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Old 05-20-2010, 06:11 PM   #1
Poker Clif
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Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

The accepted wisdom on these forums, and in the poker community in general, has been that you maximize long-term profit by taking risks, especially on the bubble, to try to make it to the final table. The reason is that you make more getting a few very large cashes than you do with a bunch of small ones.

Lately, I've come across several examples in my reading where the author doesn't agree with this--and I'm not talking about folding your way into life-changing money, which many would agree might be a rational thing to do.

Here are two of several examples that I have seen recently:

1. But in a multi-table tournament, if the prize jumps are significant relative to your bankroll, risk aversion may allow for some "coasting." If moving up one or two rungs in the latter ensures your ability to make profitable future investments, you might reasonable decline a marginally positive equity play. (Sit 'n Go Strategy, p. 216)

2. But if you don't play regularly and you won a satellite to get in, the difference between winning, say, $6,000 if you finish twelfth and $7,900 if you finish eleventh is meaningful if you got in for $150. (Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide: Tournament Edition, chapter entitled "Seven Card Stud: Tournament Stategy", chapter author David Grey, p. 344)

So, we seem to have at least three reasons to break the "play to win, not to cash" rule:

1. It's OK if folding gets allows you to win life-changing money. (I think that this is discussed in either HOH or HOH2, but I'm not sure).

2. It's OK if you can make profitable future investments (Moshman).

3. It's OK if the money is "meaningful" (Grey).

Are these vaild points, or the start of a slippery slope that leads away from profit maximizing?
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:19 PM   #2
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

i think all of those examples apply to playing in games that you aren't properly rolled for, which you shouldn't be doing in the first place.
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:25 PM   #3
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

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i think all of those examples apply to playing in games that you aren't properly rolled for, which you shouldn't be doing in the first place.
agreed. or maybe if you win a seat in a tournament you would not have been rolled for, decide to still play in it instead of taking the cash, in which case a small cash in said event would be meaningful for your bankroll.
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:29 PM   #4
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

I satty into events bigger than my normal bankrolled-for stakes quite often and I think all the reasons listed in OP are valid ones. It's perfectly legit to try and cash rather than to try and increase your tourney equity/try and win the tourney at every juncture.

Just remember that it's not optimal (that is to say, profit maximising).
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:10 AM   #5
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

If you find youself late in an unusually high stakes tourney you might want to consider the utility value of money. Basically this describes how, for example, the first million you win is worth more to you than the second million as the first million can give you security, house etc. Or to put it another way - it is not always correct to bet your 10 million to win 30 million on a coinflip if losing would crush you in life.
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:29 AM   #6
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

Well, without being cliched, the standard poker answer applies. It Depends.

If you regularly play in $2 MTT's, where a big cash might be about $60 and cashing is about $2.88, then its very reasonable to risk busting out to make the higher grades of money imo.

If on the other hand you happen to be lucky enough to win entry to the $10,000 WSOP ME (extreme example) via a crapshoot $1 satellite, than the rate of investment for cashing is a sickening 25000%. I don't think anybody would hold it against you for just hanging in tight for $25000 for that original $1 investment and a story if that money means something very tangible to you (it would for me).

Would you regret not going for gold? Maybe, but with a $25,000 payday.. I think I would forgive myself.

So, imo, its still the 'mathematically wrong' thing to do, but math is idiotic.
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Old 05-21-2010, 11:37 AM   #7
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

Even leaving utility out of it, the answer still is 'it depends' IMO. You have to consider the structure of the tournament and the behaviour of the players, and assess the value of the 'sure thing' versus a speculative higher reward.

This applies particularly in smaller tournaments on the bubble. I often play $6 limit holdem tourneys on Party (yes, I know the rake is $1, but I figure it comes back to you in donk equity). If they have say 140 entries, they will pay twenty prizes - 18-20 will be $10, 15-17 will be $12.50, something like that. 10th place will give $20, 9th will give $26, and then they start to move up at a healthy rate.

You can easily find yourself safely coasting into at least 20th but a long way from 10th. In such a case it seems to me you're an idiot to take big risks until the bubble is over, unless you assess your equity as being huge on a particular hand. You can make sure of $10 without really making a lot of difference to your chances of hitting the FT.

On the FT, also, maybe it's a Party thing, but I find players often go crazy once they get there. Come in with 1 chip on the button, and it's quite likely that two players will go out before the blinds come around to you. With a small stack, I'll wait for them to do that.

So with a small to medium stack, I tighten up on the button, and to reach the FT, and on the FT too so long as people are willing to knock themselves out.

The difference between limit and no limit is relevant to some extent, of course, but I think the same basic arguments apply. 'Always aim for first' is too simplistic an attitude.

Maybe it's okay to take that attitude in very large tournaments, where you have a very smooth reward curve. I still think it must be +EV to make sure of cashing.

Cashing versus not cashing typically affects your RoI for a particular tournament by 150-200%. That's enough that paying attention to it will significantly affect your average ROI.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:46 PM   #8
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

I think a lot depends upon the situation. A lot of the "books" make the assumption that 90% of the table tightens up around the bubble, if that is the case yes there is money to be made by being aggresssive. On the other hand you also need to recognze this and be in a position to take advantage of the situation. I believe the assumption probably holds true in the big dollar games but some of the smaller Mtt's etc have enough players playing by the Books that your aggression may back fire.

If you are the short stack the chances of getting called with an aggressive bet are a lot higher and even a double up may not significantly improve your odds of winning or final tabling the tourney. While folding and cashing may not lead to a great profit it does help the bootom line to cash a high % of times.

