Ten top tips for tournament success.
A little bit of knowledge can go away. Check out our top 10 tips for
tournament success to give yourself a bit of an edge when it comes
to tournament play.
Don’t try to play too many hands.
The cardinal sin in any form of poker, but particularly tournament
play, is to try and play too many hands. There’s a fold button,
so don’t be afraid to use it.
A good pre-flop strategy is only to play premium hands. In early
position, that means you should only be looking to play hands such
as AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs, TT, AQs, AK, AJs and KQs. If you’re
in a later position, you can expand the list a little depending on
what has gone on before you. Assuming that no-one’s made a huge
raise, hands such as 99, AQ, ATs, QJs are also worth playing if it’s
cheap to see the flop.
Always remember, folding is often the best option. Don’t worry
when you fold 9-3 and 9-3 come out on the flop; you’ve still
made the right decision.
When you do play a hand, play it hard.
When you do get a premium starting hand, you should be looking to
make a raise unless there’s already been a large raise before
you, in which case a call should do it. If you’re first to act,
then start with a raise. Why? Because (a) you want to get some money
in the middle if you’ve got a good hand and (b) you want to
knock out players with lesser hands, particularly those on the blinds
who could otherwise see the flop cheaply. These players may have lesser
hands, but they can still get lucky on the flop, so you want them
out of the way. Never let people see cards cheaply when you’ve
got a good hand.
Large pocket pair? Raise.
If you’re in early position, and have been dealt a large pocket
pair, you want to raise (see above). And if there are already callers
before you, the pot may already be reaching a size where you want
to try and win the pot there and then without even seeing a flop.
With AA, KK or QQ, make a large raise to either scare players off
or make them pay through the nose to see more cards, especially as
they’re likely to have an lesser hand than you. If everyone
folds and you win the pot without seeing any more cards, well that’s
a good thing.
Watch out for raisers and re-raisers.
If someone has raised before you, or re-raised you, only play the
hand if you still reasonably expect to have the best of it, as even
good starting hands can become vulnerable in this position. Unless
you suspect a bluff or poor play, don’t be afraid to lay down
a good hand. For example, even if you’ve got something like
KQ, you can still be vulnerable to someone with a large pocket pair,
AK, AQ etc. Avoid large confrontations unless you’re highly
likely to be in the driving seat.
If, however, you’re pretty sure that you are in the driving
seat (you’re holding something like AA or KK), then play it
strongly and re-raise or move all-in. They’re the best starting
hands you can have, so you’re highly likely to be in the lead,
which makes this an opportunity too good to pass up. It’s best
to act pre-flop; if your opponent folds and you win the pot without
a fight (and without bringing lady luck into the equation), then so
much the better.
Found a flop you like? Bet big.
Again, it sounds obvious but you should always be doing it. If you
made top pair with a strong kicker, three of a kind or a flush, then
you should go for it; now is not the time to be hanging back. Of course,
always look for dangerous flops which makes a straight or flush draw
You may decide, from time to time, to “slow-play” a hand.
For example, you’ve got a pocket pair and you make three of
a kind on the flop. You’re now highly likely to have the best
hand, but if everyone else if checking (especially if the flop isn’t
much help, ie 2-6-9 in different suits) you may also wish to check
in the hope that someone else catches a worthy, but inferior hand.
One thing to watch for; make sure that you’re not giving someone
a cheap way to make a better hand than you, so keep an eye out for
possible flush or straight draws.
Know when to bluff.
Bluffing tends to work best when there’s something on the board
that makes a bluff convincing. For example, if you get to the river
and you’re trying to make a straight but miss, and want to bluff,
continue to bet as though you made the straight. The cards on the
board should act in a way to help your make your bluff that little
bit more believable. Bluffing when there’s nothing doing isn’t
Keep an eye on your chip stack.
Always, always, know how many chips you have and play accordingly.
For example, if you’re short-stacked and only have 1,000 chips
remaining and blinds of 400/800 are coming to you, you need to make
a stand on the next two half-decent cards or face being all-in on
the small blind, forced to play anything that comes your way. Also,
it’s often best to play a hand while you can still make at least
a reasonable raise rather than get to the point where you’re
struggling to cover the blinds. Any raise from that situation will
always meet with many callers, thus reducing your chances of winning
Similarly, if you’ve got a lot of chips compared to other players
at the table, don’t be afraid to use them to put them into some
The later things get, the more the blinds are worth.
Another one from the school of the bleeding obvious. The higher the
blinds, the more important they are. For example, blind stealing can
be a more profitable activity towards the later stages (and hence
the risk levels are more acceptable) and if you’re on the big
blind, it can sometimes be worth defending your investment in the
pot even if you don’t have a premium hand.
Be brave. Even if it could mean going out.
Whenever you’re put to a decision for all your chips, that decision
is not going to be easy. But always have courage. If you’ve
played sensibly and are reasonably sure that you’ve got the
goods, then play the hand even in the face of aggressive play from
an opponent. Just because they’re making big raises, doesn’t
mean you should automatically back down because you don’t want
to go out. To win any tournament, it’s likely that you’ll
have to take the odd risk.
Sometimes it’s best to let other people do your dirty work.
While you should always be brave, the aim of the tournament player
is to not get eliminated and finish as high as you can, ideally in
the money. If two or more players on your table are slugging it out
and going all-in, you might want to consider folding and letting them
get on with it no matter what cards you have. After all, you’ll
be one place closer to your goal and there’s no risk. This is
especially true for the latter stages of a tournament, where each
place you move up is taking you nearer and nearer to the money.
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