Paul Phua Poker talks poker tournament play with Steve O’Dwyer.
Steve O’Dwyer didn’t get where he is today by having an inflexible poker tournament strategy. His $20 million-plus live tournament winnings make him one of the most successful players of all time and, like all the best players, he understands that the dynamics of a poker tournament are ever-changing; a test of situational awareness in which you either perceive and adapt, or die. In fact, he’s so adaptable, he even changed his nationality, from American to Irish. Who better, then, to quiz on the complex fluctuations of tournament poker?
Changing-up Your Tournament Play
“That’s the great thing about poker – literally every hand is different,” muses O’Dwyer in this new Paul Phua Poker video. “You have different opponents with different stack sizes, and those stack sizes change every hand, and the cards change every hand, and the board changes every hand. Everything changes every hand. People’s emotions change every hand.”
A poker tournament has many inflection points – subtle changes in structure that you must be aware of so you can adapt your tournament play accordingly. Fortunately, there are computer programmes and training tools that you can use to help you negotiate these, particularly in the late stages of a tournament. As O’Dwyer points out, this aspect of poker is “relatively solved”, and applications like SnapShove can tell you which hands you need to shove in which positions and with what stack sizes.
Adapt to Opponents’ Emotions
But it’s just as important to pay attention to your opponents because every tiny scrap of information can be valuable and factored into your tournament play, says O’Dwyer.
“You have to adapt to every single hand and look at people’s emotions and their stack sizes and how those emotions might change as their stacks go up and down,” he adds. “Or, you know, if it seems like they’re like texting furiously with their girlfriend – that might change things, or maybe they’ve just got their food order delivered, and they’re eating, and no one’s gonna get a fresh plate of food and look down at, you know, 6-5 suited under the gun and go, ‘Gotta play this hand’. They’re gonna take a bite of their hot food, you know.
“Always look and see what’s going on around you and pay attention to all the information that is coming in and try to process it in a way that will help you make better decisions,” he adds.