Playing Poker Tournaments to Win

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Playing Poker Tournaments to Win

In many online poker tournaments you will have to come first place (i.e. win) to get the rewards.  This is mostly the case for satellite tournaments at online poker sites, where only the winner gets the live event package worth $10,000 for example.  The Runner-up might get a consolation, perhaps his money back.  In steps single-table-tournaments at Party Poker, Titan, UB and PokerStars this may also be the case.

It’s important to understand when you’re playing to win tournaments that the strategy and the decisions you make during the course of the game need to change.

The Bubble

For instance, when you’re approaching the bubble it is a common ICM/CEV principle to tighten up in a poker tournament – arguably this is the 2nd tightest period to be in (asides from the very beginning).  The reason we would normally tighten up here is because there is much greater chip value in the chips we lose than the chips we might win.  We wouldn’t want to call a marginal hand where we might be 60% favourite for example if it involves risking our tournament life right before a payday.

However, when your aim is to win a poker tournament this all becomes irrelevant.  Consolation pay-offs at the bubble are not what we are interested in.  If we want to win, the value we put on doubling up or accumulating 1,000 more chips should be much greater than the risks of going broke or losing 1,000 chips for example. 

Maximising Gains from Weak MTT Players at Your Table

The last thing you would want in a poker tournament you’re trying to win is another opponent scooping all the loose chips.  You should begin to think of them now as Your Chips.  He is stealing your chips, and he is getting away with it.

So how do we stop this?  If their are certain new/loose players in a poker tournament you should aim to isolate them and get involved into as many pots as possible heads up.  A smart trick for doing this is to raise everyone else out of the flop, and coax your opponent into a trap that you can implement.  If he is inferior, you should eventually trick him into moving all-in and take down his chips before someone else does.  The more pots you get into with a weak/loose player, the higher your +EV and potential for accumulating chips.

Taking Bigger Risks

When you’re playing to win a poker tournament you realistically want to be chip leader throughout the tournament.  This comes with the ability to bully other players at your table and maximize chip accumulation rate.  In most online tournaments, you can usually see the tournament chip leader (if he’s good and didn’t get their by luck!) will be accumulating chips the fastest.

The point to this, is that you have to become chip leader (or deep stacked) as early as possible -potentially before the middle stages begin.  It is almost pointless playing a tournament and getting to the final table heads up, only to find your opponent has 5x your chip stack.  He has you dominated.

To prevent this from happening, you need to play much more aggressive, steal more out of position, and take bigger risks with a larger range of starting hands than a regular freezeout game.  For example, jamming with mid-pairs UTG in the middle stages; or re-stealing with Q9 against a weak/tight player.

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