While a big stack can more easily take advantage if the table tightens up and definately be looking at a final table if he can steal enough chips.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:53 PM   #9
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

Too much is made of the play to win vs play to cash arguments. Whether it makes more sense to coast or go for broke is too situational to adopt some cliched "I play to win" philosophy, assuming that maximizing your return is your overall objective. In a general sense the prize pools are very top heavy but it's still got to be balanced against tourney equity you could be sacrificing if you're overreaching for a top spot.

If you're playing for braclets or something that's a different story.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:18 PM   #10
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

OP please don't compare tournaments and sit n go's as if they are the same. Moshman is discussing sit n go play (single table i'm assuming) where playing to cash is correct as far as passing up +cEV edges that are not +$EV. They are not the same.

Also, you don't really expect that every author out there is going to be the Einstein of poker? Absorb the information that you think is good for your playing style and filter out the rest.
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:56 PM   #11
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

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Originally Posted by no_clue View Post
OP please don't compare tournaments and sit n go's as if they are the same. Moshman is discussing sit n go play (single table i'm assuming) where playing to cash is correct as far as passing up +cEV edges that are not +$EV. They are not the same.

Also, you don't really expect that every author out there is going to be the Einstein of poker? Absorb the information that you think is good for your playing style and filter out the rest.
this.
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Old 05-21-2010, 05:06 PM   #12
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

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Originally Posted by no_clue View Post
OP please don't compare tournaments and sit n go's as if they are the same. Moshman is discussing sit n go play (single table i'm assuming) where playing to cash is correct as far as passing up +cEV edges that are not +$EV. They are not the same.
They are not the same, but similar aspects of chip equity vs. prize pool equity still apply. Given normal prize pool distribution, it is never correct to play only to win or only to cash when maximizing expected value in both single table SNG and MTT. How much you need adjust to maximize prize pool equity instead of chip equity depends on the prize pool distribution, and is situation dependant, as stated by Bizarro Gonzo.

Of course, the ultimately correct thing maximize is the utility. As prize pool equity is a function of chip equities and prize pool distribution, utility is a function of prize pool equity and individual utility "distribution", so folding your way to cash might be correct in some situations even if playing aggressively would have bigger expected value.
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:03 PM   #13
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

This is a simple answer.

Utility EV vs Monetary EV

In life maximizing utility EV should be our goal. If you are playing the correct game the maximization of utility EV and monetary EV should lead to the same strategy.
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:37 PM   #14
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

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Originally Posted by no_clue View Post
OP please don't compare tournaments and sit n go's as if they are the same. Moshman is discussing sit n go play (single table i'm assuming) where playing to cash is correct as far as passing up +cEV edges that are not +$EV. They are not the same.

Also, you don't really expect that every author out there is going to be the Einstein of poker? Absorb the information that you think is good for your playing style and filter out the rest.
Moshman was comparing SNGs to MTTs in that section. The part that I quoted was talking about MTTs.
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Old 05-21-2010, 09:27 PM   #15
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

Moshman also clearly points out (and proves mathematically) a number of situations where common poker wisdom must give way to a systematic approach in the context of 1 table sng's. J7s as an open shove? never in a cash game.....a lot of times in a sng. anyway just thought I would point this out, as people started bringing up Moshman. IMHO great SNG theorist, yes. Great poker player.....maybe not. (and yes I have his SNG book.)
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Old 05-22-2010, 11:42 AM   #16
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

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Originally Posted by csk30 View Post
I satty into events bigger than my normal bankrolled-for stakes quite often and I think all the reasons listed in OP are valid ones. It's perfectly legit to try and cash rather than to try and increase your tourney equity/try and win the tourney at every juncture.

Just remember that it's not optimal (that is to say, profit maximising).
Your skill in the sat is just getting you a slightly discounted entry to the larger tournament (you should be rolled for the cost of this discounted entry). You are then squandering that discount by playing scared.
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Old 05-22-2010, 12:42 PM   #17
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

I think cashing is better than winning only if you can cash often enough to compensate for whatever you miss out on from winning.

Say you do a $100 tourney, top ten pay, 10th = $200 and 1st = $1000. Basically, you'd have to, at the very least, finish 10th five times to equal one win. No easy task there. But that's probably the main reason why people say play to win. Even if you're very skilled, it's rare enough to cash as is, you might as well take the necessary risks to win it in the process.
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Old 05-22-2010, 04:52 PM   #18
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by csk30 View Post
I satty into events bigger than my normal bankrolled-for stakes quite often and I think all the reasons listed in OP are valid ones. It's perfectly legit to try and cash rather than to try and increase your tourney equity/try and win the tourney at every juncture.

Just remember that it's not optimal (that is to say, EV maximising).
Once FYP, agreed, and...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZachCope View Post
If you find youself late in an unusually high stakes tourney you might want to consider the utility value of money. Basically this describes how, for example, the first million you win is worth more to you than the second million as the first million can give you security, house etc. Or to put it another way - it is not always correct to bet your 10 million to win 30 million on a coinflip if losing would crush you in life.
this.
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Old 05-25-2010, 01:40 AM   #19
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Re: Tournaments: Play to win, not to cash--some authors disagree.

This has been an interesting discussion. I must say I'm surprised that there weren't more "play to win" advocates in this thread. I was bashed for not holding that view, with no exceptions, about a week ago.

The reason I put this out there is that I got two very different messages at about the same time. About the time that I thought about how a lot of people seem to be backing off the absolutist "play to win, not to cash" strategy, I saw something on TV that was a very good example of just that view.

I was watching the WPT (not sure if it was the current season or not), and the announcers clearly showed which camp they were in. It was stated, very approvingly I thought, that Chris Ferguson had only cashed 3 times in the last WPT season--but they were all final tables.

Last edited by Poker Clif; 05-25-2010 at 01:41 AM. Reason: spelling
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