“He Is a Good Tournament Player”

Since I play poker mainly when the tournaments are in town, this is a phrase that I hear frequently, usually after someone has given their money away playing  a cash game.  Though I try not to look a gift horse in the mouth, for some reason the lack of understanding of tournament play irks me.  I have described some of the variance in tournaments in my post http://www.pokerconsultant.org/why-i-rarely-play-tournaments/ but I would like to discuss a few factors in the difference between tournaments and cash game play.

In reality, tournaments  appear more different than they are.  Yes, they have different structures, buyins, etc. but for the vast majority of the tournament, your goal and your method of getting there is the exact same as in cash games, namely to win the most chips by outplaying your opponents.  On the bubble(just before the money) and during the payout stage(at the various steps) there are subtle differences in strategy, but for the most part you are simply adapting to your opponents and knowing the odds vs. a range when someone shoves allin.

When someone doesn’t understand the fundamentals of the game, it is nearly impossible that they are a “good tournament player,” because being a tournament player necessarily means understanding the fundamentals.  It is akin to someone telling me that they are a good basketball player because they once made 2/4 3 pointers, and when they go to the basketball court, they can’t dribble.

There are so many tournaments, probably 2 tournament series a week in the US, that someone is always “hot,” having won 2 in a month, final tabled a 3 in a series and who believe that they are a great tournament player.  To them, it is impossible that there is luck involved and that they are in a similar boat to those people who have a “system” that beats roulette.

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