Sofia Lövgren: How to stay focused in tournaments

On the right path

How do you stay focused on playing poker now that you have the added responsibility of representing 888poker?
Alan Williams

I have been a sponsored pro for more than four years so I €™m quite used to dealing with people €™s expectations and spending time on PR activities. But it €™s definitely a risk to get distracted and not find the time to grind enough. Before I represented any poker site I focused 100% on online poker and sometimes played around the clock. Now I travel, play live, write articles, give interviews and spend many hours on social media. My way of dealing with this is to dedicate time especially for grinding €“ in the last four days I played 15,000 hands online.

Block rocking bets

I want to know what you think to blocking bets in 2014. I had a hand recently online in a $1/$2 cash game where I used it. I raised with K-9 in the small blind and the big blind called. I bet $8 on K ™ -J ™ -2 ™£. I then bet $20 on 3 ™¥ turn. The river was 9 ™  and the pot was $68. I block bet $28 on the river and he moved all-in.

I folded but did I make a mistake betting the river in the first place? Do you ever use blocking bets?
Mark Fareham

In this hand it €™s definitely a tricky river and I think you played the hand well. Playing blind versus blind your opponent will sometimes have a King here and call down a block bet on the river. I think that block betting the river is fine in this spot and often a good way to avoid facing a big river bet where you have no idea whether he is bluffing with a hand like A-J or Q-J or if he got there on the river. At the same time you can sometimes get value from hands like K-T or K-8. A lot of players make the mistake to not go for value and check on the river too often.

Slow death

I recently played a tournament where absolutely nothing went right. It was a £200 buy-in but seemed to be filled with pretty poor players. Everyone was calling preflop, so we €™d regularly get to the flop with five or six players even if I tried to raise. To compound things I was completely card dead.

On one hand that actually folded to the cutoff, I raised and the big blind defended with T-2 €“ I found out after he check-raised me on a T-2-3 flop and showed. The starting stacks were huge €“ 300 big blinds €“ but after about four hours of no hands and seemingly meeting hands whenever I tried to take a pot, I was forced to move all-in with Q-J suited and ran into Jacks.

It might sound like a long bad beat story, but I was wondering how you tackle tourneys like this? Is there any way of dealing with a combo of being card dead and sitting with a table of calling stations, or do you just have to accept that sometimes you €™re not going to win? I didn €™t win a single hand in four hours!
Daniel Woodruff

I feel your pain Daniel! To be card dead on a table with calling stations is a nightmare. The standard strategy is to be patient and then go for large value bets with the few good hands you do pick up. This time, without any hands at all, it seems like the only thing you can do is accept it wasn €™t your tournament and go #ontothenextone.

More energy needed!

I used to be able to play really long online sessions without my concentration levels dropping. However, I recently got a lot busier at work and don €™t have as much time to play.

I now find I can only play for three to four hours maximum before I start to get tired and play badly. Do you have any tips for increasing the length of my sessions so that I can get more quality hands in?
Rob Swales

One key thing when you play poker is quality over quantity. As soon as you leave the lowest stakes €“ where auto-pilot poker is good enough to win €“ it €™s much better to play three hours with 100% focus than six hours with half focus.

If you play for longer than you should you will eventually lose. I remember a few years ago I was so much into the game that I sometimes played 14 days in a row, 12 hours a day. But it led me to lose focus, play worse and I would sometimes lose the whole day €™s profit within one hour.

However you should definitely be able to play more than three hours and still be focused. I always do three things:

  1. Take short breaks and get fresh air
  2. Drink water
  3. Most importantly, eat fruit!

I realise it doesn €™t sound like a magic formula but it can help you to win more.

Learning on the job

I want to get better at poker but I don €™t want to waste any money buying materials that won €™t be that useful. Could you recommend one poker book and one training site I should look into to take my game to the next level?
Jane Geddes

I €™ve read several poker books, watched videos and also had some coaching but I still think I €™ve learnt 99% of my poker from playing millions of hands.

I think the best way for you to improve is to play more poker and to discuss the hands with other players, preferably those better than yourself.

However, the book I would recommend is Dan Harrington €™s trilogy Harrington On Hold €™em. Pick the chapters covering the specific parts of your game where you know you have leaks.

Run It Once is my favourite training site and you should check   it out. It costs $100 per month but trust me it will be worth it. CardRunners is really good too €“ you can read some of their strategy on p42.

Getting carried away

Whenever I €™m doing well in a live or online tournament and we €™re approaching the money I always start dreaming of what I will spend the winnings on when I take the tourney down. I don €™t think it €™s helping me though €“ I always bust out soon after! How do you think I can stop getting carried away and just take it one hand at a time?
Stan Lawrence

This is so funny and I think all players recognise themselves doing this! Watch the best golf players in the world. They can all testify how disastrous it is to start thinking about the final score €“ just focus on the next shot and nothing else!

The best way to concentrate on the present is to study the other players when they €™re in a hand. Online you can take notes instead of dreaming of the fortune you (may) soon win.


Get involved!

If you have a question about poker strategy, a hand you played or even just want to know what Sofia €™s favourite fruit is you can send your question to pokerplayer@plyp.co.uk or tweet us @PokerPlayer365 using the #AskSofia.   All questions that get published will WIN a FREE pack of PokerPlayer branded playing cards!

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