Tournament poker requires a wide range of skillsets. It makes a shortened list for beginners difficult to encapsulate. However, I have narrowed it down to what I think are the 5 fundamental parts. If you learn and implement these parts of poker, you can succeed in live and online poker tournaments.
Every serious tournament player has to exercise patience. It’s a long old battle, not a sprint. Despite what you may think, you can’t play loads of hands and expect to win. Sure, there are times in tournaments when you catch a favorable table and can attack a bit more, but for the most part, patience is the order of the day. Patience isn’t just about hand selection. It’s far more than that. It might mean waiting for the moment to bluff or folding on the turn with your draw. Patience is a key discipline that separates novice tournament players who get stubborn and blow up, and professionals who make a living from tournaments.
2) Solid Continuation Bet Strategy
Picking the right moments and situations to fire in c-bets is absolutely essential in tournaments. Being able to pick up pots uncontested is a necessity to survival. The key to successful c-betting is understanding your opponents’ likely range, your perceived range, flop textures, and positions. It’s not a case of just c-betting because you raised before the flop. That strategy is outdated and will cost you a lot of chips. Texas Hold’em Questions has an in-depth course in continuation betting. Use our discount code POKERJOURNAL10 to get 10% off if you are interested in purchasing it.
3) Picking Spots to Steal
With antes and blinds going up rapidly, you need to find the right time to steal. There’s no way around it, you have to do this to keep your stack growing and not blinding down. This is not a case of just raising from the button either. Different table compositions will lead you to find the right moment. It may be that your opponent to the left is too passive. Great! When you’re in the small blind you can raise his big blind every round without looking at your cards. Picking spots to steal is about observing the table, the rhythm, and finding situations where you are least likely to face resistance. The key to this is attention.
4) Playing from the Big Blind
If you’ve played any big live tournaments, you’ll probably be asking yourself why do the professionals defend the blind so much? The reason is simple; pot odds. Most tournament players are not properly accounting for the math. They see a junky hand in the big blind when a raise comes in and fold without much thought. This is a huge leak. Most pre-flop raises are between 2.5x and 3x big blinds. When you add in the antes, you can compute that you’re often getting around 3 or 4 to 1 on your money before the flop. That’s very attractive odds that a strong post-flop player will gladly take. So, if you’re a competent post-flop player, you need to be defending the blinds with a relatively wide range.
5) Push/Fold Strategy
Unfortunately, short stack poker is part of tournament poker. It doesn’t matter who you are, you will have to endure playing a short stack sometimes. With it, comes the push/fold strategy concept. For most players, it not a fun way of playing. You’re limited to two moves “all-in” or “fold”. This strategy is adopted by tournament players when they have 5-10 big blinds or less. It’s also used for some from 15 big blinds and under. It’s an effective way of either stealing chips back up to an average stack, or, hopefully doubling up. This strategy rests on knowing what hands to shove with and what hands to fold and from what positions. This is where a push/fold chart can be used. Check some out online, there’s plenty of them around.