A Look at Poker Tournament Strategy
To begin formulating a tournament strategy, you first have to be aware of the different phases that occur and are relevant to game play. The easiest way to approach tournament strategy, as we present it, here at http://www.passapassword.com is to divide the process into four parts, starting with Pre-Tournament decision-making, looking at the beginning and middle stages, and ending with the final stage.
1. Before the Tournament: Pre-Tournament Decision Making
There are many different types of poker tournaments, so the first step is to be very clear on what type of tournament you're entering.
Major Tournaments: Large tournaments that last for an extended period of time, such as one week up to one month with larger buy-in fees.
Minor Tournaments: Much smaller tournaments that usually last for three days. Buy-ins are cheaper than in major tournaments.
Free Roll Tournaments: There is no buy-in fee required for entry into the tournament.
Re-buy Tournaments: Players are given the option during a certain period to purchase more chips, usually for the same price as the original buy-in. Each tournament has different re-buy rules regarding how many chips a player must have in order to purchase more, and another issue is whether or not the tournament allows for multiple re-buys, or a one-optional re-buy. When the period for re-buys ends, the tournament becomes a Freezeout.
Guaranteed Tournaments: Guarantees from the start that a certain amount of money will be in the prize pool, regardless of how many players buy-in to the tournament.
Satellite Tournaments: A one-table tournament that's used for the purpose of awarding winners with buy-ins to major tournaments.
Shootout: A player must defeat all players at his table before advancing to the final round. All finalists play against each other in a freeze-out format until only one player remains.
Freezeout: Players who run out of chips are eliminated. As seats open up, tables are combined together until there is only one player remaining. Players in the top remaining positions receive a percentage of the prize pool on a predetermined scale.
[Note from passapassword.com: It's important to check the blind/ante structure before the tournament. This is to make sure you understand the structure and know how frequently it changes.]
2. Beginning Stages of the Tournament
Depending on the type of tournament, players will have a general tendency either to play more aggressively in the early stages or very tight.
Re-buy tournaments, due to the fact that players can purchase more chips during re-buy periods, are played much more loosely and aggressively. The cost of blinds towards the beginning of the tournament is fairly low, which allows poker players much more leeway when deciding which hands to play. Again, factoring your cost allowance versus aggressive playing is important for finding the proper balance somewhere in-between both. It may be worth the risk to invest up to five percent of your stack to see the flop on marginal hands for the chance of doubling what you have. This is only toward the beginning of the tournament when blinds are still affordable and you know that you won't let yourself put in more than 5% of what you have on a small pair.
Now, if you have a decent hand pre-flop such as an Ace-King, it's better to play a bit more conservatively. Firstly, this allows you to minimize your losses if the flop doesn't work out, and secondly, if you flat call and manage to hit it big after the flop, you enjoy the benefit of disguise. This is your best bet since you most likely won't be able to get other players to fold by raising them, especially if you're sitting in late position.
In general, pre-flop betting strategy should be slightly loose but relative to your stack for the chance of early chip accumulation, but post-flop strategy should be played tighter, particularly if you're not positive that you are ahead and will be wasting another bet that could've been saved. In these types of cases, save the bet and lose the pot rather than risk losing both.
Keep in mind that your main focus in the beginning stages of a poker tournament should be to keep a decent stack of chips so that you'll be in a secure position for the upcoming rounds.
3. Middle Stages of the Tournament
Towards the middle of the tournament, significant changes in the blinds need to be taken into account. Blinds will be raised and you'll be required to invest a larger chunk of your chip stack as the rounds continue. This affects your playing strategy because the general tendency here is to try to win the blind by raising immediately. In order to call, you will have to invest a significant amount of money, which is not a smart move to make if your hand is weak. Smart players will fold immediately if they have nothing to go on. Remember that tournaments are a matter of survival, and if you're wasting your chips on weak hands at this stage, you probably won't last long.
To recap, your best bet if you're in early position is to aggressively make the first raise, but if another player makes the raise, play tight and fold immediately if you have a weak hand.
4. The Final Stage
In order to make it to the final round, you should shoot for winning the blinds at least once per round. If you succeed, you'll be in a position where the increasingly high blinds leave you in a critical position with your chips and requires skillful short-hand play. The best strategy at this stage is to take stock of where you stand with your chips and how close you are to the prize money according to the tournament's prize structure. If you have a decent amount of chips, your focus should be on eliminating the other players by playing aggressively. If not, play conservatively and call only if you have a strong hand. It's important at this stage to know realistically what's possible and to adjust your strategy to aim for that goal.
Regular poker-playing tips apply here, in addition to some of the adjustments necessary for tournaments. It's important to increase your stack slowly throughout the tournament. Going for the big wins early on may be repairable if you don't succeed, but later on, too much aggressive playing will get you eliminated before you realize you've made a mistake. We, at www.passapassword.com, observe your opponents' betting patterns in different situations as the tournament progresses to get an idea of their style of play. Make a good opponent model so you'll know exactly when to push and when to bluff. ... more tips at pokerbutcher.com
If it's a Single Table Tournament:
Be careful of playing aggressively on suited connectors. Their value is lower than expected since people are going to be short stacked, so if you still decide to call, only do so at the beginning of the tournament.
Pay attention and keep track of the players you're competing against since you may run into them again if you continue playing single table tournaments with the same buy-in.
It it's a Multi Table Tournament:
If you're short stacked and it's already much later on in the poker tournament, consider going all in pre-flop to try and steal the blinds even if your hand isn't looking so great, rather than waiting and going all in on the flop.
There tournaments are long and last awhile, so be prepared for a full-day event and pace yourself. Place your bets wisely.
The best tip of all is perhaps the most cliché, but it still deserves mentioning: PRACTICE!