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Recalling My Win in the Big 10 at Spartan & the Importance of Keeping a Steady Mind

Posted by Ashish Ahuja on 2019-02-23 at 1:07 PM

Hello friends! I am back again with another blog, and I’d like to share my recent tournament victory in the inaugural Big 10 on The Spartan Poker. I would also like to share my thought process on how important it is to keep a steady head while playing.

A lot of people believe that poker players keep winning a lot of money but the fact is that there are downswings as well. Probably MTT’s have more variance as compared to cash games, to be honest. One has to keep his mind calm and play the game his A game during those times.

Your mindset is one of the most important things in poker because if you’re not in the right frame of mind, you are likely to miss the spots which are supposed to be taken, while playing your game.

I was primarily a cash game player but today I try to juggle between cash games and MTTs. I recently went to a cash game festival in Colombo.
It’s important to understand that cash game strategy is completely different from tournament strategies. The fact being, in cash game, you’re always allowed to drop out at any point of the game and you’re always playing deep for 100 big blinds so you never have any experience of playing short-stacked with as less as 20-30 BBs. But in tournaments, you have to master your short-stacked play along with deep-stacked game, because you’ll face many different spots where you’ll be having a short stack as well, in a tournament.

To be honest, there are no friends in poker. During the Big 10, there was this hand where I actually made my stack and it was against my best friend, Arjanveer Chadha. He opened from under the gun. Everyone folded. I defended my big blind with JTo. The flop came J T 7 r. I checked to see the flop. I check-raised with top two. He called my check-raise. The turn was the queen, which smashed the UTG range, so I decided to check on my turn, since with queen, there are a lot of hands which hit his range. So I checked, and he bet the turn and I just flatted the turn and the board plays out with the ten. I was pretty sure that I have the best hand, so I decided to open-jam. He called off with ace-king, yeah, he turned the nut-straight. Obviously it hurt me that it was my best friend against whom the hand happened, but yeah, that’s poker.

After this hand I had a decent stack, and was literally on a cruise boat. I maintained my chip lead right towards the late phase of the tournament. In fact, I was pretty much the chip leader throughout after that and I reached the final table second in chips.

On the final table, I knew I just had to avoid playing big pots against the chip leader and put pressure on the remaining players because they had huge ICM on them, so I played my best, and I avoided being cornered by the chip leader.

Finally when we reached heads-up, we had near even stacks. My opponent was playing pretty aggressive, he was trying to shove every hand so I had to change my strategy because when I was opening, he was just shoving every hand on me. So I started limping after that because I just didn’t want to give away my edge against him and just to play a flip against him. I played a few pots with him, and finally realized that my edge was in playing post-flop. I went to win a few pots from him and soon I had a two-to-one chip lead on him. One has to realize that not all opponents play the same so you’ll have to change your strategy against the opponent, as I did.

With this blog, I mainly want to underline the mental strength a poker player should have, to play and to win. A player may be winning a lot of tournaments. Me for instance, I play at least 20 tournaments a day. So even if I ship two tournaments it doesn’t mean that I’m making a lot of money. Poker players do face a lot of downswings, and while they do, winning a special tournament always makes one feel good, and believe in the game. You get a confidence boost, and this helps you play your A-game. The point is; a winner is a person who has control over his mind.

We call poker a mind sport and if we’re not at mental ease, you can’t play this game properly. You have to have a very healthy mind to play this game. So one should always try hard to keep his mental focus while playing, particularly tournaments that have much more variance as compared to cash games.
To the young poker players out there I’d say – if you see poker players winning tournaments every now and then, it’s because they’re playing with a very fresh mind. They’re trying to make the best of the situation possible and not get bogged down by factors like pressure. The key according to me is always play with a fresh mind.

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Ashish Ahuja

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