It pays to be a nit...

On the front page of under the poker news section Daniel Negreanu's linked poker blog kind of answers my own question that I posed a few posts ago. I play small ball, know where I am in the hand and then watch my opponent catch on the river. Usually it works out that the river card also improves my hand but makes his. You can tell by my tongue in cheek cyncism on the front page about getting rivered that I'm tired of this happeneing. It happens in online poker and in live poker.

In one texas hold 'em tournament I called a guy until the river with second pair--tens. The flop was king high but he was last to act and I felt like was betting some sort of draw. On the turn, he looked like he wasn't improving and threw out another just go away bet when I'd check to him out of position. I call. His river bet didn't bring a flush or a straight card but was a Queen. This time he bet with some confidence and I felt I was beat. Yet, it was a small enough bet I felt I had to call. In my mind, only hand that topped me was a flush draw that was queen high. Yep, that's exactly what he held. He showed doing the verbal free-roll saying the queen cost him a bit to my King. No, just a 10 buddy.

Negreanu advocates in his "defending" your blind blog post check calling these hands until the river ( Here I'm extrapolating out of position heads up post flop to the same line of thinking. Though, I imagine the disconnect and the right play to make is if you feel confident you are making the right read to fire back at the guy. Not so fast, upon closer reading he almost discourages that because he feels you are building a pot with a marginal hand. Now, let's say I raise and this guy calls with his flush draw even if I price him out--happens. Then he hits his queen and thinks that's good and makes a bigger value bet I have to call. Result I lose more money.

Maybe some resistances convinces him that I have top pair and he doesn't press with his pair of queens. And my agression on the turn and river get him to fold. Still I think the play Negreanu advocates is to keep the pots small to weather the rivered card better. Who knows if you earlier bet will take down the pot it might just steal from your stack when fifth street brings a bad call.

I've been utilizing the small ball approach in cash and when I play poker tournament games but feel I really only go deep in tournaments when I'm able to pick up some big early pots. I'm not a very good chip bully but it's far easier to play when you are somewhat deep. So perhaps I need to readjust my thinking.

My nit-ish philosophy has it's role models in Negreanu and Hellmuth. They aren't the only nits to achieve some success now nit21nit took down one of the more prestigious online tournaments at the Grand Series of Poker (for more details check out Bwin's online poker blog (

Often times online handles are just the opposite of playing styles, like an introduction based on a lie. Seems like a bad Threes Company episode (were there any good ones?). A little information, misconstrued has disastorous consequences in texas holdem. Anyway, nit21nit won the final hand with pocket Aces. So he must be tight. Right, he only plays Aces--he must be tight. Regardless of the fact card-dead loose players also play aces. That piece of information really tells us nothing, though you'll hear players at a table comment on it like it's gospel. They say "You only play Aces," start stealing immediately.

Anyway, I digress, let's say nit21nit, is truely such a nit he'd name himself nit twice. For those that know, a nit, is a rock, or a very tight player. It would make sense as the 5k tournament progressed at a slow deliberate pace. A player named redspeeder went out 6th (that's what you get for speeding).

Back to that final hand, nit21nit won when his hand pocket Aces beat KJ who made top pair on a king high board. KoJack lost when nit21nit shoved on the turn. Check-calling seems to be the right play here and it was a bit of a heads-up cooler hand for obling27. Nit21nit took home over 100k for his steady play, in a field of 78 players, with a total prize pool of $390k.


Southpawrounder said…
I like the small ball approach as it should help you stay away from disasters and keep you out of trouble. One thing DN does stress though is that he can only do that in the really deep stack drawn out tourneys that he plays. Most of the tourneys you and I play you really can't play small ball in my opinion, or at least not the way he does it simply b/c you don't have the time and chips to be that patient. You are forced to make moves and get chips in the pot much earlier and more often.

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