While playing optimally and slow-playing big hands suffices well for cash games; a whole new lexicon of strategy and play is needed for online tournaments.
Many players fail to make the transition from cash games to tournaments because they fail to pick up the differences required for Multi Table Tournaments Strategy.
The noticeable differences are that tournaments require more risk and aggressive play than cash games. Blind stealing for example is central to tournament strategy because the increasing value of the blinds in tournaments can be worth up to 20% of your entire stack. Value shoving, cbetting, and bluffing are other important features of tournament play that are requisites for making the final table.
Not the mention luck; you’ll need to utilize all these principles to make the money in tournaments.
Keep reading to find some hints and tips for playing well in online poker tournaments, and the type of risks and style of play you should be assuming at different stages of the tournament.
Early Tournament Strategy
All multi-table tournaments will have you seated at a nine or ten-seated table during the early and middle stages of a tournament.
You should only be calling or playing with the best hands at this stage. When calling to see the flop, don’t bother calling with anything less than AQ or pocket pairs – although this also depends on your table position. If you’re in late position with a hand like AJ, you can call to see the flop (hopefully however you’ll want to take the pot down now).
If the pot has already been opened preflop however, calling with AJ in a middle or late position is a waste of time. You’re almost certainly beaten by a higher kicker or even AA, KK, QQ or JJ.
The biggest problem players make in the early stages of tournament is entering to see pots with rag ace hands like A4 or A7.
The problem here is you’re bound to lose your money playing these type of hands. Whilst you might think you have pot odds, the truth is you’ll generally be underdog before even going into the flop. Calling to see the flop with hands like JQ and QK off suit is also pointless. If you hit a pair on the flop, you’re probably behind a premium hand like AK or AQ.
You’ll need to hit something like two pair or greater to get dividends with these hands in the early stages of tournaments.
Middle Stage Tournament Strategy
This is the most important stage, as it’s where you should accumulate as many chips as possible. As such, you can more or less throw your optimal strategy book out the window and play as aggressively as possible.
Defend your blinds and poach others – and make sure to 3bet or re-raise anyone who you think blind-stealing or just trying to protect theirs.
Value shoving with a range of hands preflop is also correct here. Even KK or AA is worth a value shove, because it disguises the hand strength making you much more likely to get called. Also don’t be scared to raise with suited connectors in middle position occasionally, or raise with low pocket pairs in late position.
Continuation betting and squeeze play will also make solid poker players who can read the game well money.
Never forget the value of squeeze playing and value shoving with hands that have potential i.e. outs. Suited connectors and pocket pairs should provide the right pot value for making moves here. Remember you’re very unlikely going to get called squeeze playing because your opponent has to have one of the best hands in the game to call you.
Most of the time you’ll only need to be win these pots once every three times in order to break even in MTT Strategy.
Final Stage Strategy
When you’re approaching the bubble and payoff stage, many players will sit and hold tight trying to make the money – especially small and medium chip stacks.
You should aim to take advantage of these players by stealing the blinds and pushing players reluctantly all-in. They’re unlikely to call and risk their tournament life without one of the best hands.
When you reach the final table, remember to lower your starting hand range as the game becomes short-handed. You’ll also notice there is severely limited action post-flop towards the end of tournaments.
This is because all the pot value is in the blinds, so the majority of pots will be taken down preflop. Remember this fact when you’re considering slow playing monster hands. It probably won’t pay off in tournaments no matter what the stage – and the last thing you want is too many callers.