Entering large poker tournaments will require a much different approach than that employed in traditional table games or small tournament play. A good deal of early tournament play is about surviving those early stages and building your bankroll into the later stages so you can be in a position to effectively compete against the large players. The objective of entering a large tournament is to either cash in – survive until the cash round, or to make it to a cutoff for gaining entry into an even larger tournament such as a satellite. This guide will guide you through the various stages of the game in order to help you to navigate the tables at large scale tournaments.
Determine the strategies of your opponents by carefully observing how they utilize their stacks. Some players take an aggressive go big or go home approach. At the same some other competitors sit back, taking a more passive stance, waiting for the big hand. Rotation of players at the table is the order of the day for tournament play, so it is important to pay careful attention to new player behavior so you can properly adjust your approach for each phase of the game.
Most modern tournaments take a freeze out format, which means there are no re-buys so a losing player is eliminated from the tournament. As a result, most players begin the game waiting for a big hand to maximize their chances of doubling up. This is a good strategy to start with but you can also benefit by taking advantage of the timidity of other players to become selectively aggressive.
For example, you enter a hand with J-10 suited. The flop comes K-Q-3 where you hit only three of your suit with an open ended straight draw. While you may feel your opponent is holding a king, re-raising aggressively may signal to that opponent you have a set (three of a kind) or two pair. By moving all in, you force your opponent to risk their entire stack on the gamble, and in many cases they will fold as a result. At this stage the blinds and antes are relatively low so you can carefully pick the spots to be aggressive, exploiting your chances of making the right move.
Middle Game Play
As tournaments become more competitive in the latter rounds, it’s important to update your personal strategy accordingly. Since the blinds and antes increase in the game, time becomes an even more important factor, requiring you to play more hands. While you may have to be more open when it comes to playing hands pre-flop you should remain keen on tight aggressive play post-flop based upon the cards as well as your read on fellow players.
Try to avoid going up against players with a large stack who are able to put you all in based on a bluff. This situation forces you into making difficult decisions. Wait instead for an opportunity to double up against a weaker player, or go for several smaller pots to build up your stack. Following careful strategies will assist you as you navigate into the later stages of the tournament in a strong position.
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