In the tank
EPT and WPT champ Roberto Romanello is one of the UK’s leading players and is here to solve your poker dilemmas.
How do you cope with the early levels in big tournaments. I’ve managed to win a few satellites recently and I’ve found it a bit of a challenge adjusting as they are so different from online tournaments. The early stages are really slow and very deep stacked. So my question is when you are at the start of a big tournament like a UKIPT do you think I should be playing tons of hands when the blinds are small or playing really tight instead? I’m not sure if there is a right answer on this as I’ve tried both.
I do both. Sometimes I’ll sit down in a tournament and play a ton of hands early. I learned the skill of playing loads of hands without jeopardising a large portion of your stack. I wouldn’t go over the top and risk losing half my stack. You should just use a few hundred chips at a time and know when to give up in a hand. It’s when you have a monster that you should play big pots. When I play major tournaments now I don’t know how I’m going to play until I sit down. If the table is playing wild and crazy and full of good players then I will sit back and tighten up. There’s no need to be a hero, you’re just there to get chips. It’s very important to adapt and to be able to play both tight and loose.
Do you have a preference for playing day 1A or day 1B in live tourneys? I’ve heard a lot of people say that you will find a lot more pros on day 1A and I’ve heard people say exactly the same thing about day 1B. It’s very confusing! In your experience do you think the fields are significantly softer on any of the particular days? My normal preference is to play day 1B as I don’t like to wait too long before playing day 2, but I think maybe I am missing out on some value by missing the softer fields.
I don’t have a huge preference at all. I play whatever and go with the flow. I end up playing a lot of 1Bs though purely because of travelling. If I get to the event early it can be best to play 1A because a lot of the online grinders will be playing online tournaments that day and the field may be softer.
As poker is getting harder and harder each year is it a job that you’d recommend to young people coming into the game anymore? Have you found that it is getting harder to earn money too?
It’s tough to beat the online game now and I know it is getting harder. However, while playing live it is also getting harder you just have to know how the game is changing and recognise the different types of opponents. When I sit down at a live table I change my game to tailor each opponent. I can play against the young internet players in one way and the older live pros in another. It’s getting harder but the live game is still very beatable. It’s very important to adapt to each player. Against old guys I’d play a certain way which would not be too fancy and instead just be straightforward and decisive. Whereas against another player who was really wild I’d have a game to trap him and try to be clever. I’d also have a different game against the internet kids who are very willing to three and four-bet light preflop. You’d get eaten up these days if you purely have one strategy of playing.
I’ve often gone broke with A-K when playing in big tournaments. It always seems far too strong a hand to fold, and calling just seems weak. But should I always be getting it all-in preflop unless me and my opponent are really, really deep stacked?
It didn’t take me long to understand that A-K is overrated early on in tournaments. I will never go broke with it early in a tournament, it’s not winning strategy. But A-K is still a strong hand early. I will sometimes just call from the blinds or put in a small three-bet versus an early position raiser. This is purely to isolate my opponent and attempt to have him dominated. Late on in a tournament A-K becomes a huge hand. Over 90% of the time I am getting my chips in with it. I will always three-bet with the intention of snapping off a four-bet shove. Versus a really good aggressive player you should even get it all-in when much deeper.
I’ve been playing poker for years but seem to have hit a wall where I’m not getting any better. For the first few years I was making huge advances pretty much every time I sat down to play. I was doing a lot more study in those days, but I probably play even more poker these days so I’m not sure I am being lazy. But I guess I could work harder on my game. I see a lot of other players moving up stakes while I seem to have plateaued. Do you think to be great at poker you have to have a natural talent for it and if you don’t have that talent should you just knock it on the head?
I feel that poker has huge talent in the game. Those with talent pick it up really fast. When I started playing I believed I had a natural talent because it came naturally to me what to do in certain situations. But even if you don’t have natural talent you can improve hugely, it just takes a little longer. I think you can still play pro without much talent. There is so much dead money around if you pick the right tournaments and cash games you will always have an edge.
It’s important to be in charge of your emotions on the poker tables and that means dealing with nerves. Coping with nerves is one of the biggest hurdles for the amateur player to overcome, but the best remedy is time and experience. Romanello says don’t panic when you sit down at the table and concentrate on not making mistakes and playing your own game. ‘I remember the first time I ever went to a casino I was so nervous. It was intimidating and I was afraid. I never forget that. Another time I felt nervous was in my first major TV tournament, but those nerves are natural. Nowadays I don’t feel anything. I could even sit down in the $1m One Drop and I wouldn’t be nervous. For me it’s important just to not make mistakes and play well. You overcome those nerves with the more experience that you get.’
Send your questions to Roberto Romanello at email@example.com
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