Pro concepts: Day 2 tournament strategy

Ross Jarvis is joined by UK tournament titans Jamie Burland and Kevin Williams to break down tournament strategy for Day 2 of a mid-stakes live MTT

We’ve already showed you how to crush Day 1s of a major mid-stakes live tournament. If you follow it to a tee you will have a great chance not only of making it through the day but also doing so with a comfortable stack. I’ve got a lot of experience in doing this and have confidence in my advice.
However, when it comes to Day 2, 3 or 4 of a tournament I’m not the man to ask. With just one solitary UKIPT cash under my belt I felt as though I should bring in some reinforcements to help coach you on the way to victory. Step up former UKIPT champion Jamie Burland and two-time UKIPT High Roller final tablist Kevin Williams. Their expert knowledge on everything from overnight preparation, bubble abuse and final table ICM calculations will put you in great stead to go on a deep run and pick up the major monies. And remember that nobody wins any poker tournament on Day 1 – what you do from Day 2 onwards is much more important.

Revving up

When you first take your seat on Day 2 it’s a lottery what your table will be like. It could be full of short stacks, have two or three world-class players on it or you could even get lucky and be sat with a bunch of chipped up fish. Williams says it’s important to find out early, ‘I’ll look around and see if I recognise anybody. That’s not just regulars or famous players but there could be someone at the table who I have played with before, even years ago.’ Burland contends it’s not so much the players you need to be aware of but their stack sizes too. ‘You need to know where the short stacks are going to be shoving from and even just by watching people stack their chips you can sometimes get a feel for whether they are inexperienced and likely to be weaker players.’
It’s not just who is on your table that matters, but where they are sat in relation to you. ‘A dream table draw’, says Williams, ‘would be to have big stacks on the other side of the table and avoid having short stacks to your direct left because this will mean you can’t open as widely as you’d like. Having short stacks on your right is great though as you’ll then be in a position to make good calls against the short stack’s shoves and pick up 10-15BBs at a time.’ 
Burland feels that eliminating short- and mid-stacked players is one of the best ways to chip up during a Day 2. ‘All of a sudden people are happy to have made Day 2, it’s a big achievement for some players, and for them their job here is done. If they make the money then great but they won’t be playing as tight as they were on Day 1.’

Various sizes

In the start and middle stages of a Day 2 your play should often be dictated by both your own stack size and the size of the stacks around you. ‘By far the biggest thing unique to this stage of the tournament is the variation in stack sizes,’ says Williams. ‘In the beginning of the tournament there’s not much variation because of how small the blinds are compared to your starting stack. At the end of a tournament it’s generally always very shallow. But at this stage you have some players at your table with 10BBs and some with 200BBs and all those in between! It’s the time where you really have to adapt well to these differing stack sizes’.
In a perfect world we would always have a big stack, but that will not always be the case. If you have a short stack of 15BBs or less Burland says, ‘you don’t want to be putting any chips into the pot without going all-in (unless you have a very specific reason).’ The only exception may be when you pick up a hand like A-A where a min-raise may be more effective than simply shoving. ‘This depends on what I’ve been doing and who the player is though. If I’ve been shoving continually then it will usually be best just to shove again with the Aces. Also, if I have a great player like Jake Cody sat next to me I might not min-raise into him because he will know I would always be looking to induce when I do that. I also like to target guys [by shoving weaker hands] who have the 30-40BB stacks as they definitely can’t afford to call off light and risk 25% of their stack.’
Having a big stack going into Day 2 of a tournament is a great advantage, but it’s important to wield your power correctly. ‘A lot of players feel that it is their duty to play really aggressively, bully the table and put players into really tough spots at all times,’ warns Williams. ‘However, these players ignore important things such as their table image. If you’re a big stack and twice end up at showdown with trash hands you’d played aggressively then people will change from being afraid of you to licking their lips because they know you are likely to spew off chips in the near future. There is no obligation to be the bully boy!’

Bubble time

The bubble will usually burst towards the end of Day 2 at most major poker tournaments in the UK. For some players just making the cash is a momentous achievement whereas others will solely have their eyes on the final table. So what’s the best way to play when this pressure situation comes up? Even though bubble abuse is common knowledge nowadays Williams still sees it as an excellent opportunity to chip up. ‘It’s especially true in live tournaments where people have been playing for two days straight, have travelled there and have an emotional commitment to the tournament. You can target players who you know will not play back at you light. There are lots of situations where other players will know exactly what you are doing but they still won’t do anything about it.’ See the boxout below for an example of Jamie Burland taking this bubble abuse to the extreme.

