Big Field Poker at the PCA

Jeff Madsen
'The style of just trying to double early and get chips really fast isn’t as effective.'

The 1,529 players in the Bahamas this week have made the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure the largest and richest poker tournament ever held outside of the United States.

But according to at least one player who has weaved his way through some big numbers before, big-field poker requires big strategy changes.

“There’s a different approach because it’s a longer tournament,” said Jeff Madsen, who managed to best a similar-sized field of 1,579 to win his first of two World Series of Poker bracelets in 2006.

“The style of just trying to double early and get chips really fast isn’t as effective. You may have chips early, but you still have to get through a few more days. You have to be more patient. You want to survive and get much deeper before you start playing huge pots and taking big risks. Otherwise you are never going to see a Day 3.”

Kevin Saul, who managed an eighth-place finish at the 2009 PCA, says you might be aware of it but you simply can’t think about the massive field size when you sit down at any tournament table.

“You only sit with eight people at a time, so for me, it’s just normal poker until the field dwindles,” he said. “I just care about my chip stack and what everyone has at my table. I don’t really worry about what’s going on in the tournament as a whole.”

The PCA presents a different picture from the average big-field event, considering roughly half of the 1,500-plus players have qualified online. Saul says he certainly adjusts his strategy to account for that.

“You can follow the real satellite qualifiers,” he explained. “I mean, I won a satellite, but I would have bought in anyway. Then you have the other people who wouldn’t have bought in. They probably satellited into a satellite and took a few steps to get there and you spot them and try to apply pressure to them.”

Madsen says he does the same thing.

“These guys are good, but a lot of them don’t have much live-tournament experience and they’re used to playing a lot of hands and playing really fast,” he said. “In that respect I’ll probably play a little tighter. They may be looking to push me around or play bigger pots, because online players tend to do that, so I’ll usually just play a little tighter and wait for things to come to me more.

“Especially because I don’t know these players and I don’t really know their style, I’ll take a little time to get to know the players at my table first.”

In the end, Madsen says even the biggest fields get pared down to size and you simply have to play your game and stick to your reads.

“You really can’t look at the whole tournament from the beginning or else it’s overwhelming,” the Full Tilt pro said. “You have to take it one hand at a time. No matter how big the field is, in a couple of days, it’s still going to get down to the money. So yeah, you take it one hand at a time and try not to think about how many people are in the tournament right from the start.”

To see how Madsen and Saul fare against the massive field this time around, and follow all the action from the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, tune in to PokerListings’ Live Updates.

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