Wow, we are having some great threads again in the comments. Check out two poker minds discussing excellent tourney strategy. Most of what needs to be said there has already been said, but FWIW I think that Tommy Angelo, a great antidote to Sklanskyism on the 2+2 forums, gets it right when he says “the decisions that haunt us the most are the ones that matter the least.” I think Chaos’s hand is right on the cusp and could be essentially neutral as to the decision, with a slight tilt to the +EV side. And I would have gone allin too.
However, and this is a big HOWEVER, there is a meta-game situation to be considered. Chaos is normally great on these matters, but doesn’t reveal them here. (I'M EDITING HERE...CHAOS DID MENTION THEM, IN DETAIL...I WAS TOO DUMB TO NOTICE :) Basically do the table conditions, stage of tourney, quality of players etc, override the technical, mostly mathematic decision you have to make? Of course override is an inaccurate term – if you could reduce these intangibles to a mathematical % then of course they could be factored in. It’s just hard over the table :-) Perhaps an example would make things clearer.
I was recently in the US as part of a sales brainwashing for my new job. Smashed out of my face and jet lagged, I stumbled into a one table poker tourney amongst some of my new colleagues! Anyone who has been to the states recently would be amazed at how massive poker has become. The ESPN coverage of the WSOP was on every day, sometimes even pushing log rolling and dog jumping off the schedule (don’t ask.)
Soon my charade of clueless Englishman had fallen, and we were 4 handed with the top 3 spots paying 50-30-20. The sums were fairly small – I was too pissed to remember – but first was something like 240 bucks and the only sum really worth shooting for. A key hand came up as a battle of the blinds. The SB made a small raise and I called with suited nonsense in the BB. The flop came A high with two of my suit. After going through the whole repartee of Mike Caro’s Book of Tells, he did everything but burst into tears, he finally, reluctantly, begrudgingly moved allin. So clearly he had an Ace :-)
Incredibly, considering my very, very debilitated situation I went into deep thought. The maths was, or seemed close. Although I wasn’t getting quite 2 to 1, if I won this hand I would be a monster chip leader and a favourite for 1st. As Chaos would say, my utility value was skewed for 1st. :-) However, if I called and lost I would be very short stacked and have to win the next two or three showdowns to get back into contention. But. But. These guys weren’t Internet players. Although they played poorly, they were not bonkers aggressive and very much disliked calling and making big bets. So far I was the only person to have gone allin in the session. If I passed I would still have a playable stack and more than enough to make people pass their blinds. And these blinds were chunky and more than worth winning. So through a befuddled daze of alcohol, incredibly, I passed.
The meta game factors were very important in this case.
Now clearly you don’t want to go to Phil Hellmuth-like extremes, but sometimes stopping and thinking about bigger issues in the game, especially online, can pay dividends.
(I won the tourney of course.)