Yes, definitely. Either I’ve actually improved my tournament play or the winds of variance are simply blowing in my direction. After playing probably 50 MTTs in the past year and making one final table (last January), I’ve now made the final table in three out of the last five tournaments I’ve played; including my first MTT win, as noted below.
Of course, ego leads me to favor the first of those two possibilities. And even if improved play is responsible for my recent performance, there’s no doubt that luck has played a significant factor in that success. However, let’s look at the arguments for both possibilities.
In favor of the improved play option, there’s the fact that I have made some substantial changes in my approach to the game. Most importantly, I’ve applied some of the Yellow/Orange/Red zone strategies from Harrington on Hold ‘em Vol. II. In the past, I’ve typically had little problem making it to the middle stages of a tournament, but I’ve usually been short-stacked and essentially DOA. Harrington’s concepts have given me a better sense of when and how to press in those situations to put myself in position to get further along. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that my primitive attempts to apply these concepts have turned me into the next WSOP champ, but even my rudimentary understanding has allowed me to see how I had misplayed these situations in the past (and also to recognize just how few players in these low buy-in MTTs have any clue).
In favor of the luck-sack argument is the fact that we’re dealing with a very small sample size here. And I also haven’t seen the same kind of improvements in my SNG results. (Although in all fairness to me, I’ve been a reasonably successful SNG player and a pretty bad MTT player, so the opportunity to make huge improvements in my SNG play is significantly smaller.)
Also weighing in against the actual improvement choice is the fact that my most recent final table was in one of the ridiculous nightly $1 Ultras on UB. For those of you not familiar with those, that means you and 1,200+ of your closest pals playing with 2.5 minute levels. So after the first few levels pretty much everyone plays most of the tournament in the Yellow, Orange or Red zones.
Even playing hand for hand to the final 10, three people busted at once and the final table started with only eight players. The final table was pretty ridiculous. Blinds were 8K/16K with an 800 ante and there were six players in the 200K-300k range along with two short stacks giving the chip leader an effective M of just about 8. If you were one of the six with a playable stack and took the blinds and antes with a raise, you probably took the chip lead for a hand. The short stacks were gone within two hands and we were down to six. I was gone a few hands later and the whole thing was done by 10:00 p.m. CDT; one hour and 20 minutes after it started.
Since an Ultra is your basic crapshoot on steroids, I’m pretty sure that success can’t be firm evidence of any kind of solid play. However, I was smart enough to realize that playing the straight Harrington zone strategy won’t cut it in that kind of schmozz. You can’t just push with any two even first-in in the Red zone, since you are almost always going to get at least one caller and probably more. You have to be a little bit more selective, even if it means you sink a little deeper, but just about everyone else is in the same boat.
I also made the first move to push all-in with a fairly wide range of hands, but I called all-ins very seldom. Usually only when I had the original raiser well outchipped and didn’t have a big stack yet to act behind me. The one exception to this was the final hand, where I had two all-ins in front of me, both with stacks bigger than mine, and picked up AKo. Given what people were pushing with and the fact that I was a worse than a 2-1 dog to only AA or KK, I had to do that. Win and I have a big chip lead with only four players left. Lose and, well, that was 6th place with a payoff of $41. I had a nice match up against a middle pair and a weaker A, but just didn’t match the board. The player that went out with me started the hand with a few more chips and picked up fifth.
Playing better? Probably. There certainly was tons of room for improvement, so that’s not necessarily saying much. Getting lucky? Definitely. Not in a hit-in-the-face-with-the-deck way, but in a hitting-my-draws-when-I-need-them way (frequently with straights, oddly). However, I think I’ve made some of that luck by being aggressive and forcing the other players to react. Still, I’m sure I’ll make the same plays in the coming weeks and won’t have the same level of success.
Whatever the case, it’s been fun!
“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”
Ted “Theodore” Logan