Are you ready to play in some Texas Hold’em poker tournaments? It’s not an easy gig, but it is a beatable game. It just takes a heck of a lot of work and discipline to succeed. If you’re not a patient person with a lot of self-control, then you won’t have a chance.
If you are a patient person that can control impulses, then you might have a chance. In fact, this will separate you from the crowd and might lead to you being one of the few big winners. The poker tournament tips below should put you on the right track.
Poker Tournament Tips
#1. Buy-in Late
This is one of the most important poker tournament tips. It’s actually something experienced tournament players use, and for good reason. Let’s look at the other side first: buying-in early.
Let’s say you buy-in to a $400 tournament early. You will have to play all day and part of the night just to come in the money. You already know how much can go wrong in the game of poker. Therefore, you’re going to have to dodge a lot of bullets and make an amazing amount of correct decisions to even have a chance of coming in the money.
In most cases, something will go wrong somewhere and you will have to rebuy, which costs another $400. Also, in some cases, you will have to fire a third and fourth bullet, but let’s keep this example at just two bullets. In a re-buy tournament like this, assuming it’s an average-sized field, a min-cash will be just above the buy-in amount. This means you would lose money if you finished in min-cash territory. If you fire two bullets, you’re going to need to go deep to turn a profit.
Obviously, the goal is to not fire two bullets. The solution is to buy-in late. This doesn’t guarantee that you won’t fire two bullets, but if you’re wise, patient, and you have self-discipline, then you will only fire once, even if you buy-in late. If you bust, it will likely be too late to have a chance at making a real move on a second bullet. You don’t want to enter a tournament with 8 Big Blinds (8 BB). That’s fold or shove territory.
Also, when you buy-in late, your opponents will not know how you play, which means they won’t know your patterns (unless they have seen you play before). Additionally, you’re going to have more stamina than the rest of the field because you haven’t been playing tournament poker all day, which is mentally draining. Even if you were playing a cash game, you will have more energy. That is not nearly as draining.
Lastly, you’re going to play better poker when you buy-in late. When you buy-in early, the blinds are so low that you’re more likely to splash around, which can get you in trouble. Even if you run good and play good at that time, it’s hurting your table image because your opponents are more likely to call you down the road. When you buy-in late, you know every single decision counts because you’re at higher blind levels. This will lead to increased focus, more folds, respect from your opponents given your tight image, and a higher likelihood of success. All important stuff. Now let’s take a look at some more poker tournament tips.
#2. When Not To Bluff
Many people think that bluffing in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments is the right thing to do, but you really need to pick your spots. I can tell you when to bluff in a matter of a few words: Against passive players when heads-up on the flop or turn, sometimes against two passive players on the flop or turn.
This is one of those undervalued and highly important poker tournament tips. If you keep your bluffs small and against the right players, you’re going to be +EV (positive expected value) in those spots. However, most people don’t do that. They want to make the “amazing” play.
This refers to a big bluff on the river, but that rarely works. If someone gets to the river and missed their draw, they’re going to fold to a value bet anyway. There is no sense in firing off a ton of chips. It might look cool, but it’s dumb. Earlier in the hand, if you have more than two opponents, never bluff. You might get away with it once in a while, but it’s –EV over the long haul.
There are simply too many possibilities out there. Make sure this is one of those poker tips that you keep reviewing in your mind prior to playing. It will save you money!
#3. Never Bluff an Idiot
There are two types of bad poker players: passive players and idiots. You want to bluff the passive players. That’s steamrolling time, and it’s a lot of fun. Idiots are a whole different story. They’re calling stations that are just gambling. They might get hot for a while, but over the long haul, they have absolutely no chance of being a profitable poker player.
Even if they read these poker tournament tips and told themselves that they should apply them, they wouldn’t change. There is something wrong with their brains. If you try to bluff an idiot, they will call. Plain and simple. But this should also tell you something.
If an idiot will always call your bluff, then don’t be an idiot. In other words, don’t fear folding when you’re not sure if your opponent is bluffing and you don’t want him to rub it in by showing his bluff. If he shows his bluff, then he’s the idiot, not you. This is also ego-related, and nothing is more of an opponent than your ego.
In these spots, remind yourself that ego is a bigger threat than your opponent. If you don’t allow ego to win and you fold, then you’re winning. This will greatly increase your chances of going deep in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments.
