Poker tournaments are the most intense contests. Success in poker tourneys requires a blend of skill, strategy and good fortune. Find out how to boost your winning chances.
Poker tournament play is about so much more than the luck of the draw!
“In order to be a successful gambler you have to have a complete disregard for money.“
And that’s pretty difficult to do when everyone is on a tight budget. Fortunately, poker tournaments are a different kettle of fish. You buy in for a fixed amount and you receive your chips. You use those chips to bulldoze your way over other players in anticipation of winning the pot. Of course, rebuys are possible in certain poker tournaments, but let’s stick with fixed chip stacks in poker tournaments.
Poker tournaments are grueling contests. You are going head-to-head against a pool of players – card sharks, novices and legends in the making. There are plenty of fish in the proverbial sea, and it’s your job to reel them in, hook, line and sinker. Most everyone you talk to about how to improve your poker skills will reference playing time under real tournament conditions as your greatest teacher.
So, how do you implement effective playing strategies as a poker player?
1. Manage your stack effectively
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll repeat it again: Manage your chip stack. Think about what it means to play in a poker tournament. You buy in with a fixed amount and you receive a fixed amount of poker chips. Once you have run down that stack, that’s it – it’s game over. It’s so important to be judicious about the bets that you place, the raises you make and the hands that you play. Cash game strategy is dramatically different to poker tournament strategy. With cash games, you can keep buying in until you decide to call it quits. Watch out for the blind structure in poker tournaments. As you advance through the contest, you will notice that the blinds increase dramatically. If you don’t have enough firepower in your stack, you are going to bust out pretty quickly.
2. Don’t spend all your money at once
This one is a corollary to point 1 above. Poker is all about playing smart. And it all begins with careful money management. Consider the following analogy: You’ve saved up a bundle and you’re going on vacation. When you arrive, you have a fat wad of cash to do with as you please, but by the end of your vacation you’ve probably whittled down that cash to nothing, or you’re using credit cards to pay for things. Now, in a poker tournament you don’t want to be throwing around too many chips in the beginning. Remember the blind structure. In the early stages of the tournament, blinds are really low and your chip stack is really big. As you advance to higher levels, everything flips around. Let everyone else throw all their money around while you wait in the wings and carefully move through to the next stages in the poker tournament.
3. Play tight – don’t cave in to pressure
Okay so this one is pretty difficult for novices to stick to. When you are eager to hit the ground running, you are also prone to playing too many hands. Wise poker players know that your best bet is to hold off on playing anything other than premium starting hands. You want to keep your stack nice and healthy in the early stages so that you have heavy firepower in the latter stages of the tournament. Grind your way through to the final table and then unleash fury on your opponents. If you observe what other players are doing, you will learn from their mistakes. Don’t be the one who everybody else uses as an example of how not to play!
4. Remember: every bubble bursts
What does this mean? You know that feeling of anticipation you get just before victory is imminent. It’s exhilarating, electrifying and adrenaline-loaded. But, caution is the order of the day. If your stack is running low, you don’t want to let a surge of euphoria wipe you out of the tournament. In poker tournaments, longevity pays dividends. The longer you can stay in the contest and finish in a paying position, the better for you. Let everyone else crash and burn while you rise in the rankings and collect a handsome paycheck for your efforts.
5. Rock ‘n’ rumble in the heads up stage
If you’ve ever been in a heads up stage of a poker tournament, you know what time it is. It’s time to rock ‘n’ rumble. Now is when you have to play at your best. Heads up contests require intense preparation. Always go into a heads up situation with the requisite knowledge you need to succeed. The pressure is going to build exponentially, and you must know exactly which hands stand a chance of bringing home the bacon.