Basic Online Poker Tournament Strategy: Understanding Poker Tournament Basics
Basic poker tournament strategy entails patience, discipline, and selective aggression, simply knowing when to play, when not to play, and when to push. In order to be successful, any player must sit back and get to understand the tournament’s structure.
What are the limits? How long does each level last? Are there antes? Where is the bubble?
Knowing and understanding a tournament’s structure prepares you for each new level as it arises, where (time wise) you are in the tournament, and when to adjust your play accordingly.
Once you understand the tournament structure, break it down into three stages: early, middle, and late. Each individual stage requires a different basic style of play. As the tournament progresses, a player must adapt in order to stick around.
Early Stage Tournament Play
In the early stages of a poker tournament, patience is a virtue. Basic strategy suggests playing and waiting for premium hands while the blinds are low. Play position: meaning fold marginal hands in early position, call with an average hand in middle position, and raise with a strong hand in late position.
Waiting for good cards early gives you the best chances of doubling-up and surviving to the later rounds. This also gives the other players a perception of you that you can use to your advantage in later stages of the tournament. Playing tight early will allow you to deceive opponents when you open up your hand selection.
Middle Stage Tournament Play
In the middle stage of a tournament, the blinds have increased considerably, antes may be involved, and the field has dwindled. Open up your hand selection as some marginal hands like Q-J and 10-9 becomes playable.
A player must maintain discipline by still playing position, and staying patient. By this stage, you should have a feel for your opponents, trust those reads, use your good judgment, and let other players make mistakes.
Late Stage Tournament Play
In the later stages of a poker tournament, your hand selection expands even further. Small suited connectors and generally weak unsuited straight cards become valuable. The field will have narrowed dramatically, and once the money “bubble” has burst, many players will be going for broke.
Play more hands, but still take into consideration your position at the table and your chip stack relative to the size of the blinds. Use your judgment, and be selectively aggressive. Selective aggression entails value betting occasional straight and flush draws, and using your chip stack to push players off marginal hands.
Betting and Raising
Betting and raising patterns remain generally consistent through the stages of a tournament. The standard raise is normally three times (3x) the big blind, though it varies according to your chosen playing style.
Betting after the flop generally ranges between 50% and 150% of the size of the pot. Betting a smaller percentage of the pot is a value bet because your bet provokes a call adding value to your potential winnings at the end of the hand.
Betting an over-sized percentage of the pot is an over-bet as you intentionally over-bet the pot in hopes of stealing it from weaker player. Variation in your betting and raising patterns will strengthen your tournament play.
Keys to Tournament Play
- Understanding tournament structure
- Knowing when and how much to bet or raise
- Knowing what cards to play when
- Using patience, discipline, and selective aggression