I’ve played more tournaments than usual in the past few months, and while I certainly can’t complain about how they’ve gone for me this year, I nonetheless find myself feeling frustrated at the end of virtually every Sunday. Last week, I started thinking about how a few years ago you rarely saw antes in tournaments. I can’t say that I put a lot of thought into this, but I felt like the larger pre-flop pots turned things into a shove fest, with every hand ending pre-flop and skill being minimized. Then I read this blog post by Daniel Negreanu:
Lower antes increase your M, which allows you to go into survival mode on a short stack for a longer period of time without feeling the pressure of going all in. Average big blinds per player in the tournament is what you’d look at to see how much “play” there is in a tournament. The higher the average big blinds per player is, the more streets will be bet, and the more maneuvering will occur post flop. A tournament that boasts a higher bb per player average is one that is clearly more skillful because more intricate decisions will be necessary. Deep stacked poker is just harder, plain and simple. That’s not debatable.
The problem with tournaments with tiny antes is that it allows short stacks to hang around longer without having to make a move. Great for short stacks, but much like the epidemic you see online of “short stacking,” when too many players are hanging around with a short stack, the avg bb per player takes a major hit, and average to above average stacks are forced to tighten up significantly because behind them sits three stacks ranging from 8 to 15 big blinds. The bigger stacks are forced to open less.
The post is much longer than this and contains a number of good arguments, but the comparison to short stackers in cash games really hit home for me. I’m convinced that larger antes weight my likely outcomes in a desirable way: I either bust some short stacks, outplay some people post-flop, and get up a big stack, or I get short, get busted, and play something else. Less time circling the bowl for short stacks is a good thing, and I’m a convert. Thanks, Dan.
Edit: Added link.