Last year, Dara O’Kearney and I wrote a book on satellites, which we primarily aimed at recreational players, though plenty of professionals took an interest.
We have just launched our second book together on Progressive Knockout tournaments (PKO)- PKO Poker Strategy - and we are not sure what the response will be.
We know that serious amateurs are going to like the book, but we are expecting a bit of a split of opinion from the professionals. We know some professionals truly hate strategy books. Others realise they are the best-kept secret in poker, so won’t be happy we are writing in detail about the strategy.
If you are sceptical about PKOs, maybe even hate them, or perhaps have never even tried them, these are some reasons to give them a go and start to study them.
The Attraction of PKO Games
Probably the main reason people play PKOs is that they are enjoyable. The action is fast, and there is more gambling involved. You can win money right away and winning a big bounty is a very satisfying feeling, as is winning several bounties in a single hand.
The reason why they have gone from relative obscurity to arguably the foundation of a lot of online poker room MTT schedules is that PKOs are fun.
That brings us to the next reason to play PKOs, and that is that recreational players enjoy them, which means they are soft. It gives them a chance to blow off steam and gamble, and as you will discover the common recreational player trait of playing too loose is forgiven a little in PKOs.
PKOs give recreational players more winning moments, which creates a paradox for serious players in that their edge is lower. Still, they are ultimately more profitable than normal MTTs because so many casual players are in the field.
Why You Need to Study PKO Strategy
If you are a serious player, the best reason to start studying PKOs is that a lot of otherwise decent regulars hate them. A common mental game leak of otherwise good professional poker players is that they don’t recognise when occasionally losing to a recreational is good for their profitability in the long term.
The amateur player who wins now and then is going to come back for more, the player who gets crushed every time is going to find their entertainment elsewhere on Netflix or Fortnite.
So PKOs are not only full of amateurs, but the solid regulars are also there in much smaller in numbers, however.
PKOs are a vastly different game to regular tournaments and are exceptionally high in variance. It reminds me of the Hold’em players who could not adjust to PLO for the same reason. They hated that the equities ran so close together and you had to get your money in the middle a lot of the time.
As a side note, I know of several good PLO regulars who are naturals at PKOs, they have the necessary mindset that embraces the variance. So, if that sounds like you, you should give them a try.
PKOs will also forgive you if your post-flop game could be better. Most of the action is preflop, and even post-flop the presence of the bounty makes your decision much more straightforward.
Ironically, (as PLO and satellites could not be more different) another observation we have made is that satellite grinders and SNG specialists adapt well to PKOs because those are also largely preflop games.
In both formats, it is not uncommon to make 20-30 big blind shoves correctly.
So, if your preflop game is solid, they could be for you.
Online PKO Poker Games Are Here to Stay
Maybe the biggest long-term reason to play PKOs is that online poker operators like them, so they are going to figure more and more in their MTT schedules.
888poker is adding more of them to the schedule and even have dedicated PKO series, like Gods Of The Arena. The reason operators like them is because the prize pool gets spread around much more widely, so more players can play on their site for longer.
In a normal MTT, only 15-20% of the field gets a prize, and that is usually the best players who withdraw it to their bank accounts. Given that most recreational players do not observe proper, or any, bankroll management guidelines this often means once they are out of the tournament, they no longer have money on the site.
In a PKO, a more significant percentage of the field gets a prize which they can use to continue to play on the site, which means more potential rake to be generated for the operator. PKOs help an operator’s ecosystem.
Stay Ahead of the Game with PKO Poker Strategy
Finally, there is currently a significant gap in the market for PKO strategy advice. They remain a relatively unsolved form of tournament poker, and even the ICM calculators are only just catching up to them.
A lot of professional poker players are unsure of how to adjust to them, and often the correct play is something wildly different to what it would be in normal MTTs.
Serious amateur players know the strategy is different but inevitably fall into the trap of playing too tight or too loose.
Therefore, we wrote our new book on this topic, and we suspect it won’t be the last one. We are only just starting to understand Progressive Knockout tournaments.
PKOs are not going anywhere, so you should probably start playing them now.
Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of PKO Poker Strategy, the first book to be written about progressive knockout tournaments.