Learning a Skill For Multi-Table Tournament Play

Understanding Your Opponents Notice I did not say "watching your opponents" or "reading your opponents" or even "paying attention at the table." Anyone can do those things, and most players in a $100 or larger buy-in tournament are doing them. To take the next step you actually need to understand your opponents and get into their heads. The next three steps would not do you much good if you do not know who to use them against. To truly develop an understanding of your opponents you have to take a predatory attitude to the table with you, and view each of them as prey.

If you watch the table as a predator, you will be able to spot weaknesses in any player's game, and before long you can classify him in psychological terms rather than just assessing his skill level. If you see a player check-raise all-in with a draw, you know he is a gambler. If he tends to call all-in bets too often, you know he hates to be pushed around. If an opponent seems risk-averse, you can use that to your advantage as well. An example may shed some light on the subject.

A middle position player raises to three times the size of the big blind, and another player pushes over the top for his whole stack, which is 13 big blinds. The first player calls with Q-Q and the later position player shows down A-K. A solid player will see a typical tournament race, and learn very little about his opponents, but a great player can learn a lot more from this hand.

The Player who went all in is not as aggressive or fearless as one might first believe. He may have made an aggressive play, but that may be because he is afraid to play after the flop with his A-K and doesn't want to get in trouble. He has actually pushed all in here to avoid risk, get his chips in the middle with some fold equity and try to protect his stack. If he had just smooth-called here, it would be probable that he is a risk taker and likes to play after the flop.

The player who held Q-Q probably expected his opponent to hold A-K and knew he was ahead. He is more likely to be a confident player, and I would tend to avoid seeing too many flops with him. When you do make a big hand against this player, you will want to play in a nonstandard way or style, possibly by being aggressive right away rather than trying to slow-play it.

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