texas hold'em poker tournaments - dealer

How to Make Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments Work for You

The old saying about poker is the same for Texas hold’em poker tournaments: “It takes minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.” Hopefully, that puts it into perspective. What this means is that it’s easy to learn the poker rules and the basics, but extremely difficult to learn how to win.

Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments

I have been playing poker since I was five years old, but I didn’t learn about Texas Hold’em poker rules and Texas Hold’em poker tournaments until Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event at the WSOP in 2003.

This is when people really started to pay attention because the event was televised and an amateur had won $2.5 million. Everyone one began thinking they could be next, which led to the Poker Boom.

About one year later, I was in line at a Taco Bell (for the record, I haven’t eaten Taco Bell in many years) just prior to a poker tournament at a friend’s house. The group of people in front of me were talking about their Texas hold’em poker tournaments home games, which led to the group in front of them mentioning they were also about to play in a poker tournament. That’s when I mentioned I was about to do the same thing. From 2004-2008, poker was everywhere. Why did it fizzle out a little?

Simple Answer: People started losing. Their dreams of becoming professional poker players died because they were going broke. That’s when most people put on a suit and tie and decided to go work for the man. Part of the problem was that they were just playing poker. They knew the basic poker rules, but you can’t play in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments and expect to win if you just know the basic poker rules. You need a poker strategy. Plan your work, work your plan.

The majority of poker players at this time were just playing their cards. This made them very readable to people with good instincts, and it led to the game being mostly luck for the majority of the field. When you rely on luck alone, luck eventually runs out. At that time, nobody was thinking about EV, GTO vs. Exploitative, or even Small Ball. Today’s poker strategy is much more advanced.

The game of poker is constantly evolving. You can look at many different patterns throughout the years. One example is button play. When Texas hold’em poker tournaments first became popular and people were playing a lot of poker hands, the poker position on the button was simply an advantage because you got to see what everyone was doing before you acted. That, of course, is still an advantage today.

Texas hold'em poker tournaments - dealer button

As the game progressed, average poker players started raising on the button more. They figured that if they had an advantage, then they might as well make the most of it and maximize that advantage. The players in the small blind and big blind would fold often and the player on the button would be picking up easy chips.

I remember a WSOP Circuit ring event in 2014 where I had raised the button so many times that the first time I didn’t raise the button, the player in the big blind said, “That’s the first time you haven’t raised your button, which scares me.” He thought I was trapping, but that wasn’t the case. It was a terrible hand.

Since so many people were button-raising so often, it eventually lost its value. If I tried to button-raise every orbit in a WSOP Circuit ring event today, I would be –EV by a wide margin. I can’t control the cards I get on the button, and the blinds as well as other players view this the complete opposite as in the past.

They think you’re raising from the button just because you’re on the button. They almost never give you credit for a real hand. This works out great when you’re dealt strong poker hands, but that doesn’t happen often. Instead, you’re under attack. If the quality of play is high, they’re going to raise you pre-flop. You can call with marginal hands or better since you’re in position, but this can lead to a whole big mess. When you start making a habit of calling with marginal hands—even if you’re in position—you’re in for a world of hurt.

You want to play the player in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, but it’s much more difficult to isolate in today’s poker games. While you want to play the player, if you have more than two opponents, then the cards will absolutely matter.

I believe that if you’re heads-up, this game is 90% skill; if you have two opponents, the game is 75% skill; and when you have two or more opponents, that skill level drops way down to about 45%. These percentages aren’t based on any studies; they are my own rough estimates based on an insane amount of poker hands played.

You don’t need to remember the percentages, just remember that the fewer the opponents you have the more skill is involved, and the more opponents you have the more luck is involved. This is why I try to isolate often. The only exception, which can happen often at Circuit events, is if it’s a strong table. In these situations, you don’t want as many heads-up situations because there is no advantage. At these tables, you want to seek out the softest 1-2 players and play more pots against them.

There was another trend that caught fire in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments for a while, which was limp-raising. This means that if you’re in early position pre-flop, you limp in to make yourself appear weak, then wait for someone to raise so you can raise or jam it (go all-in).

For example, if you’re UTG (Under the Gun/first to act) and you’re dealt AA, you would just call and wait for someone to raise so you could raise on top. This lasted for several years, but once again, people caught on to it. Now when you see someone limp from UTG in a Circuit event, alarm bells go off in your mind. Everyone knows. It’s to the point that when someone tries it, it even looks kind of pathetic.

