Top 10 Tournament Strategy Tips

If you google the term ‘Poker Tournament Tips’ you will find lots of different advice people are trying to give you. Some of it is good and others, not so good. To help you improve your poker tournament play the Global Poker team has put together a few tips to be mindful of when you are deep in a poker tournament!

#1: Steal a lot… but not too much

Always remember the phrase: “Open small and often’. There is a reason that the pro poker players are often the most aggressive preflop poker players. A great reason to steal more at this stage is that you can pick up a lot of chips with little or no resistance.

For example, in a 9-handed tournament table, with blinds 500/1,000/100, a player raises to 2,200. Then, there is a 2,400 in the pot from blinds and antes and the player risks 2,200 to take it down. It means that the player’s open only has to work 47.8% of the time to make an immediate profit. Even if the blinds are aggressive, there’s a fair chance they aren’t playing back with 52.2% of hands.

You can normally expect the small blind to play back with around 10-15% of hands, leaving the 40% on the big blind.

If the big blind is likely to be folding hands like Q-5s or K-7o to your opens, raising 7-2o would show an immediate profit.

Raising small and often still works against weaker opponents, especially if you’re in a late position.

Most hands are easily decided between opening and folding in early and middle position. Skilled players will open A-Q in every position and fold 7-5o without any hesitation.

Don’t forget to have a grasp of how the math works and what types of hands you’re expecting your opponents to call. Also, keep in mind to focus on your opponents instead of opening charts in the late position.

#2: Defend Your Big Blind

One of the most important poker tournament tips for late in a tournament is that you must always defend your big blind. If you’re the big blind, it is your duty to prevent other players from raising too often. One factor that make us defend is that the big blinds have extremely generous pot odds.

Pretend there was no post-flop in poker, you would really need to defend every hand with raw equity higher than our given price. Of course this isn’t reality though as in actual poker we need to reach showdown before we realize our equity.

Creating a flawless defending range is almost-impossible given the unlimited post-flop scenarios and board runouts, so you only need to estimate what the best range should be. One way to estimate is to defend with a range that’s somehow close to stopping the open-raiser from having an instant profit.

In most cases, this means defending at least 40% of hands against late position opens. You’ll need to defend way more if you’re a strong player or if the opener is a weak one.

It’s good to flat with hands that have some post-flop playability especially if you sense weakness from your opponent. Even the lowest ranking suited hands profit as flats against late position opens.

You also need to consider defending your big blind in a multiway pot. The more players there are in a pot the greater your pot odds are. However, the more players there are the harder it is to realize your equity due to the multiple players in the pot. Whilst you can defend with more hands preflop you will need to be wary of opponents making a strong hand as there are more players in the hand who can connect with the board.

#3: Be wary of 4-Bet Shoves When 25-40 BBs Deep

3-bet bluffing is another great option to keep in mind for when you feel players are stealing too much. However, a poorly timed 3-bet bluff can cost you a large portion of your stack very quickly. For this reason players should have a relatively planned 3-bet bluff range. For example, good 3-bets include hands like Ks 9s, Kd Js and Ad 7d. These are good hands to bluff with as they have good blockers and flatting with them might be a bit on the loose side.

It’s really no big deal if you fold to a 4-bet with a hand like Ks 9s. But if you’re folding a hand like Kh Qh, you may be doing damage to yourself.

It is also very important to use hands with high card blockers as it makes a shove by the opener less likely.

In summary, players need to choose blocker hands just below their calling range as 3-bet bluffs against good and aggressive opponents.

#4: 3-Bet Like It’s A Ring Game

As stacks get closer to 100 big blinds, your 3-betting strategy should resemble something similar to that used in a ring game.

With deeper stacks, your opponents are more incentivized to continue against your 3-bets, which can lead into more complicated situations with marginal hands.

Also, remember that it is better to 3-bet with a linear range against fishy players. Try to get into a lot of pots in position against the fish, 3-betting with hands that have good playability is always a good strategy against weaker opponents.

In short, the player with super-deep stacks will want to have a linear, high card-heavy 3-betting range against weaker players, as well as a polarized 3-betting range against regulars.

#5: Don’t Continuation-Bet Every Hand

Nowadays, check-raise bluffing has become a more common thing among players. People just don’t bluff carelessly, they give some thought regarding their action.

When seeing a flop, try to ask yourself:

  1. Whose range does the flop hit the best?
  2. Who has the most nutted hands on this board?
  3. What does my range look like to my opponents?
  4.  What does my opponent’s range look like?

By answering these questions, you will be well on the way to formulating a solid strategy without doing any defined range work. Once you’ve become familiar with flops, you’ll be able to draw a game plan in no time.  

#6: Have a Plan for Future Street

Players should have a plan for each outcome before any decision pre-flop, on the flop or on the turn. and these will help any player avoid difficult situations.

Ask yourself these two new questions: (1) What will I do if my opponent raises? and (2) What turn cards will I barrel? By answering these questions, it will definitely help players to avoid difficult situations.

#7: Learn How to Play Heads Up

If you are going to win a poker tournament you are going to have to win heads up at some point!. You will need to be sure that once you do get heads-up that you’ll be the better player. Players should also study and practice heads-up as this will improve their post-flop skills. Try studying and practicing heads-up at low stakes, so you can make the best plays more often!

#8  Scissors, Paper, Rock

Poker can be like an advanced game of scissors paper rock. With the 3 items being cards, chips and position.  With position beating cards, cards beating chips and chips beating position.

Position beats cards.  No matter how good your cards are if you are in a bad position you can find yourself in trouble with many bad flops and a person on the button playing.  Remember the importance of position when playing the hand and how you are going to proceed.

Cards beat chips.  No matter how many chips you have you will not be able to push a person with a big hand out.  This gives great importance to making sure that when you have chips you look at who you are attempting to bully at the table.

Chips beats position.  If you are in position be careful of players with a big amount of chips as they are more likely to call and continue with the hand or even reraise and put you in a bad position.  The risk is less for them and your risk is greater and will feel the pinch if you are attempting to put pressure on the wrong player.

#9 Pick on the Limpers

If you find yourself at a table with a player limping a lot of hands make sure you take advantage of them by putting a lot of pressure on them.  Make sure to raise and isolate them, this will mean you get to play against them without others getting involved. You will be able to play the hand with all the advantages as the hand progresses and most of the time a continuation bet will take the pot.

Once the player realises this can lead to them making a play out of frustration just make sure you capitalize on this error and you can find yourself in the chip lead as the tournament progresses.

#10 Don’t Blind Away your stack

Once your stack is under 10 Big Blinds you are approaching the danger zone.  You need to be looking to get your stack in if the right opportunity appears. You should be looking to steal some pots and take advantage of the blind when you can. Make sure you take into consideration how many players are left to act before you go allin.  Taking advantage of tighter players is a must at this point. Do not be scared to go all in.

Bonus Tip – Patience

The key to winning a poker tournament is Patience.  A poker tournament is a marathon not a sprint and unlike a ring game you can’t just simply buy back in and continue.  Hand selection is key and making sure you don’t get frustrated by a lack of cards at a key time and just go with any hand is very important.
Common mistake is well it is the best hand I have had and losing their stack to a much better hand.  Try to avoid this and remember that the cards will come but don’t be afraid to take an opportunity if it presents itself.