MTT Preparation: the 14th Annual Turkey Shoot | Poker Podcast #212

In this episode, I discuss my preparations for my favorite annual LIVE multi-table tournament: the 14th Annual 27-man Turkey Shoot.

In episode 211, Peter Clarke told us how you can take GTO solutions and use them to exploit the regs at your stakes.

MTT Preparation: The 14th Annual Turkey Shoot (3:45)

The Turkey Shoot has been put on by my cousin and his best friend for 14 years straight. It started off as a 3-table home game with all of their friends. I think I missed the first 7 years, but then started playing in the 8th one. It’s always been on Black Friday when just about everyone has a 4-day weekend. I was finally able to play in the tournament after I left my restaurant manager gig.

Restaurant managers work every single big holiday!  Glad to be done with that.

This is the 14th annual tourney and I’ve won the tournament outright once, chopped it at the final 2 once, chopped it 4 ways once, and chopped it 6 ways once. It’s $125 buy-in and first place is I think $1200 with 6th place getting a little more than their buy-in back. They also do a raffle for prizes, which are usually some sort of alcohol gift boxes.

I look forward to this tournament every year because it’s a ton of fun and the competition is not stiff at all.

My goal with all of this planning is to prepare myself to play the best poker I can at the tournament. I’ll discuss my planning through 5 different aspects.

1. Location of the Tournament (6:15)

The tournament takes place at a local cardroom in the middle of town. It has a separate, walled-off area containing 6 tables, and that’s where we play. Outside of that are the normal cash game tables and there might be 12 of those. They also have various table games like Blackjack and Pai Gow. We take up 3 of the 6 tables in that back room, and there’s always a 4th table going for a high limit game, last year I think it was 20/40 limit hold ’em game.

It’s a pretty fun environment with a full bar and plenty of televisions around which is good because that helps to distract my opponents. They’re ordering drink after drink, gambling, and having fun and watching whatever sports are up on the screen. I’m there paying attention and looking for ways to exploit each player.

The tournament begins promptly at 6:30pm, and it’s normally 3 tables of 9, but sometimes a few extra people show up so it’ll be 3 tables of 10.

My cousin moved it out of his house to the cardroom so we can have professional dealers which allows us to get in more hands per level.

2. Tournament Structure (7:50)

This tournament is a cross between an online turbo event and a hyper turbo. The levels are only 20 minutes long so we’re lucky if we see 9 hands per level. I think we start with 10,000 in chips, but the first level is a 100/200. So, we only start with 50 bb’s.

At just 50 bb’s people start getting KO’d in the first round and there’s no re-entry. And, there aren’t any antes! I think this is because my cousin wants play to go a little bit faster and collecting antes can waste a bit of time.

But, without antes there’s less of a reason to steal pots and an even less of a reason to defend your blinds. Antes normally add almost one big blind to the pot, and this is great when your opponents don’t understand the value of those extra chips added to the pot preflop. So, that’s kind of a bummer for me having no antes.

3. The Players (9:40)

I’m totally used to the players in this game, and they’re just like those at any local tournament. There will be a few nits at the table who only play decent to good starting hands. There will be a few maniacs who love to raise and love to 3bet and can double-barrel bluff. But with short stacks, it’s really easy to get it in on the flop or turn, especially in a 3bet pot.

There’s also going to be lots of flop-loving loose passive players. These are the ones who limp a ton and call 2bets a ton, and will call 3bets with wide ranges if I don’t make the 3bet large enough. These players are great to get value from because they are not going to fold with any top pair hand versus flop, turn or river bets.

Big Stack = More Flops

One characteristic I’ve noticed about a lot of these players is when they build a big stack, they use that stack, not to push opponents off hands, but they use it to call a ton of raises and see a lot of flops. And they’re doing this with wide ranges, which is good for me. It’s crazy seeing some of the showdown hands in 6bb bet pots. I’ll see guys limp/calling with 64s versus a 6bb isolation raise.

Some of the guys are super nitty. This is one of very few tournaments they play in a year because they’re here with their buddies and they don’t want to bust too early. Most the time when people bust early, they head to the bar, get a drink and then sit down to the cash game tables. So, it’s a pretty good night for the cardroom.

There are couple of good players, though. But out of the 27 players, I think 80% of them are loose passive calling stations. I know that the times that I’ve won the tournament or gone deep was when I caught a string of good cars and I was able to extract lots of value from players that just couldn’t find a fold. You’ll hear them say, “I know I’m beat, but I call anyway”. That’s music to my ears.

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4. Practice (17:15)

I decided to do a bit of practice in preparation for this tournament. It’s not like this is a crazy high buy-in tournament, but there is some prestige because I’m playing with a ton of guys I know that I’ve played against for years now. So, I want to do better in this tournament than any other local tournament that I play.

I’ve decided to practice with one LIVE tourney and some online turbo SNG’s.

Local Sunday Tournament

I decided to play in the local Sunday tournament this past week. It’s an $80 buy-in, $5K guarantee. I think this is great practice because the players here basically match those in the Turkey Shoot. The only difference is this tourney has proper antes, which I love.

Here’s how my Sunday tournament went:

I got there early, registered, then headed back out to my car for a little meditation. This always gets me in the mood to play some good poker. I headed back for the tournament start and there ended-up being 6 full tables of 10 players each. By the time re-entry ended after level 5, there were 73 entries total. This ended up being shy of the $5K guarantee, so there was an overlay!

The tournament went pretty smooth for me and I started chipping up right away.  I ended up busting out in 16th place.

I recorded 15 total hands scratch that I recorded 15 hands where I saw the flop so I might cover those in another podcast or training video. But there are 2 hands I want to mention right now.

