About Online Poker Tournaments

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Mark | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy, Poker Tournament

Submitted by Adam, this article belongs to the Poker Tournament series.

Online multi-table tournaments can be the most profitable games for new players.  Becoming increasingly popular, these type of games provides the easiest and fastest means of making a ton of money in poker for minimal risk.  PokerStars recent record breaking tournament for example gave $50,000 to the winner of an event costing only $1 to buy into.
The problem with new players succeeding in tournaments is that they don’t adopt the correct MTT Strategy to maximize their success.

Tournament Strategy

Unlike cash games, where optimal strategy and maximizing your expected value will make you profit; tournament strategy requires something completely different.  In tournaments you need to constantly build your stack to compete with the ever increasing blinds.  Because of this you’ll need to play much more aggressively and take bigger risks.  Blind stealing, value-shoving and overall pure bluffs are all essential to becoming a long term good tournament player.

Along with the playing strategy, you’ll also need have a large enough bankroll to cover the variance in these tournaments.  Most players recommend having a total bankroll of 40 tournament buy-ins.  This means to play $5 tournaments you have be bankrolled with about $200.  This figure maximizes your potential return whilst minimizing the risk.  The reason the figure is so high is because tournaments are notoriously difficult to cash out in.  Many tournaments run up over 1000 entrants – and with less than the top 10% getting paid off you’ll need to beat 1/100 people on average to make money.

Early Stage Strategy
Concentrate on playing only your best hands.  Throw away anything below 10J and never limp from early of middle position.  You’re at a 9 or 10 seated here, so the chances are someone will be raising the pot preflop with a monster hand like AK or QQ which will force you to fold with anything that’s beaten.  Also remember never to play rag ace hands like A7 or A3.  Because you’re almost certain to be beaten by better Ace kickers, you’ll really be relying on hitting two pair or a set with your kicker in order to take down the pot.  You won’t get the pot value to call with these hands, so don’t both.  Another tip to remember is that the blinds don’t represent much at this level; so don’t spend much time worrying about them.

Middle Stage Strategy
Here’s where you need to accumulate the most chips.  Open up your starting hand selection a little more with hands like suited connectors and low pocket pairs in middle or late position.  Try to value shove also in late positions where you have a decent hand.  The chances of players folding are very high, because in order to call you they would have needed a hand that they should have raised to begin with.   For example, in late position with J9 suited you can shove allin.  You’re very unlikely to get called with AK because surely this player would have raised anyway.  Also keep bluffing on weak and dangerous boards and focus your efforts on stealing and protecting the blinds against weak players.

Final Stage Strategy
As the table becomes short-handed remember to open up your starting hand range to include hands like A5 suited or even QJ.  Make sure you learn heads up strategy also.  The difference between 1st and 2nd place can be huge – up to 10% of the tournament prizepool. So don’t bother settling for 2nd place when you could earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars more.

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1 Comment to About Online Poker Tournaments

December 31, 2009

I do not agree with your early stage strategy. I usually play many medium, and sometimes low, ranked hands when the blinds are small. If I hit a big hand and double up, I narrow down my starting hand range. If I do not hit a hand, I also narrow down my starting hand range as my stack becomes smaller compared to the blinds.

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