How to Qualify for the EPT: AK - Premium Hand or Timebomb?

EPT Copenhagen Runner-Up Pierre Neuville.

This is the second article in a seven-part series from EPT Serial Qualifier Pierre Neuville. Check back every Thursday for the next in the series.

See the list below the article for links to the rest of the series.

AK, AQ: Premium Hands That Help You Qualify or Hands That Get You Eliminated?

Most importantly in a qualifying tournament, all hands have to be played with constantly updated strategies according to the situation you're in rather than the strength of the cards.

Using our example from the first article in the series, we now know that to survive safely and win an EPT package we need to win roughly 120,000 chips in 270 hands over five hours.

But how?

First, Do No Harm

As they say in Italian, "Primo non nocere" or "First, Do No Harm"

NeuvilleLesson 1
Don't let AK or AQ kill your dream.

Your past poker experience tells you that AK is a premium hand - the third-best in poker even. And according to the current fashion online, AK is very simple to play: 3-bet, 4-bet, all in.

So we end up in a flip. We pray. We close our eyes. We double up or we’re out. But to turn our starting stack of 3,000 chips into 120,000, is it good enough to flip a coin with AK or AQ?

Short answer: no! 

If you want to increase your chances to qualify, forget about AK as a hand to flip with.

For me, AK is not a premium hand to qualify with but the killer of dreams.

AK - More Often the End of our Dream?

Let's go to some basic math to evaluate further.

In a flip, AK is behind 13 pairs – all of 22-AA.

Even if you eliminate AA and KK, where AK is an 80% or 70% underdog, when you ask for a flip you need to think there's basically an 8 out of 10 chance you'll be at 47% to win against a small pair - i.e. 22-QQ.

If we need to earn 120,000 chips from 3,000, we would need to go 3,000, 6,000, 12,000, 24,000, 48,000, 96,000 … or win six flips in a row.

The odds of winning six flips in a row are 1 in 64 - meaning a 1.5% chance we’ll still be in the tournament and a 99% chance we’ll be out!

In about five hours you'll play about 270 hands. So six hands to clearly avoid, if possible, are those that will give you a 50% chance to be out. 

Instead, you want to look for hands that give you a chance to win 3-10 times more chips than you’ll lose.

You want to go to as many flops as possible in good position and to flops that can allow us to win 10-50 times the chips invested.

A Chip Not Lost is Worth More Than a Chip Won

Remember this well:

A chip lost is worth three times more than a chip won. And in the beginning stages of a qualifying tournament, it’s worth five times more.

For example:

If you double your chips early from 3,000 to 6,000, you’ve probably increased your chances of qualifying by about 10%. 

If you lose your chips however (from 3,000 to zero), you’e decreased your chances infinitely. You're out.

Your tactics will evolve according to three parameters:

1) Your stack size compared to the average stack size.

2) The stage of the tournament (number of players remaining/number of seats to be won)

3) The value of M. Keep in mind here that you will play two rounds per level. In the first round, M = 30. In the 15th level, M = 4800 or 160 times more.

So whatever your hand in the first levels, adapt your tactics to give you zero chance to be out. 

Avoid flips altogether. Or at the very least avoid those where you may be risking more than 33% of your stack.

Learn how to play AK or AQ with some finesse. 

And especially forget the simplistic "online way" to play them by clicking the all-in button.

Lesson 2
AQ requires finesse.

Write yourself a post-it note and stick it prominently on your screen: 

"All in with AK = 53% out"

Beside it, write another post-it note with encouragement:

"I will still be in the tournament at 1:30 a.m."

This will remind your subconscious that filters your decisions of your ultimate purpose: to "Stay In."

Your chances of qualification have now again increased. 

By applying these two first lessons, they may already have more than doubled.

More in the How to Qualify for the EPT series:

More about "Serial EPT Qualifier" Pierre Neuville on his author page.

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