Dan Kelly has won four WCOOP titles and two WSOP bracelets, with over $3m in winnings. Here he explains how he became an MTT master
Position is power
I like to apply a lot of pressure in position, mainly by three-betting. It’s very tough to combat in MTTs, especially when the stacks are deeper. In that situation you could adjust and start four-betting me, but as long as the stacks are deep enough I’m always capable of just five-bet shoving. If an aggressive and competent opponent is three-betting a lot in position, it’s very tough to play against.
Position is less important in tournaments than cash games, though, as the effective stacks are often no more than 25-30 big blinds later in a tournament. In a cash game stacks are generally always around 100 big blinds. Players in tourneys are generally weaker, too, and you’ll find fewer people looking to abuse you in position. Once the effective stacks get to between 20-25 big blinds it’s probably best to just reshove rather than making any other size of three-bet.
My hand will definitely influence what I do though. If I have a hand like a small pair, I’ll just jam and look to take the pot down without giving the initial raiser a chance to shove over me. Even hands that he may be bluffing with will be in a coinflip against small pairs so it’s good to win the pot there and then. Against weaker players I’d always be exploitable like that, but if I’m playing a regular who I have a lot of history with, I’ll sometimes even shove with Aces to keep my range balanced.
In general you should always have a plan for what you will do after you make a three-bet. If he four-bet shoves you must know if you are going to call or fold. The only time this plan should change is if someone cold four-bets you behind – then you might have to re-evaluate. If you just get flat-called you need to bet a large percentage of flops, but don’t just fire automatically without looking at all your options.
During the WCOOP some tournaments start in the evening and go on until 9am. It’s hard to maintain concentration for all that time but I find that music and caffeine help me. I always play music that gets me pumped up and focused, while I usually have two cups of coffee a day, but I’m trying to cut back. Stay away from alcohol though – I don’t think that will help you at the table!
It’s not a disaster to take a quick break and miss a few hands if you feel your concentration is waning. It’s likely you’ll just get dealt rags anyway. I don’t think there’s a specific amount of time that people should play for in a session. It all depends on the individual person and, for me, how I’m feeling and whether I’m winning or losing. Exercise also helps a lot with having the energy to grind for long periods of time. I try to eat healthily, too.
It’s fun to play games other than no-limit hold’em and it’s also more profitable to be able to play different games. I found it quite an easy transition to start playing H.O.R.S.E. I’m especially good at stud hi/lo. At first, the stud games are the ones that people struggle with most as they are very different from hold’em. There’s no substitute for putting in a lot of hands and studying the games if you want to get better.
My one tip for mixed games is to really concentrate on playing hands that have good scooping potential in the hi/lo variants. Learning different games will offer a good change of pace from NLHE and make it less likely that you’ll burn out. The mixed game tournaments are also very soft, especially in Full Tilt’s FTOPS and the PokerStars’ WCOOP. Even the cash games at low-to-medium stakes are fairly soft. A lot of players just play too loose.
The $25k six-handed NLHE event that I won at the WSOP played similarly to a six-max cash game online to start with. I’ve always been of the opinion that live and online poker are pretty much the same thing – it’s just poker.
The only difference is that live tells come into play, but I think they are overrated anyway! I’m not surprised to have had so much live success already as the games are basically the same. You have to adjust to the different structure, pace of play and players, but then adjusting is an important part of winning at any form of poker.
In a lot of the smaller WSOP events the stack sizes were similar to online MTTs. The stacks weren’t even that deep in the $25k six-handed event. I think that made it more suited to players with a lot of online experience.
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