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Basic Strategy for Playing Poker Tournaments
03-07-2009, 01:10 AM
Post: #1
Basic Strategy for Playing Poker Tournaments
First thing everyone who wants to start playing tournaments should do is read Harrington on Hold’em vol. 1,2 and 3 by Dan Harrington. It’s an absolute must read on tournament Poker. (and this is not just my opinion)

Basically, freerolls are not a bad way for getting some experience (and possibly some money). On freerolls you shouldn’t use advanced plays like sandwich, resteal, etc. because freeroll fish will not play the way you expect the regular player to play.

Early Stage

The next step on your ladder to WSOP are normal tourneys (the ones that require an entry fee). In the early stages of the tournament it is good to limp IN POSITION (In Position means a good spot on the table to act. The later you have to act, the better the position. The best position is the Dealer button.) Why? There are 2 reasons for this:
1. If you limp In Position, the chances of someone raising the pot after you are smaller
2. When limping In Position you can see how many limpers have entered the Pot before you so you can assess is it worth for you to limp in also

Regarding to the limping in early stages, it is recommended to limp with suited connectors, small pocket pairs or generally speaking, limping with cards that have high value in multiway pots (that have a potential to become a monster). Don’t go to crazy preflop because the blinds are small, so it’s smarter to see the flop and then play it aggressively if you flopped a very good hand (set, straight, flush; be careful with two pairs because of the many limpers).

Middle Stage

In the middle stages when the blinds go up and hopefully you multiplied your stack, you should tighten up preflop and generally shouldn’t limp. From this stage on, only limp with a monster in Early Position and wait for a raise. By monster, I mean AA and KK, nothing below. Be careful, limping with these cards can hit you in the head, so it is only recommended to limp to be less predictable to your opponents.

Next thing you should do in this stage is Blind Stealing. Without Blind Stealing you have significantly lower chances of winning the tourney.
A blindsteal is an attack on the blinds in the form of a raise from a weak hand out of late position, or an attack by the small blind on the big blind, after all other players have folded. This move is often made with a weak hand, with the idea that the blinds will fold, leaving the thief with the blinds without having to fight for them.
You should blindsteal depending on the type of players posting the blinds. Tighter player means higher chance of success and vice verse. Also try stealing from the late positions because you have more information about your opponents cards and chances that someone will reraise you preflop are smaller.

Last Stage

In the last stage of the game (let's say we made it to the final table) there are three possible situations:
- you are the chipleader
- you have an average stack
- you are a short stack
On the final table you should adjust your play according to the size of your stack:

1. Chip Leader
When you are the Chip Leader you should play very aggressive and be the table captain. Best stacks to attack are the medium stacks because they are not in a hurry and a lot of them are waiting for the short stacks to be busted out so they get a bigger prize. They are usually waiting the big stacks to do this job for them. While it is not bad to attack the short stacks there is a danger to be reraised by them as they don’t have much to lose anymore and if you for eg. show 84o you will be marked as a table bully and be forced to change your game because players will be more inclined to call your raises. Worst players to attack are Big Stacks because they can cause significant damage to your stack.

2. Average Stack
If you have an average stack you should play tight and wait for premium cards. Try reraising and steal blinds now and then, but be careful whom you reraise and steal blinds from (big stacks are more likely to call your raise)

3. Short Stack
If you are a Short Stack you have nothing to wait for. Once your stack is bellow 10 Big Blinds it’s time to move all in with much wider range of cards: Axs, Axo, any pair, KQo, KJs. Nonetheless you shouldn't rush all in, especially if there are no antes in the game structure.

One of the most important concepts new players should understand are the so called “gap” concept. It means that it takes a stronger hand to call a raise than to make it in the first place. There is a gap between the hands with which one could raise and the ones with which one could call a raise.
This is a description of the fact that one could go all-in with many more hands than one could call an opposing all-in in the late phases of a tournament. Likewise, there is a larger range of hands with which one can steal the blinds or antes than with which one can defend them.
A consequence of the gap concept is that aggressors always have an advantage.

And the most important thing to win a tourney: luck with coinflips

NOTE ABOUT THIS POST: This is not a universal and perfect guide to playing Poker Tournaments as something like that doesn’t exist. As you play more and more you will probably develop your own style but some general guidelines should be followed.

Bad Beats happen to everyone, so just keep improving your game and there should be less of them.

"Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit." - R. E. Shay
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