Large Player Fields

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The final table of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event is fast approaching, with the nine remaining players set to do battle on November 9th until a victor is decided. To reach this point those nine players had to navigate a treacherous and gigantic player field that began with 6,844 players all clamoring to be the one to win it all. The large player field is just a small example of the poker explosion that has occurred over recent years, and professional poker players have had to adjust to having large playing fields at the marquee events. There are many different approaches one can take to competing in these large fields, and we will look at several in this article.

While larger fields do make it more difficult to become the one person to win a tournament, many professional players love having large player fields. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that the prize pools are obviously going to be larger, making the tournaments more worthwhile for the pros, who could just as easily be playing high stakes cash games. The other reason is that they can take advantage of the high number of weak players who flock to these big events, taking their chips early and often, thereby increasing their chances of making the money. In smaller events the quality of players is generally higher, with less fish to be found in the waters.

There are two diametrically opposed ways to battle against the legions of fish. The first is to avoid them, especially in the early rounds, as they could easily get lucky on a boneheaded play to cripple the better player’s stack. This approach involves sitting back waiting for big hands and then allow the fish to destroy themselves by blindly taking on the superior hand.

Another way to battle against the fish is to play against them as much as possible, relying on superior skill and hand selection to carry the day. In this approach hand selection and timing are very important, as the player must stack the odds as much in their favor as possible to lessen the chances of running up against a lucky fish. These players put pressure on the fish, forcing them to make decisions, and they will often arrive at the wrong decision. Those fish who aren’t susceptible to pressure are likely those who are ultra-aggressive whose hand selection is “I have two cards. That’s a hand!” These fish will quickly find themselves on the rail as they run into players who have the big hands to end their rampage.

There is always a middle ground, and the middle approach here is for players to not change their game drastically, but to follow their main style of play, which for most players relies on hand selection, position, and a feel for their opponents. Another benefit to playing against fish is that it is usually easy to deduce their playing style, whether it be tight-passive or loose-aggressive. It is the erratic fish who are the most dangerous, those who seemingly make completely random decisions, and players must always be on guard against these fish.

Large player fields create an interesting situation for players used to playing in smaller tournaments, and finding a good approach and being able to adjust one’s approach as the game progresses is critically important. With that being said we wish good luck to the November Nine and hope to see an exciting final table.

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