Online poker tournaments are poker games where you will be knocked out when you lose your chips (after you have used up re-buy quotas or passed the re-buy time limit). The blinds in poker tournaments progressively rise in order to force people out of the game. To be successful within tournaments it is imperative to employ a strategy.
We have divided the tournament into three stages in order to assist with our strategy description:
Everyone plays at the early stage of the tournament. Therefore the field of players has the highest number of weak and loose players than at any other stage. As a result, the early phase of a tournament is where the largest amount of players get knocked out. If you join a tournament an hour later, many of these players will have already been eliminated!
There are normally no antes during the early stages of a tournament. In addition, the blinds are small and will be very small in comparison to your stack. As such, time is on your hands. You should ensure that you are patient and play a tight strategy. This would mean playing only the top 10 best starting poker hands:
- Pocket aces (Ace, Ace)
- Pocket kings (King, King)
- Pocket Queens (Queen, Queen)
- Ace-King Suited (Ace, King)
- Pocket Jacks (Jack, Jack)
- Ace Queen Suited (Ace, Queen)
- King Queen Suited (King, Queen)
- Ace King Unsuited (Ace, King)
- Ace Jack Suited (Ace, Jack)
- Pocket Tens (Ten, Ten)
When you get these hands you need to ensure that you play aggressively, by betting and raising and trying to take money from the loose players. Building a stack is your aim, but staying alive when variance is against you, is also imperative.
The middle phase of a tournament will normally offer an opportunity to carefully grow your stack.
You need to start stealing some blinds and antes in order to do this. In the middle of the game the blinds and antes start having a bigger effect on your chip stack (as they have been progressively increasing from the start). In order to steal them you do not need a very good hand, you could bluff to win the pot. However, it does helps if you have a reasonable hand, so if someone does call you have something to fall back on when the flop is dealt.
In order to steal the pot ensure you are close to to the right of the dealer and make a raise of around 2.5 or 3 times the value of the big blind. It is not recommended that you employ this strategy too often as the other players will soon catch on. If you have been playing a tight strategy so far in the tournament, stealing pots is often successful to begin with, as players will envisage that you have a good hand.
Unless you are unfortunate enough to be moved to a different table frequently, you should identify the tightest and loosest players on your table. You should then take advantage of the strategies that these player play. For example, it is easier to steal blinds from the tighter players, as they will only play the best hands. In addition, by playing only the better hands against the looser players means that you increase your chances of winning.
At the middle of the game you need to become slightly looser with your play. This would involve playing a larger spectrum of hands. We would recommend increasing the hands you play to include high unsuited cards (such as AA,AK,AQ,AJ,A10,KQ,KJ,K10,QJ,Q10,J10). This is of course in addition to the hands mentioned in the “Early Phase” section.
The reason for increasing the hands you play is because a higher calibre of players remain. With increasing antes and blinds, you will quickly be “blinded” out of the tournament unless you get more involved in the game.
When you get closer to the money bubble, increase your aggressiveness. This will pay dividends as most players become a lot tighter at this phase for fear of not being paid. There is usually little benefit from just getting in the money. You want to make the final table. That’s where the money’s at!
At this stage of the game only the very best players will be left. This is because most players left will have been employing similar strategies to get there. Very rarely does luck solely push someone to a final table.
In order to be successful at the final phase stage you need to become even more loose and even more aggressive. I would now recommend playing even more hands. Being unreadable or unpredictable in this stage of the game is very important. Be willing to gamble and be willing to accept some luck!
I hope this page has assisted you with your poker strategy. If you need help comparing the vast array of poker sites available please visit our home page ‘best poker sites’.
If you want more information on tournament strategy, the best book I have read is Harrington on Hold ’em: Strategic Play v. 1: Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments. Definitely worth a read!