Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stalling in MTTs

Hoy posted a week or so back about slowing down his play on purpose while in the money of a major online MTT. A practice also known as stalling. The general idea behind stalling in an MTT is that it forces your table to play fewer hands, while other non-stalling tables play more hands. This in general will result in more eliminations at the other tables, and less at your table, causing you to move up the payout schedule. Now I have stalled like probably no other in past MTTs, so I agree in principle with what I just wrote above. That however does not make it the correct strategy at any specific point of a MTT.

Stalling is useful in some limited MTT situations for most players, and useful in additional situations as your skill level declines. Stalling works best in large Satellite MTTs with multiple tables left. If you are at the Final Table, stalling can’t help you at all because there will not be another table to play faster. So stalling makes no sense in a 1 or 2 table S&G. It also makes little sense when you are down to the last few tables in an MTT of any size.

When does stalling work the best?

1) Flat Payout Large Field Satellites
If you are in a satellite that pays out 30+ identical seats, and you accumulate a certain high enough number of chips, stalling is a solid move. If you figure that you have 30 minutes of blindes/antes left and the Satellite bubble will burst in 25 minute, you don’t need to play another hand to get your seat. You really should not play another hand once safely into a seat. I have seen tons of people blow a seat they had already earned by getting AA or KK cracked near the Satellite bubble. So you could just fold to the money in the above example. Let’s say that you only have 20 minutes worth of blinds, and the bubble will bust in 25 minutes. Then you stall to your seat. You slow the blinds down enough at your own table to stretch your 20 minute of blinds out to 30-40 minutes, and win your seat. A hugely +EV move by any calculation in a flat payout Satellite.

2) Fucking a Short Stack in a Turbo Near the Bubble.
This is one of my favorites, and applies mainly to turbo MTTs. In turbos, timing can be everything. As the bubble approaches shorties will be trying to figure out if they can get through the blinds one more time before being forced all-in. Sometimes you can stall before the blinds get to them and get the level to pop up to something they can’t cover. This will force them all-in an orbit earlier than planned, and with less hands to choose from that they thought. If you apply this correctly, by stalling on just one or two hands, you can force the bubble to break.

3) Safely in the Money, and Very Near the Bubble
If you have a decent stack, are at a tough table with big stacks, and are 10 minutes or less from Hand for Hand or the bubble, you may want to stall to get through. The key here is that you will be only stalling for a short amount of time, and will be assured of a cash if you do. Unless you are in a great situation as a pretty big favorite, you should not get yourself eliminated at this point.

4) Hopelessly Short Stacked and Near the bubble
This one is kind of like example #1. You are very short, but figure that if you stall, you can get ITM. You are basically trading any shot of winning the MTT for the small cash prize. In this case, you need to try to figure out your chances for a much higher cash if you play the MTT out normally instead. If your chances are very small, you may want to throw the towel in and take a cash. Just make sure you can actually make it ITM. Sometimes you will stall away and still not quite make it. You need to factor this in as well.

5) Hopelessly Short Stacked and Just Past the Bubble in a Large MTT
In this case you used example #4 and made it ITM. You realize that you can get through two more orbits. You figure with stalling this will take 20+ minutes. You also know that now that the bubble has burst people will be flying out. So you stall to move up a few more payouts, also giving up any chance to win the MTT.

6) Medium+ Stack, in a Potential Elimination Hand and Near a Higher Payout
Sometimes you will pick up a hand that you know you will be going to the felt with in a large MTT. If you are very near a payout jump, you can stall this one hand as much as possible and hope for others to be eliminated and for Hand for Hand to start. If you can get to hand for hand while stalling, and somebody with a smaller stack is eliminated, you will still move up a payout even if eliminated on this hand.

7) Stalling to appear weak
If you stall a couple of hands near the bubble people will expect you to continue with your plans. Sometimes you do this to set someone up if you are willing to play back. This works best as you blinds are approaching, and you are willing to defend them.

So above are some examples of when it can be correct to stall. Now before I go any further, I need to clarify something. When I say stall, I mean stall. You use every possible second you can before acting. This includes letting your time expire if that slows down the table by an additional second or two. Stalling is not against the rules, so if you are going to do it, you do it. You don’t apologize for it. You will piss the table off in most cases, but who cares. You are employing a strategy that is with-in the rules of the poker site. Now let’s look at why stalling in general is a bad strategy.

Stalling will reduce the number of hands played per hour at your table, by a large amount. One player stalling can cause close to ½ as many hands to be played as what is normal. The blinds will continue to go up at the normal rate, so what you have done is cause there to be half has many hands per blind level at your table. You have caused the blinds at your table to be effectively turbo. I will not try to argue this point here, but in general slower structures favor the better players, while turbo structures reduce the better player’s edge. If you are a “better player”, you are reducing your edge by stalling. If you are outclassed at you table or in the MTT you may be helping your chances, but now you are relying on luck mostly to succeed.

So as I became a better MTT player, I found that there were much less situations where I could correctly employ stalling. Almost to the point where I don’t do it anymore. There are times when you should never stall as well.

Never Stall in an MTT When

1) There is more than 30 minutes to the expected bubble.
2) You are the largest stack at your table.
3) You are near the bubble, and at a passive table.
4) You are past the post bubble frenzy.
5) You feel you are one of the best players in the MTT.

An interesting example is the Bodonkey. This is a small field MTT so in general stalling is ruled out. You do have the points which are worth a lot. I seat in the final is worth roughly $750, and the total buy-in for the series is only $198. So stalling to the points makes some sense except there are only two tables left at points bubble time. With two table left you lose most of your leverage from stalling making it not worth much. The next interesting bubble in the Bodonkey is for the 109 MTT credits. These go to the top five. So you are at a single table at that point, and stalling can’t help. Since there is such a huge payout jump from 6th place to 5th, not playing a hand now becomes a strategy with results similar to stalling. The fuck the guy in the blinds technique can also come into play on the 109 MTT credit bubble. This week I got through the 109 credit bubble for 4th place. I am sitting in 9th overall through 3 events. My goal in these things is to get the 109 credit first before focusing on the win. I think this is +EV, but I may have hurt my win chances this week a bit.

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At 11:39 AM, Blogger bayne_s said...

Final Table bubble in an FTOPS event is another fine place for stalling.

Maybe this is a subset of payout jump stall but I was 9th of 10 with less than 2.5 BBs and the shorty at the other table was going to be forced all in 1st.

Despite it being hand for hand I used my timer to make my decision each hand after he made his decision if I had a strong hand.

At 6:54 AM, Blogger A** said...

Very Nice Post ...

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Mr.Plough said...

People who do this are completely retarded and can never grasp the fact they get less hands per blind level which is not a good thing if they are anyway shortstacked. If scraping into the money to get your buyin means so much to you rather then trying to win the tournament you're playing above your bankroll in the first place.


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