Donkey Move or Expert Play. You Need to Tell the Difference
I have been only playing MTTs throughout 2007 with the little time I have for poker. I feel my MTT game has progressed while my cash game has surely regressed during this time. The improvements to my MTT game are late game type improvements, and I still have a long way to go. What I have learned how to do is make some donkey plays late. You see experts make what look to non-experts like complete donkey moves in the latter stages of MTTs.
What am I talking about? Let me explain. Expert plays late in an MTT are pushing all-in with ATC, and calling all-ins with ATC. To the casual observer this appears to be complete donkery, and when it works complete lucksacery. But when an expert does it, it is neither. Getting it in behind (sometimes way behind) by pushing with ATC or calling pushes with ATC, is solidly profitable when done in the right situations. Solidly profitable when considering both chip equity and tournament equity. These are MTT moves. They rarely make sense in a cash game, but in an MTT make sense more often then most people realize.
What an expert is doing is deducing a hand range or hand ranges, and calculating expectation value of their hand against that range. It is not very easy to do on the fly, but those that are good at it, can donk it up and be highly successful late in MTTs. When the stacks get short, and antes are in play, you would be surprised how often ATC get priced in. Experts figure this out, and get it in behind like a total donk and profit because of it. You need to be painfully aware of whats going on late. If you make a note on what a donk a player is when they are far from a donkey you are hurting yourself. Also, if you give a donkey credit for expert play you are also making a mistake. You actually need to try to make the calculations the expert is making even when you are not in a hand, to figure out if they are expert or not. If you can figure out what is going on you can exploit it. Moves with ATC are obviously exploitable, and this is where experts can actually be exploited. Rather than give you a classic type example, I will present the hand below from a $26 45 player S&G. I was 4-tabling at the time so no huge reads, but if you follow the thought process, I think you will see what might be going on here.
Full Tilt Poker Game #4642528006: $24 + $2 Sit & Go (35207042), Table 4 - 250/500 - No Limit Hold'em - 14:31:28 ET - 2007/12/27
Seat 1: PSYCHOPARANOID (6,190)
Seat 2: Blinders (10,806)
Seat 3: LUCKY FOX (8,326)
Seat 4: tslee1004 (3,550)
Seat 5: vanstock7 (4,390)
Seat 6: captain pflanze (10,205)
Seat 7: Mozart12 (7,780)
Seat 8: ladyluck2442 (12,135)
Seat 9: Chobii83 (4,118)
LUCKY FOX posts the small blind of 250
tslee1004 posts the big blind of 500
The button is in seat #2
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [Jh Qc]
captain pflanze folds
Mozart12 calls 500
ladyluck2442 calls 500
I don't have a huge hand here, but I am on the button, and have a big stack. QJo has some potential, so I limp into what may become a 5-way pot on the flop.
Blinders calls 500
LUCKY FOX calls 250
As it got to the BB who was the smallest stack at the Final Table, I realized that he was priced in to push ATC in this situation. We have 2500 dead in the pot, and 4 limpers before him. The BB has 3050 behind after posting. He can jam and assuming only one player calls he is putting 3050 in for a 8600 pot. That's contributing 35% of the pot. Since we have a bunch of limpers, there is no reason to think anyone has a big pair. You need to figure ATC has at least 40% equity against any caller. On top of that, since this is 4 limpers, he has folding equity here as well. He is also the shortest stack at the final table with top 6 paid. Stealing the limps, or getting called and winning increase his tournament equity substantially. This is actually a pretty easy push with ATC for the BB with all this considered. If he does push ATC and gets called, he will look like a total donk. If he pushes ATC here, he is an expert though and far from a donk.
tslee1004 raises to 3,550, and is all in
Mozart12 has 15 seconds left to act
So I am putting this guy on ATC, or at least potentially ATC. With the stack that I have I can afford this call. I am getting the same odds as he was for his push. If my equity in the pot is better than 35% I need to call here. My equity against ATC is well over 50%, and my hand plays very well against 22-TT, so I am good against some better hands as well. My game is just not quite there yet though.
LUCKY FOX folds
Uncalled bet of 3,050 returned to tslee1004
tslee1004 wins the pot (2,500)
I ended up in 6th. I had no idea if this guy was really an expert or woke up with a decent hand. But, I hope you can see how an expert can be exploited here, and can also look like a complete donkey. He obviously does not want the call with ATC, but was priced in for a call anyway. Not making the call, is almost the same as not pushing ATC in the other guys position, which was a correct move. The difference is that I don't get folding equity, but I also don't have ATC. Those two things would tend to wash out. So by not making the donkey call here, I guess I am the donkey?