With the PKO format, you can win huge prizes just for knocking players out.
This creates unique and interesting poker dynamics. On the one hand, you want to preserve your ‘tournament life’ and make the money. On the other, you’ve got everything to play for in terms of making big moves and going for the knockout.
Anyone who has played a few PKOs will already be aware of the general rule of thumb:
- The shorter the stack = the easier the target
- The bigger the bounty = the more incentive to play for the KO
Short stacks become targets, as do those who have amassed huge bounties by knocking other players out. Meanwhile, big stacks have even more reason to take risks and go on the hunt.
Let’s break this down further and look at how you can react to the dynamics of the PKO in order to maximize your chances of both survival, and hitting big knockout prizes.
Short stacks – Let’s start with the obvious. If you’re going to knock someone out and collect their bounty, you need to have them covered. The shorter your opponent’s stack, the less risk attempting to knock them out. In a PKO tournament, short stacks inevitably become your targets.
Players with huge bounties – The more people a player has knocked out, the higher their bounty and the greater a target they become. If an opponent has a huge bounty, then you can take a slightly marginal spot to attempt the knockout, especially if they are also short stacked.
Loose players with short to medium stacks – Here’s where it gets a bit more specific. As you would do in any other poker game, aim to identify the tight and loose players at your table. Loose players with a short or medium stack will likely still be looking to play hard and double up, despite the bounty on their heads. Exploit this by calling lighter pre-flop and inducing bluffs post flop, especially when you can go for the knockout.
Reckless players with a big stack – Although you should always be looking for knockout opportunities, it’s also important to keep accumulating chips and moving up the prize ladder. Some players focus too much on bounties and get reckless with bad hands, especially when they have a big stack. Even if they have you covered, you can still target these players for an easy double-up as they attempt to eliminate you.
Weak players you can expose post-flop – Knockouts come in all shapes and sizes, not just from pre-flop confrontations with dwindling players. Take note of players who have weak tendencies post-flop, especially those who will call away their entire stack or bluff air to the river. They will provide potential for huge double-ups, as well as big bounty bonuses.
Big stacks who have you covered – Tricky big stacks often look to throw their weight around in tournament poker. They know they can eliminate other players, and they know the fear and intimidation this can cause. In PKO games, big stacks have extra incentive to eliminate you. Don’t stack off light out of frustration, especially if you still have a medium range stack. Pick your spots wisely.
Players with tiny bounties in marginal situations – In PKO tournaments, it’s still important to keep pot odds and other concepts in mind, adjusting when needed to account for possible bounty prizes. If your opponents still have tiny bounties, then it’s not worth taking huge risks to bust them, at least not at the expensive of your tournament life. It’s better to keep gaining chips, make the final table, and play for bigger bounties later on.
Tight players with a short to medium stack – Just because a player has a short stack, doesn’t mean they will be going all-in with any two cards, and doesn’t mean you should either. If you have identified a player as having a really tight pre-flop range, then you should still pick your spot and avoid stacking off light. You don’t want to take a pointless hit against an opponent who has a premium hand.
Loose big stacks when you have a marginal hand – As mentioned, loose players often make great targets in PKO tournaments. This is also a double-edged sword. A loose big stack player could easily eliminate you if you take them on with a marginal hand. They will be deliberately targeting you if you are short stacked, so wait for the right moment for a double-up.
Pros who will outplay you in tough spots – When we think about poker knockouts, we often imagine them as pre-flop affairs between short and big stacks. This isn’t always the case. There’s lots of ways a player can go bust. If you identify a serious reg or pro, someone who you (quite humbly) admit is better than you, then avoid playing them out of position, or when holding a questionable hand. They will happily take your entire stack and bounty.
(Remember there are dozens of variables to consider for each situation in poker. These are only guidelines to get you thinking about the possibilities of the PKO format.)