Tournament – Poker Strategy

The popularity of multi-table tournaments (MTTs) has skyrocketed over the past years, one reason being that it gives players the chance to win huge amounts of money for a relatively small investment. Especially at the large poker rooms like PokerStars, players are able to buy into tournaments for as little as $0.10, or even play freerolls for no investment whatsoever, giving them a great opportunity to get a feel for the game without having to risk too much money. Continue reading this article if you are looking for some of the best tournament poker strategy.

It is important to remember, however, that tournament poker is very different from playing poker cash games. Although the rules of the game stay the same, the strategies involved are, in many ways, very distinctive. As a result, you will often hear that great cash game players have trouble finding success in tournaments, and vice versa, because they find it difficult to adapt their way of playing.

Surely the biggest difference between a tournament and a cash game strategy is the fact that, in a tournament, once all of your chips are gone, you are out of the tournament. As a result, it is important to hold on to your poker chips as long as possible and don’t waste them on too many speculative hands, especially during the early phase of a tournament. Some players will tell you that the beginning stage of a tournament is the perfect time to play a lot of hands because the blinds are low, when in fact, the exact opposite is true. Because you are under no threat of being blinded out, you have the luxury to be extremely picky about what hands to play, and this is exactly what you should be doing. Focusing only on the monster hands like JJ+ and AK will not only minimize the risk of early elimination, it will also help you build up a strong table image, which will come in handy during the later stages of the tournament.

Once roughly 2/3 of the field has been eliminated, the blinds are getting bigger and the money bubble is approaching, you can start to loosen up your game a little bit. Most of the fish have now left the tournament, and your tight table image should allow you to pick up some blinds if you find the right spots to do so. Furthermore, because the payouts are getting closer, many players will now only be focused on making it into the money and will not take risks with marginal hands. But be cautious; although you’ve made it this far, an elimination at this point would still mean you leave with nothing, so don’t start getting too creative just yet.

Once the money bubble bursts and you’re guaranteed a payout, this is the time to start taking more risks. If you have an over-average stack in front of you, start picking on the shortstacks and try and stay away from other big stacks, unless you have a strong hand of course. If, however, you are one of the shortstacks, now is the time to double up quickly. Your aim is to make it as deep into the tournament as possible, preferably reaching the final table, and in order to do this you need to collect chips.

Although this poker tournament strategy might all sounds pretty straightforward, poker tournaments require a lot of patience and discipline. More often than not will you leave the tournament empty handed, but once you reach that first final table and maybe even win the whole thing, one look at your bankroll will make up for all the hard work.

Dan Harrington has written one of the best books on Poker Tournament strategies, which is suitable for the beginning and advanced poker player.