Welcome to Daily Strategy, the first in a new series bringing you sound strategy advice from familiar faces for every stage of a poker tournament.
They say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. They say poker tournaments are marathons, not sprints. They say you can’t win a tournament on Day 1, you can only lose one.
But then they also say you should never cry over spilt milk, even though spilling milk is always annoying and is a nightmare to clean up. So what do they know?
While it’s certainly true that you can’t win a multi-day poker tournament on Day 1, there’s still plenty that you can do on Day 1 of a live event that will help you find your feet, make the money, and forge a deep run.
One player who knows all about navigating through Day 1s is Parker “Tonkaaaa” Talbot. Not only did he cash his first ever European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event, but he also made the final table at EPT Prague in 2018, finishing sixth for €179,360.
The PokerStars Team Pro is here at EPT Barcelona and stopped by to give us all some advice before taking his seat on Day 1B of the €5,300 Main Event.
(And before you start: yes, he played Day 1A yesterday. And yes, he busted. But as you’ll find out in our conversation below, it’s a lot better to truly go for it than to scrape through with scraps.)
PokerStars Blog: Hey Parker. Let’s say someone reading this is minutes away from taking their seat on Day 1 of their very first big live poker tournament…
Parker “Tonkaaaa” Talbot: I would say just do your thing. Whatever makes you comfortable. Play your game.
I wouldn’t say ‘sit with your legs crossed’ or ‘sit a certain way’, just be yourself and realise that everyone is in the same situation as you. Everyone’s playing the same game. Try your best to be as comfortable as you can.
Let’s they say don’t recognise any of the players at the table. What can they look for to find out whether they have a soft table or a tough table?
Well, you can Google people, that’s the easiest way! If you find your table draw (on the PokerStars Live app) you can search for the players and you’ll probably find out some info, about whether they play a lot of poker or not.
I wouldn’t read too much into stereotypes based on how people look but, at the same time, they are there.
And what if they recognise a bunch of tough players at their table? Should they try to avoid playing pots against them?
That’s just not really how poker works. You can’t really do that. You can dodge a little bit to a certain extent. Like, maybe you can out the bottom five percent of hands that you’d normally play against someone else and cut them when playing against a very tough opponent, but for the most part, you’ve just got to battle and that’s the beauty of poker.
What do you remember about your first big Day 1?
I can’t remember my very first Day 1…no wait, yes I can!
It was my first EPT ever and I cashed. It was EPT Berlin in 2012.
I brought headphones and a book and I read my book all day long. I was your stereotypical 20-year-old internet kid, y’know? I was like “Screw this, live poker! I’m just going to read my book and ignore everyone”.
But then I did OK and made Day 3 and had a really good time.
A lot of new players want to prolong the experience of playing and so it’s likely they shy away from playing big spots. How can they find the balance between the experience and the strategy?
That’s a big issue for weaker players across all games, all stakes, and all tournaments, to be honest.
If you only play X amount of poker tournaments a week, you want to make it last, right? So naturally, you think you’re going to play tighter.
Maybe that will help you last an hour longer, but in the short term, you’re going to run deeper way less often because of that. Playing too tight is definitely one of the biggest shortcomings of newer players.
So, aggression is crucial?
I’ve always said it’s so much better to be an aggressive recreational than it is to be a tight recreational. It’s really infinitely better. If you’re a tight recreational, your chances of winning the tournament aren’t zero but they’re incredibly low. Whereas if you’re an aggressive recreational, you can run up stacks.
You might only play for four hours on Day 1 and then bust, whereas a tighter player might make it to Day 2 and play for a couple of extra hours. It’s different strokes for different folks.
But there’s an age-old saying for aggressive recreationals: people never know what you’re doing. That really can come into play and you can get paid off in big spots because of that.
If you’re a recreational and just playing for fun, my advice is always to just get in there and mix it up, fight, battle, and don’t be afraid to bluff.