As many experts will tell you, a key strategy of tournament poker is knowing how to attack dead money. This skill is important. Attacking these chips and defending attacks is critical for reaching the final tournament rounds.
Understanding the concept of dead money is the first step to creating a strong strategy. As a player’s chip pile dwindles, ponying up chips for antes and blinds become more tedious and challenging.
Dead money includes the following items.
- That part of the pots contributed by players who have folded, and
- Any money added to pots that are more than the player’s hand is worth.
To achieve more than break-even, you must learn how to attack dead money. This is particularly important when there are one or more expert players at your table. Among the ways to attack dead money are the following situations.
Attacking Dead Money
Stealing or re-stealing a blind is one good strategy. Players who have contributed what is now dead money to the pot are in no position, by folding or holding weak hands, to attack or even defend the chips already contributed. When most other players fold to the apparent strong hand(s), advanced players often raise at every opportunity to drive out remaining players, trying to steal the pot.
The raising player may or may not have a strong hand, but unless he faces another unafraid to raise or re-raise, the aggressive player may continue the stealing strategy. Often, the aggressive player has a weak hand, with his contribution to the pot way more than appropriate. Remember, the player may have a strong hand and just playing it.
Winning pots with a lot of dead money in them can make the difference between greatly adding to your stack or watching it dwindle to dangerous levels. Don’t be shy. Attack dead money when you can.
Defending Dead Money
Many experts recommend that, if you’re an advanced or expert player, you should avoid risky gambles or bluffs. But what is an unacceptable risk to you?
The bottom line: Beating the best tournament players requires making some risky calls or raises. For example, if you’re on the Button, in a steal situation, consider a risky call, even when it costs you precious chips. Your odds of winning improve when you’re playing against opponents who have consistently called after the blinds.
Always evaluate the specific situation; avoid estimating your odds in a vacuum. Factors such as the strength of your opponents, players’ behavior during the hand and relative strength of the flop, turn and river. While you can never fully eliminate risk, you can make better decisions in defending dead money when you thoughtfully evaluate your odds based on these factors.
Attacking and defending dead money properly allows you to increase your stack and going deeper into tournaments. Assigning realistic ranges of hands you opponents may hold often allows you to play more aggressively when you hold weaker hands, particularly when facing better players.