Playing the Medium Stack in a Large Field Tourney
If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.- Sun Tzu, the Art of War
I have played several live tournaments with fields of 200-500. A few times I have had bad runs and went out quickly and a few times I have had a good run early and found myself with a monster stack. The majority of the time I find myself a few hours in to one of these with a little above average stack. This is the position I would like to discuss.
There will typically be a solid player or two at the table with stacks at least as big as yours. There will usually be maniac that has just seemed to hit everything he plays with a very large stack. Then there is the rest of the table; a few that are obviously playing at a larger buy-in than they are used to and playing way too tight; a few that seem like decent players that just aren't getting anything playable and maybe one or two that who knows what they are doing (they sure don't). So how do you survive all this madness and make it to the money with a chance to make a run at the final table? There are several different strategies that will get you there and here is a favorite of mine:
1) First lets categorize our opponents:
A players: Solid players with big chip stacks
B players: Solid players with small to average stacks
C players: Knowledgable too-tight players
M players: Maniacs
? players: Who knows
2) I like to look for opportunities to "Stun" a maniac without confronting another player. If I can isolate the maniac with a great starting hand, I will use my "reverse tells" to give him all the wrong signals; trust me, he will think your tells mirror his.
3) I'm not looking to go up against another big stack, but if I find myself in that position with a super-premium hand I will be an "information junkie" and put my radar on full alert.
4) "The Squeeze Play" Look for an opportunity where 2 or 3 players get a large amount in early and you have an extremely strong starting hand. If you are a little patient you will find this sweet spot. This is the time to get your chips in the middle. Here's a great example from one of the WSOP Circuit Tournaments I played in September.
Final table of Event 2: This was an extremely talented final table with several pros including a bracelet holder. Chip stacks were fairly even around the table and play was excrutiatingly tight with the only move being an all in push every now and then which was never being called. Then the play of the tournament was made. Several players caught very good starting cards at the same time and a 5x raise was called by two of the larger stacks. It came on around with almost everyone folding......almost everyone....SQUEEZE PLAY!!!!! A player that had been very tight and quiet at this final table didn't fold; she announced matter of factly.."I'm all in". The other players each took about 5 minutes with all but one folding and the only caller having a weaker pair and she raked in about 70,000 chips when the hand was over. She went on from there to win the whole thing.
5) That's teriffic and I'll be on the lookout for that kind of situation but what if it doesn't come. The other thing you need to take advantage of is your position against specific player types. Be thinking about who will fold to a re-raise and be prepared to make this move when appropriate. Also look for spots to change gears and get a little tighter or a little looser than the table.
6) Most of all, be aware of what each player at the table probably thinks of your table image and maximize those thoughts.
Best of luck to all of you this new year. I am entering in to a new level of competition with a lot of bigger buy-ins. I hope I can make a big splash but either way it will all be right here for you to enjoy with me...........surf