Coin flips in MTTs
There’s no doubt about it: coin flips represent some of the most delicate moments in MTTs (Multi Table Poker Tournaments). The worse thing about them is, they can’t be avoided. If you’re following the WSOP, you probably know that none of the winners get to raise that coveted piece of gold jewelry before getting lucky on at least a few coin-flips.
This is just what it takes to win such tournaments and the same goes for online MTTs too. The reason why most players hate the tournament coin-flip (ask Mike “Timex” McDonald about it), is that it completely negates the skill factor. Regardless of how skilled someone is, he will have to give up all control when going for the coinflip and let Lady Luck take over for him. Obviously, a player used to being in control most of the time cannot stand being exposed like that. If you were wondering why some were still stubborn in calling poker a game of luck, the tournament coin-flip is a pretty good explanation.
Is the coin-flip really the Eliot Ness of the poker strategy world though, is it really that untouchable?
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The great thing about poker is that you can pretty much influence anything to a certain extent through correct strategy, and that includes the dreaded MTT coin-flip too.
First thing you can do is you can make sure you are indeed getting a coin-flip (something close to 50-50). A perfectly 50-50 coin-flip is a rather rare occurrence, but for the purposes of these article, we can pretty much call anything closer to 50-50 than 45-55 a coin-flip. If you get it all in though and you’re a 25-75 underdog, you’re obviously not getting your coin-flip, so that situation falls outside the scope of this piece.
The bottom line is, you need to know your opponents pretty well to know when they’re about to go for a coin-flip against you. The only way to do that is to get your reads right. By doing that though, you’re not going to influence the actual odds involved in the MTT coin-flip, and there’s a way to achieve that too: through the fold equity.
The fold equity is an interesting animal, one that can give one of the parties concerned an advantage even in a perfectly 50-50 situation.
Fold equity is based entirely on aggression. Remember how experts always tell you that you need to be aggressive in tourneys ever to stand a chance for the win? That you need to be a fox rather than a farmer who settles for a lowly money position? Well, that’s because being aggressive is a little bit like twisting Lady Luck’s arm.
Do rakeback or poker prop deals have any sort of effect on the tournament coin-flip? Well, no, not directly, but they certainly give you the opportunity to play in a few extra tourneys if you get knocked out on account of a coin-flip gone sour. Sign up for a rakeback deal today to get some of your tournament fees returned to you.
In the coin-flip situation, one player is the “shover” (he’s the one who initiates the confrontation) and the other one is the caller. The guy who makes the first move will secure the fold equity, simply on account of the fact that he’ll offer himself two ways to walk away with the pot: by forcing the potential caller to fold, or by winning at showdown. If the opponent folds, the player who does the shoving will still win a substantially large pot because towards the final stages of MTTs – when the blinds are significantly large to matter on their own – even stealing the blinds can offer a player a lease on his tournament life.
The caller on the other hand, will only have one opportunity to take down the pot: through the showdown.
This is the reason why you should keep the pedal to the metal when faced with a coin-flip for you tournament life.
The problem is though that you can’t just be aggressive for aggression’s sake. You need to be aggressive on a coin-flip, and not on some 20-80 hand. In order to be able to achieve that, you need to have your opponents read fairly well, and you need to pick your spots accordingly.