Lex Veldhuis: My top tournament tips

Learn from top pro Lex Veldhuis and blow away the competition in live MTTs

Five years ago, Lex ‘RaSZi’ Veldhuis made a name for himself after pushing seasoned vets Allen Cunningham and Eli Elezra off pot after pot on the opening day of the 2009 Main Event.Watch this…

Since then, Veldhuis has made over $600,000 in live tournament winnings and successfully brought his LAG style from the online cardrooms to the live arena to become one of the most exciting pros on the circuit.

His ‘maniac’ plays are stuff of internet legend and here the Dutch pro shows you how to get aggressive at the tables. Hold on to your hats.

Boom or bust

I like to be very active, especially when deeper stacked at the start of tournaments. I put people under a lot of pressure because they fear for their tournament lives and I don’t really have that fear. I don’t have an emotional downswing when I bust out of a tourney. I go for short-term variance plays, which leads to a swingy and not a very flat set of tournament results. Sometimes I’ll go very deep and other times I’ll bust before the dinner break.

You can teach yourself to play this way, but it requires a combination of life character and poker skill. If you’re a calm, timid guy in real life, you can’t play like the world will end tomorrow. You have to align your playing style with your personality.

Balancing act

I always try to balance my hand range, but people think I’m a crazy idiot, so I don’t really have to try that hard because I can just balance against my image. Usually when I’m playing hyper-aggressively I’ll have a hand. But people don’t realise that because they are adjusting to my perceived image and not what they’ve seen in person.

If I know that people think I’m bluffing, I won’t adjust by bluffing less, but by bluffing harder to create more incentive for them to fold. For instance, if it’s early in an event and I’m bluffing 9k into a 13k pot, I’ll bet 20k. Or instead of my line being bet, bet, bet, I’ll bet, bet, check-raise all-in on the river.

Size matters

The speed with which people bet and the amount they bet can tell you a lot. Playing online you can only focus on this and I think that’s something live players don’t understand. People can fake their emotions in live games, but they can’t do so with their betting. It shows what they really want out of a hand.

For instance, at the EPT Grand Final the blinds were 100/200 when a passive player opened to 600 from the cutoff. I made it 1,800 with K-7 and the flop was Q-6-9 rainbow. I bet 2,300, he called. Turn was a Queen and we both checked. An Eight on the river completed a lot of straights but he now bet 2,700, which is small given the pot size. I never thought he’d do that with a full house so I just went all-in for 24k. I was shutting the hand down on the turn, but his bet sizing on the river made the bluff possible. If he’d bet 4k I was folding.

Virtual graduate

I come from an online background and that’s where I developed my game sense. It also taught me to analyse situations quickly. When you act instantly in live games you look weak or strong. So if you analyse the turn immediately and insta-check in a live game, it can throw your opponents off.

The difference between online and live poker is as big as between limit and no-limit. It’s a different game and that’s what’s really cool about it. If I play a live MTT, I’ll be excited to play online and vice versa. I like switching back and forth and it’s very important to know both if you want to be a great poker player.

Danger Zone

Another maniac is definitely the toughest opponent to play against. You either have to try to overrule their aggression by doing even crazier stuff, or back down and let them think they are controlling the action. But it’s all about table sense. If there is a maniac to my left I’m definitely not going to mess with him or out-aggro him.

There are days when I feel my ‘Spidey Sense’ is not working, and I’ll start making the wrong decisions against hyper-aggressive players. But if I feel I have momentum, I don’t fear anyone, even those better than me that play a similar style.

Nit picking

When you have no history or information on a player, it’s better to put them into a category. But always be wary. Sometimes it’s good to exercise prejudice but change your game plan if proved wrong. Generally, it’s the small stuff that nits do which makes them obvious. The way they stack or handle their chips, talk about spots, or the time they take to fold.

For instance, in some positions a nit will insta-fold, whereas a pro will always consider check-raising for that five seconds. Also, if you overbet the river, nits will usually have a look of amazement on their faces, like ‘What is going on?’ You have to be a computer. Inside you can have a lot of emotions, but don’t show them at the poker table. That’s what pros pick up on.

Limits of aggression

I used to be a big nit, but as I got more comfortable with bankrolls I developed an aggressive side. That keeps the fun in poker. I could never do it just for the grind. That’s why I don’t adjust by playing tighter. I adjust in ways that suit me better.

The advantage of being hyper-aggressive is that I’m terribly annoying to play against. But there are often times when I announce ‘all-in’ and get called by a very weak hand. Sometimes you end up drowning yourself in a bluff that should have ended on the flop.

I don’t think I’ll be playing the same style when I’m 40. You calm down when you grow old and mature. After a while it becomes tiring always being in the eye of the storm.

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