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Poker Tournament Strategy

Poker tournaments are inarguably the life and blood of poker. And while many pro high stakes players such as Ivey, Dwan and Antonius prefer to make their money in the PLO ring tables, poker tournaments are where the real exploits of online poker began.   PokerStars now holds the Guinness World Record for the largest online poker tournament, which was held back in December 2009 and contained just fewer than 150,000 entrants.

The majority of beginners tend to prefer poker tournament and smaller SNG games when they first start out.  It gives new players a chance to luck-box onto the final table and cash in on massive guaranteed cash prizes, such as the Full Tilt Poker $10K Daily Dollar.

There are a number of poker concepts and facets that you will need to incorporate into your poker tournament strategy in order to successfully build up an online poker bankroll in tournaments (other wise known MTTs – multi-table tournaments).

The most important factor that I can dish out to new players for free is that you need to play extremely tight in the early stages of the tournament.  Dan Harrington practically wrote the book on poker tournament strategy, and in it he maintains that you should stick to a very limited stating hand selection ore-flop.  In the early stages, you should consider playing your top 5% of hands including JJ+ and AJ+. Anything less than this needs to be folded round the table.

The main reason that you need to fold inferior hands such as JQ, Ax and KJ is that these hands can be easily dominated by another player at the table.  If you call the flop with A7 and than hit an Ace on the flop than it’s more likely that you’ll be sucked into a trap when your opponent has a higher kicker.  Trust me, when I used to play live poker I fell into this trap all of the time.  I would call the blinds with A2 and hit my Ace on the flop but eventually succumb to a slow-played hand on the river such as AQ.

Pocket pairs, 2-2 to 10-10, are very good hands in cash games to go all-in or 3bet with.  However in tournaments you have to play these slower and contextual factors such as your table position, the size of your stack and the blinds become more important.  You can limp or open-raise the majority of pocket pairs in the early stages of a tournament because the implied odds are in your favour.  Your opponents will have enough chips behind them to give you the implied odds necessary in case you hit your set on the flop. If you miss than it’s just a simple fold, no pain no gain.

The middle stage of the tournament, i.e. when the antes kick in, is what most new players struggle with.  You need to learn to be super aggressive and take advantage of small stack opponents or other opportunities to bluff the board when they present themselves.  The average chip stack will only be worth 50BBs this far into the tournament.  

The need to keep building your stack in order to keep up with the rising blinds means that you need to take more risks and bluff a hell of a lot more than you’d be comfortable doing in a cash game.  Concepts such as squeeze play, blind stealing, re-steals, continuation bets and double barrels are all important to learn.

What’s more, when you approach the bubble (guaranteed payoff places) you will start to see everyone slow down their game.  Opponent’s on your table will play much tighter - especially the short stacks.  This is because of a process known as the ICM concept which states that players will take fewer risks with their chips once they’re close to a guaranteed payoff place.  Obviously they don’t want to bust out just before they get paid.

Finally, once you reach the final table you’ll need to open up your starting hand range.  With an average chip stack of 20BBs at this stage, you can’t afford to limp into pots. It’s either all-in or fold the majority of the time.  Hands that you should be prepared to 3bet shove and call all-ins with (subject to contextual circumstances) includes Ax, any suited Ace, broad way cards and pocket pairs.  Sometimes you might even shove all-in with any high suited connectors, e.g. 9s10s.

The best online poker website is Pokerstars, with their huge tournament calendar. It includes the highest number of freerolls and low-buy-in poker tournaments. After all, Pokerstars is the biggest online poker room in the World. They offer a bonus of $600 to new players who use their marketing code PSA2045. poker tournament no limit strategy beginners