The value of Top Pair-Top Kicker in tournament play is often overstated. I played poker most of the day online yesterday in nothing but tournaments, and I was amazed to see how many players will put too much stock in flopping that top pair. In tournament play especially, Top Pair is nice, but it is seldom a good flop to get all your chips in with.
I had several deep runs yesterday in various tourneys, including final table in a large MTT and finishing 120th of 4321 entrants in a $750k event that paid off very nicely. If you asked me where I won most of my big pots, I would tell you that it was in hands against players who committed too many chips to Top Pair type hands. (when I say top pair-type hands, I mean TPTK, but also hands like AQ or AJ and the Ace hits the flop)
The main problem with playing TPTK too aggressively online is that there are so many players who will be in with drawing type hands against you nearly every hand. As most of you know, online players will play ANY two suited cards, so you always have to watch out for the flush draws. Straight draws are also a problem, and I will almost always get into a hand with a pocket pair hoping to flop a set, so all three of these types of hands in their endless variations can crush TPTK. In fact, it is usually the set that I use in longer tournaments to really win big pots. Obviously, you don’t flop a set all the time, but when you do, you can many times take a player’s entire stack who has had a flop hit his Ace.
The easiest solution to not getting burned with TPTK is to just not get sucked into big pots with it. Of course, you have to play AK and when the Ace hits the flops, that is a good thing, but when someone start pumping that pot up there or you have a choice between calling off your whole chip stack or folding, you might want to think about folding. ESPECIALLY if there is more than one other player in the pot!
I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are in a pot and flop TPTK with one other player, you may have him dominated or at least you are only up against one drawing hand. However, if you have 2-4 players in the pot, you may be up against several drawing hands and one of them could hit, busting you out of the tournament. If you can, keep the pots small in these cases.
Does that enable them to try and hit their draws cheap? Maybe, but remember, we are talking about large, MTT’s here. You have to be able to hang in there for 4-6 hours many times just to make the money. You cannot win by doubling up early on anyway, so make sure you don’t commit all your chips to a hand that could already be beaten or could be drawn out on. Small ball is where it is at in multi-table-tournaments.