Unlike cash games where play is consistent and the blinds remain the same, tournament poker is a different prospect altogether. Players need to navigate through a dynamic environment where blinds increase and antes are introduced thereby putting pressure on entrants. It involves many skills to become a tournament expert. In this post we’re going to share some information and tips on the three fundamental parts of tournament poker; beginning, middle and end. Hopefully by the end of this article you will have a thirst to play some multi table tournaments.
The Early Stages of a Tournament
The start of a tournament is arguably the easiest part to play. You are likely to be at your deepest stack and thus have more flexibility. The blinds are small relative to everyone’s stack so you have freedom to pick the style you want to employ.
Many tournament grinders play a cautious approach, waiting for bad players to bust or blow up in front of them. Whilst this is a reasonable approach it probably isn’t the most profitable. After all, you want to get the fishes chips before they bust. So, there is definitely an argument to play speculative hands early on with a view to breaking some inexperienced players who are prone to overplaying hands post-flop.
The Middle Stages of a Tournament
You’ve got through the early stages and now are either short stacked, average or one of the bigger stacks at the table. Your strategy at this point is dependant on your stack size. If you are short-stacked you are hoping to get a double through or steal the blinds to keep yourself in the game. Conversely, a larger stack bully some of the other players who are playing tight.
This shift in strategy is an important concept to grasp as you can’t profitably play the same way regardless of your stack. The key to successful tournament poker is to observe the table dynamics and adapt to other players weaknesses. IF you notice someone is opening too much to your left, throw in some 3-bets, if you notice a player folds his big blind too much, steal it. These plays seem small but they will help you generate a good ITM rate and hopefully a decent ROI too.
The Late Stages of a Tournament
Getting to the final stages of a tournament is exciting and adrenaline filled. Knowing you may secure a top 2 and win lots of money is an amazing feeling. Narciso Baldo of Texas Hold’em Questions offers some final table poker strategy stating players should “identify the survivors”.
If you get to the final nine, you’ll notice there are players content to blind down and move up the pay-spots. These are the perfect types of player to put pressure on as they will continuously fold unless they have a premium hand.
The final stages of a poker tournament are challenging as your opponents should be tougher than those that have busted. You need to win your pre-flop all ins too. The best thing you can do is look for paths of least resistance to winning chips. This could be through pre-flop raises, 3 bets or continuation betting. Stay attentive and adapt to the other players and you might just bink a first place.