The final stages

Making the final table is a great achievement in itself but the hard work is just beginning, with the majority of the prizepool situated in the top three spots. ICM calculations (where you may make a marginal decision based on a likely financial return as opposed to the perfect poker decision) also become more important than ever. ‘Sometimes you must make folds that in a vacuum would not be right. If someone on the table has just 1BB or 2BBs it would be wrong to play a big pot with a marginal hand as you’re likely to move up a place on the money ladder very soon.
Both Burland and Williams agree that the most Lots of players feel it is their duty to play really aggressively [but] there is no obligation to be a bully boy You will be dead money if you are always folding in an attempt to secure sixth spot important skill on final tables is to negotiate yourself through the wreckage and into the final four players. From there it’s anyone’s game. ‘The key here is that there’s a difference between playing tight and trying to ladder up the pay scale and making the correct ICM decisions,’ adds Williams. ‘You will be dead money if you are always folding in an attempt to secure sixth spot or something. You always want to be trying to win the tournament but that doesn’t make it right for you to bust in a marginal situation when there is someone with 1BB under the gun.’
Once you make it to the final four players how can you finish the job? ‘With three or four players left you really need to try and turn the screws and take risks. There are now no real ICM decisions to make. You need to try and target any weaker players that are left while playing solidly against the good players’, Williams says.
Burland notes that in short-handed play hand values will go down hugely and this presents a huge opportunity. ‘It’s really hard for anybody to have anything. You need to adjust to this and notice those that are not. An experienced player will know to open up his range at this point and play more than 50% of hands most of the time.’ So there you have it, a complete guide to winning a major tournament from some of the brightest minds in UK poker. Easy, right? Just remember to send us all a lovely royalty cheque in the post when you strike it big…

Preparing like a champion

It’s very important to prepare properly in between Day 1 and 2 if you want to do well. It’s not always easy though, with a ton of poker friends and even friendlier bars always in the vicinity. As Jamie Burland says, ‘if you can keep your head down and remain disciplined [by not going out and getting drunk after Day 1] then you can give yourself a big edge on the people who don’t have discipline. I’ve found that my tournaments always go hugely downhill after I have a big night out.’
Kevin Williams says if the table draw for Day 2 is released early it is important to check out all of your opponents on The Hendon Mob database. From here you’ll be able to see which players have had consistent results (whom you can assume will be good) and which are likely online qualifiers with no results. ‘It’s probably a mistake to have too specific a strategy to take into Day 2.’ Williams adds. The big thing about Day 2 is that there are such huge differences between tables [in terms of stack size and quality] than compared to Day 1 where a preset strategy could be more effective.’

An example of bubble abuse

Jamie Burland re-tells a funny story from when he was abusing the bubble during a UKIPT main event in Ireland…
‘Most people on the table were folding a lot, waiting for the bubble to burst. Sat next to me was Phil Baker, a well-known personality on the Irish poker circuit. He had a 35 big blind middle stack and I covered him. He noticed that I was now opening every hand and was starting the table talk saying ‘I’m going to do something about this’ and  so on. He wanted to start raising as well but because he was on my immediate left he would either have to three-bet or call my raise, all of which he didn’t want to do.
‘On the pure bubble I opened once again with K-7. Baker now three-bets to 8BBs out of 35BBs. It folds back to me and I took a couple of factors into account. For some reason his wife and family were around the table and a number of other factors made me feel pretty confident that he hadn’t thought through his plan carefully enough. I thought it was quite possible he was three-betting for value but that he would have no idea what to do if I played back at him and shoved. Obviously he would snap-call if he had the nuts but he should have been planning for every single eventuality too. In this instance he actually had Jacks. I moved all-in and he folded his hand face-up.
‘This hand is an example of how a competent player wasn’t thinking through a plan for the entire hand and is an especially good example of how you can exploit even competent players on the bubble. I wouldn’t have expected him to fold Jacks but I certainly would expect him to fold something like A-Q, T-T or worse.’

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