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Poker strategy for tournaments

Tournament poker is the most romantic poker discipline. The poker strategy of the tournament games differs drastically from the cash-games. The main difference from the cash-game is that you should constantly “survive” in the tournament because of the blinds growing. Unfortunately, there are no tactics in the tournament game that will give you the guaranteed profit, but the learning of a tournament strategy and the work on the game will help you count on the winnings in the long run, despite the short-term results.

Let’s talk about the poker strategy for the different tournaments types:

  • MTT strategy

The large MTT attracts the new players with its huge prizes that can change the life and encourages the best world players to progress constantly and compete between each other. MTT strategy includes the following peculiarities: the game strategy at an early stage, the game strategy at the middle stage, and the game strategy on the bubble and the final table.

  • Sit&Go strategy

The key features of SnG tactics, which distinguishes them from MTT are the increased influence of mathematics on the decision-making process. By taking this factor into account, the player has to learn the push/fold strategy and ICM-factor in detail.

  • Spin&Go strategy

The recreational players love this format very much. It is a dream for every amateur to have an opportunity to win a huge jackpot within a few minutes. If you are planning to play these tournaments on a regular basis, then you should learn in detail the poker math and short stack play as in the case with SnG. Find out where it is profitable to play “spins” right now.

  • Fifty50/DoN strategy (Double or Nothing)

It is a format of SnG tournaments where the part of a prize-pool is taken by a half of the registered players. These tournaments poker strategy aims to get into the best half of the players in order to double your buy-in. The prize-pool can be divided either exactly in the equal proportions or according to the remained chips.

Any tournament can be divided into several stages. Let’s consider the game tactics at the different stages:

Early tournament stage

You just paid the buy-in and got the stack. As a rule, MTT starting stack is 100 big blinds and higher. How should you play with these deep stacks?

Be patient

Use the beginning MTT tournament stage in order to get more information about your opponents. You shouldn’t enter the deep and difficult hands at the early stages where you can lose a significant part of the starting stack.

Don’t steal the blinds

The blinds’ stealing at the early stages cannot increase your stack significantly.  For example, at the levels 25/50 you have to put 100-125 chips in order to win 75. In such a situation it is absolutely unprofitable for you to try to steal the blinds with a marginal hand because you can lose even more money on a postflop.

Be patient. Collect information about your opponents.

Middle tournament stage

Set the traps and make the non-standard decisions

It is time to steal the blinds

When the stage with an ante begins, then the math enters the game. It stipulates that your risk’s coefficient regarding the potential winning becomes better and the tactics that aim to the blinds stealing becomes very profitable.

Set the traps

MTT tournament strategy at an early stage implies a non-standard decision-making in order to get the maximum value. If there are a lot of aggressive players at your tables, then you should use a counter-strategy against them, thereby giving them an opportunity to grant you their chips.

Late stage and play on the bubble

Aggression is a thing that must be in your head when a sign “Hand-for-hand” hangs over the table. Surely you should play in this manner if you succeeded in a building of a large stack. If you have only the several blinds and you are praying to enter the prize-zone, then ICM-model will help you

Don't risk

If you have a favorable stack in order to enter the prize-zone and there are aggressive and smart players at your table who put the pressure at the bubble stage, then you shouldn’t risk to be dropped out of the tournament in an attempt to prove that you are not afraid of the chip leader's pressure. At this moment your main task is to get into the money.

Don’t risk your tournament’s life.

Final table play

Adjust to your opponents and put the pressure.

Play from the opponents

If your opponents are waiting for the moment to climb a couple of places higher, then (if you have a large stack) you should steal the blinds regularly and put pressure on the short and middle stacks. If they actively try to double in order to get to 3 final seats, then you can just wait until they beat each other out of the tournament and you can climb as high as possible.

Make a decision

If you enter the final table with a short stack, then you should make a decision quickly. Are you risking of busting out right now and try to win the chips in order to give yourself a real chance to take the place in a top-3 or are you waiting patiently for the cards and play solely on ICM? The answer will depend on the payment structure, your opponents’ style and their play level and your stack regarding to the other players’ stacks.

You should remember that everyone can win the poker tournament if they are dealt the favorable cards at the key moment, win the coinflip in the deep stage or get the stack “as a gift” from the weak player. But it is only a part of the tournament game that depends on the luck. The knowledge of the key strategy parameters and tactics of a tournament poker will allow you to earn the money in a sustained way in this discipline.