#4. Who Is That Player? Read the Situation.
The guy two seats to your left has called you pre-flop, on the flop, and now on the turn from the button. You hold Ac Kh from middle position on this board: Ah Ts 9s 8d. The river is about to hit the felt and you need to quickly analyze what’s going on. Is this a conservative player who has folded to most raises and doesn’t gamble with draws? Is this a TAG (Tight-Aggressive) player who folds often but attacks when he’s ahead? Or is this a loose cannon who will call anything?
So far in this hand, he has only flatted and not raised. From what you have seen, he’s a TAG player, but he usually attacks when he has a hand. Why is he only calling? What hands are possible? He’s on the button, so that extends his range. He could have QJ, which would be terrible news. He could also have a flush draw with something like As 5s, which would explain why he didn’t raise pre-flop.
It’s not likely he has a set because he would have raised on the turn to see where he stood and to potentially get you off a straight draw if you turned one. It’s unlikely he flopped two pair because he would have raised on the flop. The most likely possibilities are a straight or a flush draw.
That’s a dud. Now you have to decide if you’re going to check or bet. You could check because this guy isn’t likely to fire if he missed a draw anyway. This is one of the most valuable beginner poker tips. Many players say you need to bet in this spot, but that doesn’t make sense against a player like this. If you bet and he has the straight, you wasted chips. He’s going to check-down a missed flush.
We don’t know what the player had because this is a hypothetical situation, but we can pretend he missed a flush since it makes us (writer and reader) feel like we won a hand. The real point was evaluating the player and the situation so we can minimize risk and maximize potential.
#5. Does This Story Make Sense? If Not Fold!
Now we go to the other end of the spectrum. Pretend it’s the same board as above: Ah Ts 9s 8d 3c. We have Th 3h and played it because we were in the big blind and it was checked around pre-flop. We put out a feeler bet against two opponents on the flop.
Our thinking was that the two pair of tens and threes could be good here because someone probably would have raised pre-flop with an ace (not always true). The problem is that it’s a wet board and if someone has an Ace/Ten, Ten/Nine, Ten/Eight they have us beat. One of our opponents is a NIT (called from middle position). The other one is crafty (called from the cutoff). The turn was checked around. On the river, we checked, the NIT checked, and the crafty player bet almost the size of the pot. What is going on here?
Forget about the NIT. He doesn’t have much. He would have bet. That’s an easy read. One thing you will quickly learn in these poker games is that NITs stand out the most. As for the crafty player, why did he call the flop, check the turn, and is now betting almost the size of the pot?
Remember, he called from the cutoff, but a crafty player like that doesn’t usually flat from the cutoff when there was only one limper. He raises with any strength. On the other hand, he’s crafty, so you never know exactly where he stands. In most cases, a pre-flop call in that spot by someone who would usually raise is a middle pair or small pair.
If that’s the case, then he could have flopped or turned a set. But, once again, he’s crafty, so we don’t know. He could have a set, straight, higher two pair, missed a flush, etc. We don’t know the answer. Read those last five words again!
That’s right: We don’t know the answer. What do we do when we don’t know the answer? We eliminate ego and fold. If we keep calling with hands like a pair of tens with a three kicker, we’re not going to be playing in many Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. We’ll have to find other poker games where they’re playing $0.25/$0.50. Of all the beginner poker tips in the world, remember this one: If you’re not sure, fold!
#6. Don’t Bubble
You might be saying to yourself: No kidding, but that’s easier said than done. The following is different than other poker tournament tips. Sometimes you need to think outside of the box, but also while keeping it simple. When you approach the bubble, the tournament director will announce that every table is playing hand-for-hand. This means that every table will deal one hand prior to continuing.
This is to prevent one player from tanking in order to wait for someone else at another table to bust. The tournament director might announce that you can’t leave your seat during this time, but this means that you can’t get up to watch another table’s action. You are allowed to go to the bathroom. And that’s exactly what you should do. It doesn’t matter if you actually have to go to the bathroom or not, get out of there!
I can’t tell you how many times I had a moderate stack and told myself I would stay away from the big stacks and just coast into the money. What do you think happened in those spots? I would end up looking down at a hand like QQ, the board would hit with three unders, all my chips would end up in the middle, and my opponent has KK.
