So, you want to be the next big winner at the WSOP or the WPT? Why not, it could be you as someone has to win. There are life changing amounts of money available in poker tournaments, both in large buy in tournaments but also playing online poker free games and low buy in events.
You can also satellite – win a small buy in tournament that pays into a bigger tournament as opposed to winning you money – to the WPT and WSOP on some sites.
Below we give you our top 10 tips on how to play Texas Hold’em poker tournaments which will increase your chances of winning big!
1 Starting Hands
These are crucial as they are the only difference between your cards and your opponents. However, a lot of players still call or raise with nothing much in their hand meaning they are potentially throwing away their chips for nothing. This is especially true of players in ‘early’ or ‘mid’ position when there are still several other players to take their turn.
Be patient and remember in a poker tournaments it is a marathon, not a sprint.
2 Keep an eye on stack sizes
In freezeout tournaments, once your stack is gone you are out, although strategy differs in rebuys as you can always enter again, that will cost you another buy in.
If you do find yourself with a short stack, it is important to try and get back in the game by doubling up against another player – there is nothing worse than playing slowly waiting for a monster hand only to realise that you only have a few blinds left in your stack.
On the other hand, if you do run good and have a nice stack, you can start bullying the players on your table a bit more, raising when in late position to ensure the big blind doesn’t get to see the flop for free and taking those blinds. This is especially true as you approach the money positions as you will find many players with a short stack try to just stay in until the bubble is burst and they get paid.
3 Don’t overplay early on
Again, this one is more for freezeout tournaments when you lose your chip stack and you are out.
Very few competent players will risk their entire stack pre-flop or after the flop unless they have a great hand so be wary about putting too many chips in the pot with hands like JJ or AQs as you may be getting your chips in when you are behind.
By all means raise with hands like that, but be prepared to walk away if a later player re raises a large amount, remember the more chips you have in your stack, the more you have to lose – would you really want to risk your tournament life on a coin flip or worse? You would be better off walking away from a risk and living to fight another day – well, hand.
4 Mix up your play
Good tournament players will always be making notes about their opponents to give them an advantage in the future should they be sat on the same table again.
By changing your poker strategy, sometimes being aggressive pre-flop, sometimes only playing a very small range of hands, other times seeing as many flops as possible for a short amount of time, players will be worrying about you and what you have as opposed to the other way round.
Confusion is your friend as long as it is you that is causing the confusion.
5 Be flexible when it gets close to the money
As you get deeper into a tournament and the prize money positions get close, you need to be aware of what your opponents have in their stack compared to what you have and plan accordingly.
For example, if you and one other player have much larger stacks than the rest of the players, there is no point playing directly against that player – you would be better off getting out of hands they are involved in and concentrating on taking out the short stacks, they are the ones more likely to bust and see you move up the money positions.
Even if you have a premium hand – even AA – if the other big stack bets big, why risk all your chips when being patient is very likely to see other players bust before you?
This does work both ways however, and when you come to acting first being aggressive against smaller stacks who are on the blinds can be lucrative as they are likely to be in the position of going all in or folding giving you the chance to steal their blinds.
6 Steal those blinds
Later in tournaments, especially when antes come into play, simply raising in late position with any 2 cards can be extremely profitable. Get to know the 2/3 players that follow you, what they are like, how aggressive they are – these are the players you can bully when no one else has raised before you and those just after you are in the blinds.
Don’t do it every time they are in the blinds otherwise you will probably get caught out at some point, but regular raises against players that are trying to just coast towards the later stages and who are afraid to risk their stack can be a good short-term strategy
7 Multi-way pots can be lucrative
A large number of hands in a tournament contain only 2/3 players which means there are only limited chips at stake but the chances of winning it are higher.
On the rare occasions several player call pre-flop, try and get involved if you can especially from late position with whatever cards you have.
There is a good chance that any players from early positions will have a reasonable hand if they have called so even if you have nothing pre-flop, a nice flop could see your hand move you ahead of the field and the chance to take down chips from not just one other player but several.
8 Play the player, not the cards
We mentioned earlier about making notes on your opponents and how getting to know them is the sign of a good player, and this is true in any form of poker.
You don’t have to have the best hand in order to win in poker, just be the last person in the hand, therefore if you see people folding to a bet late in the hand try and bluff against that player next time you are in deep with them if you need to.
The same goes the other way, if you get someone who calls all the time even when they don’t have anything, use it to your advantage next time you are in a hand with them and you have a good hand, make them put chips in every step of the way to build that pot up!
Read more: 8 Tips To Become A Successful Online Poker Player
9 Learn to play heads-up poker
A lot of the time, you will be involved in pots with just one other player, especially later in tournaments when players tend to get a bit more tight with their bets with the prize money coming into view. Also, on the occasions when you do well and get right to the end of the final table, your strategy will need to change when there are just 2 of you left.
By getting used to heads-up play, you will have an advantage in these situations and give yourself more of a chance of walking away at the end with a nice prize.
This is an important one to remember, whatever happens, relax and enjoy the ride, poker is one of the best games on the planet and if you are going to be playing it for 4/5 hours solid as is possible when you go deep in many online tournaments, the more you enjoy it the better you are likely to do.
Use the chat pane to have a laugh with other players, take a break for a few minutes if you need to by sitting out – ideally when you have just been on the blinds so you don’t lose chips whilst you are gone – and don’t allow yourself to get stressed out over a particular hand or player and put yourself on tilt.
Follow the above steps when playing in poker tournaments and your game will improve and give you a chance of going deep, both in paid tournaments and when playing free poker.
All winners of the WSOP and WPT tournaments started playing poker at some point, why shouldn’t you follow in their footsteps?