Learning From Luske

by snoopy
Submitted by: snoopy on Sun, 04/02/2007 - 7:21am
We’re an hour or two into Day 1B of the Scandinavian Open at the Copenhagen Casino. Minus seven degrees outside, but lovely and warm inside. Armed with my notepad and pen, I decide to jot down the odd chip count. A quick glance at the diminished stack of Juha Helppi, a ‘Rainman’ like count of Ram’s mountain, and then swiftly onto Table 7. The colourful character of Marcel Luske flicks up his overturned shades, takes a fleeting look at the flop, then nonchalantly mucks his cards. In the knowledge that his chips won’t be moving across the felt this hand, I start counting his chips. At first glance, it would appear that he has his head well above water, but following a couple more concise counts, I realise that he possesses a mere 9.5k, 500 less than his starting stack. What’s even more bizarre is that he holds the largest stack at the table. How can that compute? Well, that’s because he has the biggest stack in quantity of chips only.

So, it would seem that the Flying Dutchman adamantly believes that a big stack gives you a psychological advantage over your opponents, even if it is purely made up of the lowest denomination of chips. Peering around the rest of the table, I noticed that Luske held pretty much all of the 25 value chips. Two gigantic towers of 25s stacked firmly next to the odd high denomination chip. Even his big chip column was made up entirely of 500s as opposed to 1000s. Intrigued by what I had spotted at Table 7, I quickly enquired with a colleague and was fascinated to learn that this was a strategy commonly used by Luske. I was also informed that the singing Dutchman often refuses to give change to those who ask, and will only oblige if ordered to do so by the Tournament Director. But, let’s be honest, how many people would dare to tell a player of Luske’s calibre what to do? But, pernickety details aside, is there much to gain from this supposed eccentricity?

Well, your reporter decided to study some of the pros and cons, perhaps with the intention of applying the tactic to his own game. First of all, do we gain a psychological advantage from having more chips in front of us? I’d say yes, for the following reasons:

• A big stack, whatever it’s composed of, can be more imposing than a smaller one.

• Your large stack size will naturally equate to your opponent’s holding small stacks. This in turn may make it easier for you to bully the table as players are sometimes reluctant to break high denomination chips.

• Having a sizable stack can raise your own confidence. You may be able to convince yourself that you are running better than you actually are, thereby keeping you strong minded and in good spirits. This is a dangerous way of thinking though and part of your brain needs to have a firm grip on reality.

• In the spur of the moment, many opponents often fail to differentiate between quality and quantity. They take one look at the stack, and make a hasty judgement based on size. If a player were to ask for a chip count, Marcel could easily exaggerate the figure, thereby potentially discouraging his opponent from bluffing.

• The all-in manoeuvre is a lot more intimidating when executed with a bigger stack.

Although I have recently been wavering towards this way of thinking, I must confess to acknowledging a few disadvantages to the strategy.

• Keeping account of your chip count is made all the more difficult. I, for one, like to know how many chips I have at every moment in a poker game. Any wish to hoard low denomination chips will make this a frustrating process.

• Refusing change may disrupt the flow of the game.

• You could frustrate opponents who ask for change. Petty arguments may ensue about table rights. Is it a good idea to make enemies so unnecessarily?

• A refusal to offload change may cause the Tournament Director to jump in. Do you really want to mess with Big TK (Thomas Kremser) and is it worth attracting such negative attention?

In my opinion, the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. Whilst constant checks of your chip count may be annoying, it shouldn’t be too much of a chore. Many players aren’t even concerned with such frequent checks. Also, I’m a firm believer in the positive effects of bad publicity. This is a unique part of Marcel’s game and can only enhance his character further.

I also noticed that Marcel likes to mix up his chips as he progresses in comps. This is a technique that I have seen mimicked in my local casinos, and to good effect too. As an opponent, making estimated counts is a nightmare, and can lead to the inevitable miscalculated bet. There has been many a time that I’ve made an aggressive move against an opponent, only to find out that he has way more chips than I first thought. Although the ordeal of having to make constantly tedious chip counts may prove a pain, I’d be happy to recommend this strategy so as to keep people off guard and perhaps even force them into the occasional mistake.

It may very well depend on what style of play you prefer to adhere to. If you are of the clan who like to bully a table using a superior stack size, then maybe you should consider adopting this ploy of chip hoarding. However, I wouldn’t advise the refusal of change too frequently. Luske is a much feared and respected player. I know that if I adopted this policy at my local casino, I’d soon find myself on the receiving end of few menacing glares.

However, it’s important to be aware of these psychological plays, especially if you participate in games where bullying is a regular occurrence. After my trip to Copenhagen, I will certainly be making sure that I don’t misjudge the numerical quantity of my opponent’s stack, and I’ll be certain to ask for a precise chip count if required. My only qualm would be that Marcel exited the comp soon after I noticed this abnormality, but I wouldn’t let that sway you. He’s won his fair share of tournaments, so perhaps this chip strategy has been a bigger tool than we realise…