This is just one example I remember, but this happens way too often. If I had just left the room in these situations, I would have more cashes under my belt, and once you’re in the money, there is no telling what can happen. Therefore, as crazy as it sounds, when you’re approaching the bubble, go to the bathroom. When you’re outside the tournament room, make a phone call, or pretend to make a phone call, and wait for the following announcement from the tournament director: “Congratulations, you’re now in the money.”
#7. Don’t Get Emotional
This is one of those poker tournament tips that seems a bit out of the ordinary, but it’s powerful. If an opponent sees you celebrate when you win a hand or pout when you lose a hand, that player is going to attack you later. You just revealed that you’re an amateur, which is the biggest tell in the book. When it comes to poker games, you must not reveal your weaknesses.
#8. Set The Long-Term Trap
Hopefully, you have learned some valuable information thus far with the aforementioned poker tournament tips. They all offer value as long as you apply them correctly. And while all of those poker tournament tips are important, the following is one you will want to apply in all Texas Hold’em poker tournaments.
When you arrive, play tight. The worst thing that can happen is picking up a strong hand immediately. This will make you look like a loose player even though you’re not. You want to establish a tight image, possibly even a passive image if you can pull it off. The trap is that a few hours later, when the blind levels are higher, your opponents will attack you.
This is what you want. Instead of going to them, they are coming to you. If you have to fold, that’s fine. You will appear even weaker. If you begin to hit hands, then you won’t have to do any work because of how you’re viewed by your opponents. They will be handing you chips. In short, look weak to act strong.
#9. Don’t Talk About Your Results
I have made this mistake on a several occasions. The following isn’t like the other poker tournament tips, but it’s important. When you talk about poker results at the table, you’re immediately putting unnecessary pressure on yourself while also creating a target for your opponents. When your opponents see you as a prized target (they want to say they knocked you out), they are going to increase their focus when playing against you. You obviously don’t want that. So, despite this being different than other poker tournament tips, this tip should be heeded.
#10. Don’t Overvalue Suited-Connectors
You’re running badly and you look down and see 7h 6h. Your heart skips a beat due to excitement because those cards look so pretty. Has beauty ever deceived you before? We both know the answer. This is one of those poker tournament tips that can save you a gazillion chips.
It can be put simply: do not flat with suited-connectors. If everyone has folded to you and you’re in late position, raise with these kind of hands. You will usually pick up the blinds without seeing a flop. When you do see a flop, play it to the best of your ability. If you raised, then you will likely be heads-up, so you can sometimes take it down with a continuation bet. If there’s a call and you missed the flop, abort mission. Plain and simple.
If you limp with a hand like this and there are numerous opponents, a lot can go wrong. One, you could hit a pair and be out-kicked. Two, you can flop a flush draw and miss. Three, you can call with a flush draw, hit, and lose to a bigger flush. Four, you can hit two pair and lose to a bigger two pair.
Over the long haul, suited-connectors will cost you a lot of money. They just look pretty, and you tend to remember the times you won with them because they’re exciting to look at, but try to think about how much money it cost you to see more cards with all those draws. I have always played my best when using extreme caution with suited-connectors. I will fold or raise with them, never a flat call.
Hopefully, the poker tips above will put you on the right track toward success on the felt. Just remember that it’s not an easy game and a very tough way to make an easy living. The poker tournament tips above should be reviewed on a regular basis so they stick to your mind like glue. Now go buy-in to a poker tournament, but make sure you buy-in late! See you at the WSOP!
Poker Tournament Tips – FAQs
A: The general rule is that you want to cash in at least 10% of tournaments you play in, but you should really do better than that. If you are not hitting that number, move down to smaller buy-in tournaments.
A: Yes, you can make money playing in poker tournaments, but it’s very difficult. I would highly recommend buying-in late to reduce buy-ins/risk. You need at least one big score per year to keep you going.
A: Only smaller poker tournaments offer add-ons, and when they are offered, you should take advantage of them. The only exception is if it’s an exorbitant amount where all the money is going to house and not the prize pool, it’s obvious the house is getting too greedy.
A: Personally, I blast my music on the way to the poker room while driving so I can tune everything else out of my mind. Basically, mindset is more important than everything else.
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