

Using David Sklanky’s Poker Tournament System online has it’s difficulties. On the positive side we made it fairly deep in the 2 tournaments attempted and could easily have  held a big stack in both had the cards fallen well for us. On the negative side the original system does not cope well with the much wider calling ranges of low-level online poker players. Hopefully the changes outlined above will help you turn the all-in poker system into a winning plan!

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