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Differences between mid-stakes and low-stakes tourneys (live)

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  • Differences between mid-stakes and low-stakes tourneys (live)

    Wondering what folks' observations were as to the biggest differences in playing styles between, say, live tourneys under $600 or so and those up to say $2,500 or so. A lot of the open limpers do not make the jump for example, or get abused pretty regularly. Curious as to everyone's observations on the difference in style, not so much that "there are better players" (although still plenty of recreational players at those levels too).

  • #2
    My experience in larger buy-in tournaments is somewhat limited, but from what I can see the biggest difference is aggression. Lower stakes players tend not to play aggressively, in that they open limp more, 3-bet less, and don't do nearly enough floating or bluffing. In higher stakes tournaments, you'll see more aggressive play in general.

    This isn't to say you don't see aggressive play in small stakes and passive play in a mid-stakes tournament, but the frequency of aggressive play seems to increase the higher the buy-in.


    • OPK
      OPK commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the response! Definitely agree with my limited experience ad mid-games. Aggression applied more intelligently.

  • #3
    I am currently making this progression as we speak. I began playing exclusively live tournaments under $200. I have since built up my game and bankroll and just this year started playing $600-$1200 range tournaments.

    Let me preface by saying that it is hard to classify and correlate between price of the tournament and skill level. For example I played in a $1000 buy in tournament a few months ago that played as soft as a $175 buy in. And just this weekend I played in a $600 buy in that was by far the toughest table I have ever played at. Someone at my table even commented to me on break that he thought it played like a $5k buy in he recently played on the EPT. Im 36 and I was the second oldest player at the table and 1 of maybe 3 who spoke english. Needless to say the table was crazy aggressive and full of talented players. Things such as location, venues, etc make a huge difference.

    In a nutshell, there is definitely luck involved within each tournament that determines exactly how vast the differences are.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that I think it is fair to say each tier of tournament buy in price has its share of poor play. Its just as you move up you most likely will find less and less of it. There becomes less and less dead money at each table. So you end up fighting good players for pots and are forced to take spots you may not take in lower tier tournaments. Which I think leads to greater variance. In lower tier tournaments its not that hard to cash. You can wait for great hands and get paid off. As you move up, it becomes more difficult to cash as you cannot just wait for great hands because players are better and will not just pay you off when you have them. You have to find other ways to win pots.

    An example of this is that at a $175 buy in at my local casino you will have 2-3 players at your table that you feel are happy to play big pots with marginal holdings. You can take your time and look for spots. You have AA in a heads up pot on a J52 flop and there is some guy that is happy getting KJ in the middle for 100bb. At 2nd tier tournaments you might be lucky to find one of these players the entire day. And they are often gone very quickly because others are noticing this and gunning for them as well.

    After playing several tournaments in this 2nd tier price range ($600-$1200) a few things are starting to become apparent.

    1. Aggression. I feel this one is obvious. But a perfect example is 3-bet ranges. Not only are you seeing 3-bets more, but in lower stake local casino dailies or weekend tournaments a 3-bet is QQ+ 80% of the time. You never see a four bet that is not all in. At this 2nd tier players pick spots to 3-bet light very often. To isolate, etc. In this last $600 I played in I saw a 7-bet all in. Which is the first time I have ever seen a 7-bet live.

    You also see less limping in general and rarely do you see a limped pot go to the flop. In the lower tier you see multiple limp pots per level.

    2. Ability to read ranges. A large majority of players in this pool have the ability to put you on ranges. Unlike the lower level of buy ins. Your bluff attempts have to add up more often than not to be profitable. Where in the 1st tier price range you can sometimes bluff with shear aggression and get folds. You have to make a believable story with your bluffs.

    3. Ability to disguise their holdings. Unlike the lower tier tournaments, a majority of players at this level know that you can perform basic hand reading skills. So they go out of their way by disguising their holdings throughout the hand to make it harder for you to read. A basic example of this would be flatting with AA or KK pre. Where you would never see this in the lower tier as players are so excited to get their money in they spill their chips when they 3-bet all in.

    4. Mistakes become more costly. Things you may be able to get away with at smaller stakes now start to become major leaks for you. Becoming impatient and opening wider than normal for a hand, 3-betting light just to play, not paying attention to position, etc. Any mistake you make has a great chance of being exploited because the competition is better. And any mistake you make could be the last one you make for that tournament.

    5. Shoving ranges and calling ranges are wider. I still think people do not shove wide enough or call wide enough at the 2nd tier (from what I have studied), but it is much better than the lower tier where if you jam JTs from the button for 10bb when it folds to you and some older nit calls from the BB with AK, and you get a collective (what the f&#*k are you doing risking your tournament life with that!) moan from the entire table.

    6. Bubble play is tougher (money and final table bubble). More players are aware of how you can abuse this dynamic which can put you in tough spots with below average or little to no chips.

    Thats just a few that I have noticed off the top of my head. But in general, the higher the buy in I have played, the less poor play you find. It is still there, just not at the extent at the lower tiers.
    Last edited by JredA; 06-13-2017, 04:47 PM.


    • OPK
      OPK commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, lots to think about here. Makes sense and matches my limited experience as I try to move up.