Top 10 Poker Tournament Tips

Top Ten Tournament TipsUnfortunately, a complete poker tournament strategy cannot realistically be broken down into just ten steps, simply because so much information goes into a complete tournament strategy. However, that doesn't mean that a top ten list can't be useful - in fact, the reality is quite the opposite.

This top ten list can be digested in a few minutes, and will transform amateur tournament players into educated players who will have a much better shot at winning a big tournament score.

Ok, enough fluff - let's get right into our top ten tips for No Limit Hold'em tournament players:

Tournament Tip #1 - Play Tight in the Early Stages

The small blinds in the early stages of poker tournaments tempt many players to play a loose game. Don’t let yourself fall into the same trap. The early stage of a poker tournament is full of loose players. All you have to do is sit tight and wait for strong hands. Besides, you don’t want to waste your chips on marginal hands early in the tournament; you’ll be needing those chips later.

Tournament Tip #2 - Increase Your Aggression as the Blinds Increase

The higher the blinds get, the more you need to steal them to stay alive. Unless you are lucky enough to win a few giant pots, you’ll spend most of your time in a tournament short stacked and worried about the next blind increase. The bigger the blinds go, the more you need to steal them.

As the bubble approaches, you should increase your aggression even more to take advantage of the players just trying to sneak in to the money. Right before the money, you’ll notice many players tighten up. They are just trying to survive long enough to make it to the money. These players represent a perfect opportunity for you to steal the blinds and pad your stack.

Tournament Tip #3 - Keep a Healthy Tournament Bankroll

If you want to minimize the chances of you ever going broke, a tournament bankroll of at least 50 buy ins is recommended. This means that if you have a $1,000 bankroll, the most expensive tournaments you should play in are $20. Tournament players have to have a huge bankroll because big wins don’t come often. The large bankroll gives you enough breathing room to survive those long draughts between wins.

Tournament Tip #4 - Drawing Hands Have Less Value

As a tournament wears on, the players will have increasingly small stacks in comparison to the blinds. Small drawing hands like suited connectors and small pairs lose value because your average opponent is so short stacked. If you spend a lot of money prospecting with such hands, you won’t get paid off with large enough pots to cover the expenses.

Tournament Tip #5 - It Requires a Stronger Hand to Call than to Go All-In

David Sklansky calls this the “Gap Concept.” The idea is that you don’t have to have as strong a hand to push all-in as you do to make a big call. When you push all-in, you have the advantage of aggression and therefore have two ways to win the pot: by having the best hand or by making your opponent fold. When you call, you can only win the pot if you have the best hand at the showdown.

Remember this tip when it gets down towards the end of a tournament and the pressure is high on everyone to collect chips. You’ll do better if you collect chips by pushing all-in rather than by making big all-in calls.

Tournament Tip #6 - Steal From the Middle-Stacks

You’ll have better luck by stealing from the players with average sized stacks than by stealing from large stacks or small stacks. The players with large stacks aren’t afraid to make those calls because they have the chips to lose. The short stacked players will call your steals out of desperation.

The players with medium stacks aren’t yet desperate enough to make wild calls but they don’t have enough chips to make loose calls. These players are the most likely to fold to your steals. Attack these players as often as you can get away with it.

Tournament Tip #7 - Improve Your End Game Skills by Playing Sit N Gos

Players who play multi-table tournaments have a tough time getting practice in end-game scenarios like the final table and heads up play. Sit N Go tournaments (SNGs) are the perfect place to practice your skills. You’ll start out in a situation similar to the final table and then get the opportunity to play in shorthanded situations as the players knock each other out. You might even win a little money while you’re at it.

Tournament Tip #8 - Take Notes

Always pay attention to your opponents and take notes. Not only will you learn useful things about their tendencies, but you’ll also keep your head in the game. Plus, you would be surprised at how often you see the same players in different tournaments. Those notes will come in handy time and again.

Tournament Tip #9 - Think About Position

Position is vital in poker tournaments because it represent a major knowledge advantage. When you act in late position, you get to see what your opponents do before you act. You can get away with playing weaker hands in late position thanks to that advantage. In early position, you need all the help you can get so you should stick with cards that are inherently strong.

Tournament Tip #10 - Play to Win

Your tournament results will vastly improve if you play to win rather than to make it to the money. For example, if you build up a decent chip stack early, don’t squander it by sitting tight and waiting for the bubble to break. Keep the pressure up and keep on building your stack.

The payouts for tournaments are heavily skewed to favor the players who reach the final table. If you play just to make it to the money, you’ll cash more often but for small amounts. If you play for the 1st place finish, you will be knocked out more often but the occasional massive score will more than make up for the times you go out early.

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