Hand 1: Iso raise with AQ

I was in the CO facing 2 limpers. I iso raised to 6bb’s with AQo. One of the blinds and one of the limpers called.

The flop: KT6r.  I flopped a gut shot straight draw. I cbet and both players called. The turn brought a 4 and I checked behind. Because both players called and the 4 didn’t help me nor was it a scare card, I chose not to double barrel because there wasn’t much of a reason for them to fold here.

The river came a miracle Jack, giving me the nut straight. The player in the blind checked and then the first limper donk lead for 2,000 chips. I don’t know how I did this, but I counted out 2,400 chips and put it out like a raise. But, my intent was to bet 4,400 chips. I guess I had some sort of the brain fart, so my incomplete raise counted is just a call. I felt like a complete idiot because his 2p hand of KJ on the river would’ve paid me off for sure.

Hand 2: Bust out hand, A8s at 11bb’s

We were down to 16 players and I had an 11bb stack. It was folded around to me in the CO, and I felt my hand was too strong to fold with A8s. But I didn’t want to make just a 3bb raise because the 2 players in the blinds were calling quite frequently. So, utilizing my suited Ace, I decided to open shove for 11 bb’s. It wasn’t either of the blinds who called, instead the BTN called me with 99. He probably had about a 35bb stack, so I can’t fault his call at all.

Of course, I didn’t catch an Ace and he actually turned trips. So, I busted out in 16th place. The tournament paid the top 10, so we weren’t necessarily on the bubble, but we were pretty close.

Looking back, I could have folded the hand instead of open raising in an effort to look for a better handle later. But, people were folding a lot to open shoves, so I don’t think it was a bad play at all to make. Can’t fault myself here.

Online SNG’s

I’m recording this on Wednesday, a couple days prior to the tournament. So far, I’ve played 21 SNG’s and I’ve made the money 33% of the time. My ROI is 14%. Not really great, but at least I am profitable right now. I’m gonna try to fit in some more SNG’s before dinner on Thanksgiving, and I’ll play more on Friday during the day before the tournament at night. I think that I’m playing pretty darn well in these SNG’s and I feel ready for the Turkey Shoot.

5. Game Plan (24:10)

Here’s another famous saying that I’m sure you’ve heard: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

So, planning for the tournament this week has got me prepared to play my A-game when the tournament comes on Friday.

Now, I believe that no plan survives contact with the enemy, but I still decided to come up with a game plan with which to approach the tournament. But, I’m not beholden to it and I’ll quickly ditch it if necessary based on who I’m sat with, their relative positions against me, and the cards that I’m dealt.

Get involved early.

Because we with only 50 bb’s, I can’t play nitty and wait for a hand. I’ve got to get in there and stir things up. I won’t be playing 94o, J2o. But, I will be playing suited connectors, suited gappers, all pocket pairs, Broadway’s and of course AX hands.

There is no need to defend the blinds due to the missing antes.

So, I’m going to be much quicker to fold my blinds versus raises when I don’t have a hand worth playing. For one thing, playing from the blinds means you’re out of position, which is antithetical to my prior plan. For another, without antes there’s not a financial incentive to fight that often. And lastly, if it’s not a good spot to 3bet bluff, the lack of antes makes it even more unprofitable to do so.

Record every hand that hits the flop that I’m involved in.

I did this with the LIVE tournament I played, and I think it really helped me to remain focused on my play and that of my opponents.

I’m going to have a solid reason for entering any pot as the caller.

Too many of my opponents call because their cards look pretty or they hope to hit a flop. I’m going to call because I see an opportunity to make money with my hand or because I know there’s a good chance to possibly bluff later. I’m not going to enter pots as the 5th limper or the 3rd caller just because I have a suited King. I’m going to look for every opportunity to raise instead of limping or calling. But, if calling looks to be profitable, I’ll do it.

I will value bet at every opportunity, especially on the River because they don’t want to fold.

These players are calling stations and I’ve seen them call down with a very weak top pair and 2nd pair hands. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard them say, “I know you got me beat. But I call.” Those are the players to value bet whenever possible, and avoid bluffing too frequently.

I will fold my 2nd pair hands versus any barrel bets.

I will tend to believe my opponents post-flop raises and bets.

When somebody bets one quarter of the pot on a wet board, it’s a blocking bet with either some kind of weak pair or a draw. So, I need to respond accordingly. And big bets are an attempt to get maximum value with. I don’t know how many times I see people over betting the pot with the nuts or the near nuts in the hopes of getting paid off. They should be betting smaller to get value from their fishy opponent’s weaker hands. But, they make it so big it gives everyone an easy decision.  So, I’m going to exploit the fact that their bets telegraph the strength of their hand.

I will be a one and done flop bluffer unless I have really good equity.

I’ll probably throw out the flop cbet about 80% of the time. But as soon as I get called, I’ll shut down on the turn unless I have a value worthy hand or I have enough drawing equity in the hand, like having the QsJs on the Ts9c3s board. This would give me an open-ended straight draw, a flush draw, and 2 overs for a top pair hand.  This is definitely worthy of barreling and likely going all in on the turn to put max pressure in short-stacked situations.

Challenge (28:55)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Take the time to plan out the next LIVE tournament you play in. Think about the tournament location, the structure, the types of players you expect to encounter and how you’re going to practice for the event. Then, put a plan together that helps you exploit your fellow players. Remember that no plan survives contact with the enemy, but the fact that you’re planning will give you an advantage over those who don’t give it any extra thought.

Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

Ken Nielson supported the show by getting the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  Not only did he get the Smart HUD, I sent him a ton of videos to help him put it to use and to get more from PT4.

Sky Matsuhashi
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