Friday, October 24, 2008

Tournament Poker- Why Two Heads Are Better Than One

Poker has traditionally been viewed as a game played in isolation. One player to a hand, goes the rule. However, now that poker is being played on the Internet, that rule is purely optional. And even if such a rule were ever put into place it would be impossible to enforce.

Has it ever occurred to you to play with a partner? While I play the role of the maverick in my cash games, particularly because I play 6 tables or more, these days I play almost all of my tournaments with my 50/50 partner, Travis, and to great success. Here is how we do it: we both qualify or buy our way into the same tournament and then discuss every critical hand over the phone while watching each others tables.

Now wait- I know what you are thinking- why would I want to split my winnings with someone else? Besides the obvious comeback that it reduces variance and essentially gives you 2 shots at a tournament where you are only granted one, here are the benefits:

2 Observers

You now have two sets of eyes watching the same set of players and can glean extra information about opponents that you might have missed on your own, as well as prior history.

2 Complimentary styles

Ideally, you would choose a partner that you not only trust but that also has different strengths and outlooks on the game. Obviously you will sometimes disagree strongly in the heat of the moment, so Travis and I created a safe word (“fungus”, in our game) that lets the other know that we are dead serious and that the partner is about to do something phenomenally dangerous and/or stupid.


Even when you have a financial interest in your partner's play, it feels completely different when HIS aces get cracked vs. when your OWN get cracked. When you are constantly getting your head stomped on it is difficult to play well. You partner can not only encourage you at these dark and painful times, he can actually step in and make decisions while you cool off. I like to call this my “relief brain.” Likewise, your partner will not get as emotionally attached to big pre-flop hands since he is not holding them and can help you make post-flop laydowns that might be emotionally difficult to make (even though quite obvious to an observer).


In a long tournament, some routine decisions become more and more difficult, particularly if your head has been getting bashed in. With two mentally active players, usually at least one of you will have the gas to make it through the late stages. Additionally, on a personal level, having someone else's money at stake makes you push harder on your own game rather than taking the “fuck it” exit strategy when things are not going your way.

Hand Discussion

Even when the hands are played and the tournament is over, you and your partner will be having long and heated arguments over the way hands were played and results were achieved. This is a good thing!

Finally, the best part- having someone to celebrate with

The life of the professional poker player is fraught with strife and peril. The losses you take create doubt in yourself and others and the wins you make breed envy and resentment. When you take down a big win with someone who has an even stake in it, you don't just believe, you KNOW that someone is finally taking the same joy away from the game that you are.



bastinptc said...

People do this all of the time on Skype, on the phone, with AIM. Some do it for honorable reasons, some don't.

Lorin Yelle said...

Yes, I am aware of this, but I am putting the word out for those who haven't tried it or haven't given it the proper consideration. If you choose your partner wisely, it will accelerate the progress in both of your games immensely.

Currently amongst mine and Travis' circle of poker buddies this is now just catching on.

Anonymous said...


Isn't this collusion if both players are in the same tourney?


Lorin Yelle said...

According to the rules, this is not collusion. Even when playing on the same site from the same IP address, this is allowable. What is NOT allowable is playing the same cash game table or STT from the same IP.

However, in an MTT there is the possibility of getting shuffled to the same table. If you are conversing at this time, then obviously this is colluding, which I of course could not condone. Despite the ethical considerations, to me it is also common sense to put the phone down at this point. I couldn't imagine anything worse than make a 6 figure score and then having to give it all back and losing your account to boot!