Here is an interesting theory I have come up with…
I play a bunch of “sit-and-go” tournaments, which basically is one table, 10 people, playing with a top prize of about 50% of the money paid in. The blinds start small and increase every 10 hands. A typical s-a-g table lasts about 60-70 hands, maybe 45 minutes to an hour total. If you get into the top 3, you make money… it’s not terrible.
It is a good testing ground for ideas and theories to win bigger tournaments. You get to see 10 people go through all their paces, and depending on the type of table (read PRICE) that you play, you will see many different playing styles, from sharp as the pros to dumb as dogshit. I should point out that I feel sometimes I am both of those players… good as gold on some hands, stupider than a bag of hammers on others.
Anyway, back to the theory.
In the opening hands, everyone has the same number of chips. The blinds are small (about 2% of the stack), and the play is usually pretty free and easy. Nobody has a clue what anyone else is up to, and a such, people are playing a bit of whatever. This is doubly true when you have a couple of either ignornant or very loose players on the table, who bet up almost anything looking to “get a big pot”.
My theory is this: It is RARELY worth playing in these opening hands. First off, most hands are going to play to completition and cards will be shown. That means if you are called, you will have to show your cards. It is very easy for a better player (or one of those poker assistant things) to get a line on you when your cards are shown. More importantly, you are often playing for VERY few chips in the overall pictures at this point. Why do I say that? The table has 8000 chips on it (800 X 10 players). Winning a small pot (100 net chips or so) gets you only 1.25% of the total chips required to get to the end.
A note on pot sizes: I often discount or ignore the part of the pot that I put in as I could have retained it had I not gone in. A head to head pot of 1000 will almost certainly be made up of at least 40% your chips. Therefore, it is really a 600 net chip pot. Net pots are important because they represent your stack size gain overall. Many people are impressed by winning a huge pot (you have won 1185 chips!) – but really you went all in with your 800 chips into a pot that had 385 in it… you only netted 385… not 1185!
Anyway, at the end of it all, my theory of the day is similar to the techniques used in many sports: You cannot win in the first few minutes of a table, so why play like it? Take and play the really good hands that come your way, and otherwise wait it out until the table gets a little more short handed and the values on the pots become more significant. Otherwise you are showing yourself, your showing your skills and making your future play easier to predict.
Plus, as a bonus, it’s nice to be the unknown force later in the game 🙂