Poker tournaments are different from the regular cash games and therefore you will need a special strategy to beat them. No matter the game, Texas Hold’Em, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud or Razz, any tournament follows the same two basic principles.
The first one says that once you’re out, you can’t get back in the game anymore. Of course, you will also see tournaments with re-buys; in these kinds of games, you can re-enter, but this option will ran out eventually in the mid and late stages.
The second principle is all about blind levels. Unlike the cash games, in tournaments the blinds increase until a winner is decided. Because the shuffling and dealing is made automatically and at a blink of an eye, in the online world, the blinds will increment faster, after usually 5 to 15 minutes. In live play, the blinds increase every 30 minutes or so.
Because of this increment, you will need to apply a special poker tournament strategy. Before we go into it though, read the Beginner Poker Strategy to familiarize with the basic concepts of the game. Those general guidelines also apply to the tournament world but in order to make it and become a winner, you will have to apply some other rules specific for these type of games. First of all, we will reiterate the aggressive rule because this is so important in tournaments.
In the early stages, when the blinds are small relative to your stack, you can choose either to play tight or loose but make sure you play your hands aggressively. The biggest mistake a beginner makes is getting way too passive when the blinds increase, in the mid and late stages of the tourney.
Don’t do that because it will hurt your chances to cash in the big prizes! Maintain your aggressiveness throughout the whole game and don’t be scared to put chips in the middle when you have a good hand.
Secondly, a sound poker tournament strategy involves playing the small stack correctly. More often than not, you will have to handle a small stack. Again, don’t play passively because of this. Playing tight under this conditions can make you suffer so you will need to gamble more and try doubling up your stack.
When you have a stack that is 10 – 12 times the big blind or smaller, move all in or fold. Don’t try other options unless you have a good reason to do that. Don’t just call the big blind or call a raise and fold later. You can’t do that anymore because of the stack size.
If you want to just raise, you will have to be more willingly to put the rest of your stack in the middle on later streets.
Learn more about the poker tournament strategy by watching our training videos.