Poker Tournament Strategy Guide
Playing in poker tournaments requires an entirely different mindset than playing in cash games. Your goal should be centered on survival and making it to the final table–ideally as the last player standing with all the chips. If you follow the tips below you will be going deeper in your tournament play than ever before.
With this in mind; it’s imperative to enter the tournament with a game plan and method of attack. Sometimes it helps players to think of a tournament as a military battle in which your chips have to be protected and built up over the course of the event to be able to sustain the latter stages of the contest when the blinds and antes are extremely high.
Late stage poker must be done with a sustained focus, learning to attack in the proper situations with the right cards and knowing when to toss your cards and wait for a better situation in which to make your move. Remaining focused for hours at a time is harder than it seems, especially when you will almost certainly go through periods of seeing hand after hand of poor or non-playable cards. Tournaments do require a high degree of self-discipline and awareness.
Adapt to Change
As the tourney progresses, it’s also crucial to adjust to the changes that confront you. Changes include new players arriving at your table or you being shifted to another table, the playing style of your opponents, your chip stack in comparison to the stacks of your table rivals, and the pot odds you are getting in various situations since the blinds and antes are ever-increasing. Lastly, avoiding mistakes due to the constantly changing variables that can tend to diminish your focus.
Holding back and waiting to attack the chip stacks of other players when the odds are in your favor is a vital ingredient to tournament survival and success.
The Start of Tournaments Strategy
In the beginning of a tournament it is important to start slowly and to be patient. When the blinds are small, you should be studying your opponents and identifying or labeling the strong and weak players. Your main intent is to get the chips of your table rivals added to your stack. As such, you should be targeting those players who you can get to put their chips on the table.
Mix Things Up
Be aware that as you are labeling certain players they will also be making a note of your playing style or table image. It is key to tournament success to mix up your play and avoid being predictable or typecast.
Players will take advantage of you if you play only premium hands and are quick to fold when the community cards flop. Try to be aware of how other players view your game and adjust accordingly.
Protect Your Chip Stack
Since your chips will be under attack, you must protect your stack with great care, knowing which hands you can play and which to let go. When confronted with a big raise, you must determine how much you can afford to invest in the hand and what type of play will give you the best odds to win and get the most chips from your opponent.
The best way to do this is to wait for a good hand and to get the most value from that hand. Once you have a premium starting hand, you can confidently take on all styles of players, including the aggressive raisers who may have previously relied on you folding to win certain hands
Read Your Opponents
Many tournament players fall into the habit of concentrating too much on their hands. You should also be watching intently even in hands that you are not involved and try to determine or put players on the hands that you think they may have based on their betting patterns and playing styles.
Watching every hand is extremely important and can be used to your utmost advantage when you get a good hand and will be able to exploit the tendencies of your opponents.
Know the Odds
Making the correct decisions in given situations requires playing the pot odds correctly. If you’re unfamiliar with pot odds, there are some articles on the internet that can explain the concept.
You must be making decisions at the table that give you the best opportunity to win and knowing the pot odds at each stage of a hand is crucial to becoming a successful Hold’em tournament player.
Later Stage Guide
In the later stages of the tournament when the blinds and antes have escalated, a key to progressing in the tournament requires taking some stabs at pots without having optimal hands.
You will need to steal some blinds from the players whom you have identified as those that your steal attempts will be most successful. Remember to do this in the later positions.
Play Your Position
Speaking of position, your position at the table on each hand is of vital importance, not only for the stealing attempts. Play your position wisely, sometimes lowering your starting hand selection when in a good position.
Trap Your Opponents
During your tournament battle, another key to winning is to induce other players to make an incorrect play. Those are the most profitable hands.
By knowing your opponents, their styles, and tendencies, you will go a long way in exploiting their foibles or weaknesses.
I touched on it previously, but it bears repeating. You must also mix up your game and shift gears from time to time to keep your opponents from predicting your play or style. If the majority of the players at your table are playing tight, it may be time to mix it up and play a bit more loosely.
Likewise, if your table has an abundance of aggressive raisers, then you should be playing a tight and solid game.
There is no hard and fast rules in all poker hands or situations, which makes poker the great game that it is. There is a tremendous amount of adjusting required in all the different variables that arise. But if you stick to your battle plan, pay attention, use common sense and the correct odds in the hands you play, adapt to changes, and exploit the players who you have identified as such, you will find yourself at more and more tournament final tables.
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