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Poker Tournament Strategy

By Gary Steele

Online poker tournaments require much different strategy than your typical online poker ring game. Your object, of course, is to get in the money so you may play more conservatively than you normally would to assure this happens. You can earn more than thirty times the amount of money for first place as you would for eleventh, so often players will take some big chances near the end to have a shot at the big money. You have to be prepared to lose in tournaments. If you place in the money one out of ever four times you play you are doing great.

You can be great at ring games and really stink in tournament play. There is only one simple rule in a tournament: don’t lose all your chips. If you are holding top pair and someone in front of you makes a bet that would put you all in you must think about folding the hand. You have to play conservatively and have control of the betting when you play a hand. Unless you have a great hand, if you do not have control of the betting, you are in jeopardy of losing.

The other night I was playing a really big tournament. There were 11 players left. I was in the money, but running low on chips. I flop top pair, Queens, but I slow-played them allowing the only other player in the pot to throw a small bet at me. Right here I made my mistake and gave him control of the betting. Next card is a 10 which doesn’t help me. I give him the bet again, he throws another small bet at me and I just call it. Last card is a Queen. I have made Three of a Kind, but I do not have control. Little do I know he made his straight on the Turn. He gets me all in and I lose a couple hundred dollars I would have won if I had played correctly. By taking control of the betting on the flop I could have easily taken his odds of making the gutshot straight away. If he stays in and I am betting, he most likely scares me out with a raise before I make my three of a kind. Instead, I played wildly, got a little unlucky, and failed to remember that keeping a chip on the table is the most important thing in tournament play.

If I get to the point where I have less than 20 times the big blind in my bankroll I start to get worried. I have to start playing a little more aggressively because the blinds will soon consume the little bit of money I have left. Even playing very conservatively staying above 20 times the big blind is usually not a problem. There are a lot of bad players out there, you just have to take advantage of them.

In the early rounds you want to play a lot of hands if you can get in cheap. In a tournament where you start out with 1500 chips and a 20 dollar blind you are given 75 times the big blind to start. Within an hour you will be wishing it was that cheap to get in a hand. Be careful here though. Only play after the flop with a very good hand. It is too early in these rounds to bluff or play loose. You want to see as many really cheap flops as you can, even with moderate cards, and hope you get lucky on a couple of them.

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