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>> Special Poker Tournament Plays and Situational Strategy

Special Tournament Moves and Unique Situations

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


While I tried to cover basic strategy at various parts of a multi-table poker tournament in our other articles, I’d like to go into more detail on some special plays that you might incorporate into your next event. You should realize that most of these plays require you to take a risk, and you should avoid overusing any of them.

One play that I have been very successful with in both Sit ‘n Go and multi-table tournaments is the continuation bet. This play works best against 1-3 weak-tight opponents, so don’t try it against several opponents, frequent bluffers, maniacs, or calling stations. A continuation bet is when you make a small-to-midsize bet on the flop (which missed your hand) after you raised preflop. You should bet about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the pot. You’re trying to represent a premium pocket pair and that you want action. If you’re raised, you can safely let your hand go. If you’re called and you don’t improve on the turn, you should check and fold. However, most of the time you’ll pick up the pot right there and leave your opponents wondering. Again, you shouldn’t do this too often or your opponents will catch on and raise you out of every pot. Used sparingly, the continuation bet can be very effective.

Another play that can steal you the pot is the check-raise bluff or semi-bluff. This play should most often be used when you’re heads-up on the flop. Suppose you have Jh-10h and you see a flop of Ah-4h-9d. You just check to see what your opponent does, and he bets twice the minimum bet. Often, this is just a weak attempt by your opponent to steal a pot. In this situation, I will sometimes fire in a big raise. I still have a draw at the flush, and if I don’t put my opponent on an Ace I may win it if I hit a J or 10. Most of the time, you’ll pick up the pot with your raise. A check-raise usually shows confidence and strength in your hand, so your opponent will have to give your hand respect if you’re trying to trap him.

I’ll use the following play most often early on in Sit ‘n Go tournaments, where you’ll often find one or two maniacs who push every pot right off the bat. While I usually advocate raising pocket Aces or Kings to protect your hand, sometimes I’ll just call from early position for the minimum bet. The best thing that can happen is to get 3 or 4 callers and then a raise in late position from a reckless player. When play gets back around to me, I’ll move all-in. Many times you’ll win the pot right there – which is fine. However, you’ll often see one of the other limpers make the call and gamble, or the original raiser might have something strong enough to call.

Another tournament necessity that I often see beginners fail to recognize is the need for aggression when they’re on the short stack. If you only have enough chips left to cover 3 or 4 rounds of blinds, then you should start to look for opportunities to move all-in. You shouldn’t wait until you pick up a premium hand because they simply don’t come around often enough. At this point, you’ll have to pick a hand and go with it. If you wait until you can only double the minimum bet, you’re almost assured a call. That isn’t what you want. Ideally, you can keep pushing around the table, not risk going out of the tournament, and pick up enough of the blinds to bring you back into contention.

One exception to moving all-in preflop is a special move that you can make with a middle pocket pair against one or two opponents. Try just calling preflop if you think that they’d call you anyway with their overcards. Of course, you know that you’re going all-in on the flop regardless of what it brings, but maybe they’ll think twice about making the call if they didn’t pair up on the flop. This can significantly lower your chances of having to put all your chips in with a coin-flop preflop.

While the most obvious play is usually the best one against unobservant and poor players, occasionally you should change gears and try to incorporate a special play or two into your game. This will help to confuse your opponents, keep them guessing about your hole cards, and they’ll help to ensure action on future hands. Always keep in mind that you should have confidence and play tournaments to win them. You remember why that old skeleton couldn’t cross the road, don’t you?



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