Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Nothing to lose

In one of the last matches of the "regular season" portion of the Doubles Poker Championship, an unusual dynamic emerged. Gus Hansen and Johnny Chan were paired up. Hansen could not make the finals, no matter how well his team performed in this last match. Conversely, Chan was the overall point leader, having finished tops in all three of the first matches, and so would finish the "season" in the #1 spot, regardless of the outcome of this last match.

All three of the other three teams, however, had either one member or both who could not afford to be the first out; they needed at least a third-place finish in order to accumulate the last few points required to make the finals. It was as if there were a tournament bubble for everybody except for Hansen and Chan.

The two recognized the situation for what it was, and exploited it mercilessly, raising and reraising with total air, openly daring their opponents to call and risk elimination. They had some motivation to try to win; they would split $10,000 for winning the match. But in essence they had nothing to lose, while everybody else had a lot to lose.

Sunday night I was playing in the hyper-fun Donkey Island blogger tournament. I had been cruising well most of the way, but then had a serious downfall, and was reduced to something like six big blinds. I followed what has now become standard tournament advice, and pounded the hell out of it. If the action folded to me, I shoved with nearly any two cards in order to steal the blinds and/or get called and have the chance for a double-up.

This wasn't subtle; I wasn't trying to look like I was being less aggressive than I really was. It was flagrant enough that BuddyDank, doing live commentary for BuddyDank Radio, commented on it a few times: "Rakewell is stealing a lot of blinds." "Who's going to stop him?"

The run finally ended when I open-pushed from the button with K-10, got called by A-10 in the big blind, and couldn't get lucky.

If I just sat back and waited for a premium hand, the most likely outcome would be getting blinded down to a point where I would have to shove with a stack so small that it would guarantee a call, when even a double-up would still leave me critically short. Doing nothing to save myself would have meant washing out. It was therefore both correct and obvious to take rather drastic measures in a desperate attempt to regain a workable chip stack, because the worst that could happen was what was going to happen if I didn't do so--get knocked out.

The point, though, was that I was playing as if I had nothing to lose, because, well, I had nothing to lose.

You see the same sort of play in free games and freeroll tournaments. When people have nothing invested, they feel as though they have nothing to lose, and so play like complete maniacs. What's the worst possible outcome? They lose...nothing.

It's not too often that one gets to play poker as if there is nothing to lose. It's kind of fun and liberating when the rare opportunity comes along.

Bonus: I'm incapable of thinking along the lines of "nothing to lose" and "can't make it worse" without fondly recalling the great stoning scene from Monty Python's "The Life of Brian." So for your viewing pleasure:

1 comment:

Heffmike said...

As someone who regularly sticks it in bad and gets there in these blogger tournaments, I respect your spewy moves, sir :-)

After all, when you jam, they can always fold, or you can get there anyway. That's twice as good as if you call off with a big hand and hope to hold, right?