Steps Tournament Strategy

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Learn How to Master Steps Tournaments

Steps tournaments can be played at PokerStars, Ultimate Bet, Titan and Party Poker, and they are a great way of earning money for a small buy-in.  In Steps tournament you effectively play Single Table Tournaments where the top playoff places advance you to the stages as well as giving a small cash payout. 

Steps tournaments can be bought into for a range of buy-ins or at different “steps” stages (PokerStars has 5 steps).  From $1 up to $65 buy-ins, players with any bankroll can participate.

Our Favourite Steps Tournaments:  Ultimate Bet $1100 Bonus

Ultimate Bet’s Steps Tournaments start at just $0.10 and the 10th step pays out a thrilling WSOP $12K package ($10,000 Main Event seat + $2,000 for travel expenses).  Another reason to play here is that the 3rd and 4th place finishers can re-take the step, and 5th drops down a step.  This gives you better chances of crawling up the steps and makes playing these games cheaper than other sites.

Steps Tournament Strategy

The unique dynamic of steps tournaments requires a slightly different type of strategy. Because only the top place receives a prize, they should be played differently to regular SNGs where payouts are in 50%, 30%, 20%.  Overall it’s important to play for the top place.  What this means is that you need to accumulate more chips in the early stages. 


The most crucial strategy adjustments for steps tournaments come in the final stages.  Especially at the higher buy-in games ($20+) or later steps, there’ll often be alot of weak players in the game who have come through the lower stages.  This is reflected in bubble and ICM play, where weak players make alot of bad decisions with regards to committing their stacks. 

ICM Example: If there are 3 players left in a game with equal stacks and only two receive tickets to the next step, each player will have an average stack worth 2/3 of a ticket.  However, if one player decides to move all-in, any caller is then risking 2/3 of a ticket for a maximum gain of 1/3.  The risks are greater than the rewards.  The conclusion is that you need to be a 67% favourite to call such a pot.

In any situation where there are two large stacks and one small one (less than 20BBs), the importance of playing tighter is even higher.  By playing tight, there is a much greater chance of the small stack player going out, than if you were to play too loosely and allow him to earn chips easily.  In such spots, a hand like AKo should normally be folded to an all-in, as it’s only 65% favourite against a random hand.

Adjusting you Game at Each Step

Remember that your game plan essentially stays the same as you move up the steps, since you’re repeating the same 10-man tournament over and over, and the basics became the same.  It’s important to remember as you move up the steps that the competition level will change, and this should change your strategy. You’re far less likely to get called after moving all-in at higher steps for example.

Because at the top step the payoff places are so top heavy, playing for 1st place might be your best strategy.  For example, in the Monte Carlo PokerStars Steps Tournament, 1st place gets an $18,000 package and 2nd only receive $1,200.  Playing for 1st place involves taking biggest risks than normal, because the rewards of doubling up can be greater than busting out (or at least according to your preference).

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