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>> Strategy to Help you Win Online Poker Tournaments - The Middle Stages

Poker Tournament Strategy - The Heart of Battle

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


In a multi-table poker tournament, the middle rounds are probably the most important phase. During the opening rounds, you can play a conservative game and begin to feel out your opponents because of the very low blind-to-starting stack ratio. As the blinds begin to climb to levels of 50-100 and above in fast-paced online tournaments, youíll be in a race to build chips faster than the blinds can take them away. You simply wonít be able to wait for premium starting hands to make a move as youíll slowly be eaten away by the increasing blinds and antes. Youíll have to play with the right mindset, take risks, be selectively aggressive, and change gears in order to make it through this round of play with some chips left over.

What exactly is the proper tournament mindset? Quite simply, it is to realize that you play to win. While that may seem obvious, Iím constantly surprised at beginnerís gameplay during tournaments. They play so tight and so predictably that they donít really give themselves a chance to win the whole thing. Sure, they can hang on and outlast the maniacs by letting digital cobwebs (of course a pun is intended) accumulate on their chips, but theyíll never be great tournament players with a weak-tight style of play.

Beginners often tighten up even more during the middle rounds because they get close to the money. They donít want to go out on or near the bubble so they donít take any chances. Why play at all if you arenít going to play to win? How most tournaments are structured these days, finishing just in the money will basically get you your money back. I donít know about you, but I donít play my best game of poker for 2 or 3 hours just to win my money back. Donít be afraid to get your chips into the pot and bully the table around occasionally. Give yourself a chance to win, rather than just survive.

Okay, so now that weíve established that you need to take some chances, whatís the best way to go about it? The key to tournament play is ďselective aggressionĒ. What that means is that you arenít aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive, but you pick and choose your battles when youíre getting the best of it. By now, you should also have spotted who the tighter players are and who the action players are.

Since the blinds get so large and just picking them up occasionally gives you a big edge, you should play very aggressively from late position in an unraised pot. Of course, you should have some semblance of a hand in order to try to steal the pot, but you open up your raising starting hand standards to include hands like any pocket pair, any Ace, K-10 or better, or any two face cards. If youíre the first one into the pot from middle or late position with one of these hands, consider raising 3 or 4 times the big blind. You should definitely raise if a tighter player is in the blind, but you should have a stronger hand to raise if an action player or a self-imposed ďsheriff of the tableĒ is one or both of the blinds. Before you try to steal the blinds, you should follow a few basic rules:

1) You should be first or second into an unraised pot. You wonít be able to steal very often against 3 or more opponents. This is a very important point that you should keep in mind. Again, donít try to steal the pot from several limpers or a raiser.
2) A tighter player should be in one or both of the blinds.
3) You have a good table image, and
4) You have a decent hand.

Also, great hands to put pressure on your opponents with include pocket pairs and A-K. Big Slick is a great hand in this stage of the tournament because of the pressure you can put on with it. Preflop, Iím willing to put my entire stack in with this hand, since at worst Iím usually only in a coin-flip situation if my opponent has pocket Queens or worse. That all-in or big reraise pressure will usually win the pot right there for you, and even if you get called you still have a great chance to drag a huge pot. Pocket pair, even as low as 6-6 and 7-7, are also great to put pressure on from middle or late position. You might pick up the blinds preflop, you have a chance to hit a set on the flop, and if you thin the field to just 2 or 3, you can make a continuation bet on the flop and most of the time they wonít have improved their hand enough in order to made the call. This is the key to staying alive and building a substantial chip stack in tournament play: choosing the right spots to be aggressive and take chances.

Finally, you should often change gears in order to throw off your opponents and to punish them for trying to get a read on you. If youíve played pretty tight for a couple of rounds, you should consider loosening up and raising a lot of pots for a couple of rounds. Since youíve built a tight table image, youíll probably pick up a few small pots. Plus, the advantage to raising often is the fact that you can get some great action if you do manage to pick up a hand in the midst of your aggressive run. To change it up against the bullies at your table, consider just checking and calling with your strong hands. Theyíll think they have control throughout the hand, and when you show down the winner, theyíll think twice before they try to bully you around next time. Against tighter opponents, the obvious and usually correct play is to play aggressively.

Again, the middle stages of a multi-table tournament are probably the most important. Youíll be establishing your presence even further as a force at the table, and youíll be battling against the blinds to stay alive. Remember to play to win and be willing to take chances to give yourself a better shot at winning the whole thing. Be selectively aggressive, change gears, and donít beat yourself up for an early exit. If you went out trying to build your stack and improve your position in the money, how can you fault yourself? Just donít let those cobwebs build up too quickly Ė man, I hate looking down and finding a half dozen black widows from my home game making a fort out of my stack. Iím always telling them, ďIt isnít Friday yet! And if you are going to show up, at least bring the usual - a couple quarts of fermented formaldehyde, a few olives, and some of those little umbrellas!Ē


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