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Categorizing MTT Players and Tips to Improve

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Categorizing Yourself as an MTT Player:

It’s quite tricky being able to categorize yourself as a tournament player these days.  In terms of quality, there are many things that differentiating players in terms of skill, experience, ability, and what strategy is best suited to you.  A lot of players will use sharkscope for their MTT ROI to see their ability; others will just assume their ability is matched to their bankroll.

Dividing Tournament Players into Skill Groups

I’ve decided to write this article to simplify the matter of categorizing tournament player quality.  I’ve broken the article down into 3 different competitive player categories. 

The levels I’ve split MTT players into are:

  • Novice/Newbie/Rookie/Fish
  • Intermediate/Casual Player
  • Advanced Player (a step below pro – otherwise, why would you be looking for tips on this site)

Before giving you some free tips to improve your tournament strategy, I’ll first explain who fits into each of these categories.
 
The Novice 
The novice is a new poker player.  He may have done some background reading to poker strategy, and might even understand pot odds – but overall  he’s a nit and will play tournaments very badly.  You can expect 25% or more of entrants in low stakes MTTs to fit into this category.  Most of the time their playing with up to 20% of entire bankroll.  If you fit into this category, you’ll probably understand the basics of tournaments, that you need to be tight,  but overall your lack of knowledge and experience will be getting a negative ROI < 0%.  Overall you have a lot to learn to be successful in tournaments, but that isn’t to say you won’t get lucky in the lower stakes.
 
The Intermediate
Players in this category have  way more experience then novices and are cashing out and breaking even.   Intermediate tournet players will have read most the poker strategy articles and are able to apply them successfully to their game. That being said, these players still have big flaws in their game, particularly their ability to accumulate chips in the mid stages and defend binds, but they’re earning a decent MTT ROI of 5 – 20%.  I suspect most players in low stakes online poker ($0 – $30) fit into this category.  You can play poker, you can beat fish with ease, you can mix up your play; but when push comes to shove there is still something missing from your game – maybe that extra experience in tournaments.  You might be unable to read 3bet ranges correctly, or just be losing yourself post-flop.
 
The Advanced
These are the regular sharks.  They will have way more experience than most in online poker tournaments, probably over 200 tournaments in the belt.  They cash out regularly, get a solid ITM (in the money percentage), and will have a good ROI of 20 – 60%.  They’re about as good as can be for an experienced casual poker player; and can pull of a number of advanced techniques in MTT strategy including limp shoves, blind defending and small ball.

Tournament Tips for Each Group/Category:
 

Novice MTT Tips

Some basic fundementals will take your tournaments a long way – I would even say double your ITM.  Play tight aggressive (ABC) poker, focusing only on playing premium hands like A-A, Q-Q, A-K and pockets throughout the tournament.  Always look for the chance to get your money in early with AA, KK, QQ or AK and don’t try slow playing these hands – you’ll not know when to correctly do this.  When you pick up medium pocket pairs in mid-late position you should be raising preflop 3-4 big blinds and hoping to hit something.  Make sure you release these hands if you hit some action and fail to hit a set on the flop however.  For small pocket pairs, try to get your chips into hands with 3 or more players  only and rely on the implied odds for hitting +EV.  When you hit great drawing hands on the flop with multiple players in the pot, try to jam your chips as early as posible.  If you manage to hit a set when holding pockets, check-raise your opponent – this should build up the pot nicely for a value shove re-raise/jam.  Most important of all, if you think you belong to this category learn bankroll management and stop playing sub-premium hands like KQ or JQ preflop.  These hands will end your tournament life because you won’t know how to play these post-flop (bearing in mind you’ll be behind often).  You’ll end up getting sucked into pots by AQ or AK and won’t be able to fold/read a player’s hand due to your ability.

The above tips and new player tournament strategy should work well for you, regardless of your stack size.  If you’re in deep/big stack, don’t feel the pressure to dominate the table and pressure short stacks – you won’t have the ability to do this.  Just keep this tight aggressive style of play and concentrate on your own hands. This strategy will usually get you far in the 90 – 180 man MTTs.  When you’re short-stacked, just go all in and shove with any of your top 50% of hands: AA, KK, AK, AQ, AJ, 10J/67 suited, or medium and small pairs preflop. 
 

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Intermediate MTT Tips

You’re already successful using the principles MTT strategy so it’s time to step up your game.  Firstly you should be comfortable to expand your range of hands in late position and mix up your game a little.  Limp shoving and value shoving are worth looking into, and you should be stealing/defending blinds better.  For example when you’re in BB/SB start re-raising more from players in LP or MP who are blatently stealing.  Remember if you can win the same number of hands as before but with the added provision of being less predictable and more loose, you’re bound to be playing a better game.  Also try to identify tight players at your table and really try to start analysing your opponent’s.  Use MTT tools like tournament shark if you want to improve your game – these let you analyse your opponents and their style of play.  Also invest in developing your endgame by practising sngs and using ICM software.  Finally, once you begin to identify players try picking off their blinds and hitting back at them when they check/call in early position. 

Generally for the intermediate player, small adjustments to your game, creating a looser image and being able to win more pots without the better hand is what will increase your ROI.

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Advanced MTT Tips

You’re already successful players, and it’s assumed you can play tight, loose, mix it up, perform a range of MTT tricks and regularly make it pretty deep and into the money.  Experience is the key to increasing your run in MTTs in all honesty.  If you know MTT strategy, it’s just a matter of improving your reads on people and becoming more succinct and sharp when picking places to make aggressive moves.  Scrupulously taking notes on players, identifying 3bet ranges and tracking software will take you to the next levle. 

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