To throw a little poker strategy twist in there. In order to use this to my advantage in some way, I will now limp UTG once in a while with a good drawing hand, such as QJ-suited. I’m only limping to make it look like AA or KK so my opponents are less likely to raise and I can see a cheap flop.

Good poker players know that other good poker players don’t call or raise from UTG unless something is going on—they must be strong. Only bad players limp from UTG with hands like QJ-suited. Since I’m viewed as a good players by some people on the Circuit, I can flip the script on them.

So, to answer your question, you can learn the poker rules for Texas Hold’em in a heartbeat, but since it’s an ever-evolving game, you can never really master it. You can stay ahead of it, but it takes constant attention.

Think of being on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean and a large wave is constantly trying to swallow you up. You need to keep playing and reading in order to stay ahead of that wave. If you lose track of what’s going on, that wave will swallow you up and you will join the masses of poker players who tried and failed.

Texas hold'em poker tournaments - poker wave

I’ll throw one more twist at you before moving on. If you truly want to win in the game of poker, there is another poker strategy to adopt, but it’s not something you will expect whatsoever. It will take a lot of effort, but you will be a guaranteed winner if you can pull it off. Ready? Here we go.

Find a way to win off the felt. For example, I write poker-themed books. I have ten total at this time. One of my trilogies is being made into a movie with a Hollywood Producer. In fact, I have a conference call with him and the scriptwriter this Wednesday. This could present a problem if I go deep in the Monster Stack at the Cherokee WSOP Circuit event, but it would be a good problem.

By having these books (and hopefully a future movie) and being able to prove consistent sales to the IRS, I can write off every expense that relates to poker. This is a tremendous advantage over the rest of the field. When I walk into a poker room where there are Texas Hold’em poker tournaments taking place, I know that no matter what happens on the felt, I have already defeated everyone in that room. Well … almost everyone.

There are about a dozen other poker players like me in the fact that they don’t just play poker, they build poker brands. I have a lot of respect for those people because they’re thinking the same way. They have turned poker into a business. This is how you stay in the poker world no matter what. Even if you went broke on the felt, you can still fall back on your business. But there is a catch. This takes a very long time.

I began writing poker books in 2014. I didn’t start to get popular until 2017. That popularity began to increase last year. There is one reason for that, and in case you choose to create your own poker-related business, maybe I can help you. The reason it took so darn long is because until the summer of 2018, nobody knew who Tyler Nals was.

I had social media accounts but no pictures of myself. I was completely under the radar. People saw me at Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, but I play poker under a different name. Not one person matched the two identities for years. Then I decided to add my picture to Facebook and WHAM! What a difference that made.

So, if you choose to build a poker brand in any way, make sure you add your picture to your social media accounts. This will lead to people feeling more connected to you. For me, it has led to book signings, free hotel rooms, free food, invitations to be a bounty in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, people offering to take me out to dinner, people offering me their homes to stay in, etc.

I guess this is a second conclusion for this question, but it’s definitely worthwhile. If you want to learn poker strategy, I would recommend following this site. I might not be the best player in the world, but I know how to win. It’s a different approach to the game, but that’s why it works. And if you want to be a complete poker badass, then don’t just play poker, build a poker brand. See you at the WSOP!

♠ pokerjournal.org

Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments – FAQs

Q: What are the best ways to learn playing in poker tournaments?

A: You can practice online, you can have a poker pro watch you play and give you feedback, and/or you can play in low buy-in poker tournaments to get a feel for playing tournament poker.

Q: Is it hard to learn poker tournaments?

A: No. You will get used to them quickly.

Q: How much does it cost to play in poker tournaments?

A: It depends on the poker tournament. You can play in some Daily/Nightly poker tournaments at a poker room for well under $100. When you improve your game, you can start playing in sanctioned poker tournaments for $400-$10,000, possibly even more.

Q: What strategy do you play poker tournaments?

A: I’m different than most poker pros. I use long-term deception. In other words, I play passively on purpose for hours (when blinds are low) so my opponents will think I’m soft. If all goes according to plan, they will attack me when the blinds are higher, but it’s a rope-a-dope. Sometimes it works, sometime not so much, but it’s me. I have to be me and you be you.

Subscribe to Poker Journal on YouTube