Poker tournament strategy is a complex affair and different players will offer different advice. There are a few things, though, that will remain consistent between the advice of any given player, no matter how skilled or unskilled they may be. You begin understanding the strategy related to poker tournament play by understanding how these tournaments are set up. Each player will buy into the tournament by paying for a certain amount of chips plus the fee demanded by the casino or the online establishment hosting the tournament. The fee is usually a percentage of the chips. For example, a $500 buy-in tournament may actually cost $520 once the cost of the casino or online service’s site is added.
The players will then be pitted against one another. A player is forced to leave the tournament when their stack of chips is depleted. Understanding poker tournament strategy at the beginning phase of the game is a good lesson in understanding poker strategy in general. Principally, understanding the strategies means understanding when you can afford to sit back and relax and when you must be a very aggressive player who picks off the small fish one by one.
In the first phase of the tournament, each player has an equal amount of chips. This means that one is neither at an advantage nor at a disadvantage relative to the other players. The first phase of the tournament is the time when the players are learning how to use their chips. It will be during this first phase that you determine if you have been accumulating enough chips to survive the blind levels. Each player has a designated area in which they put their chips. Let’s say that one put their chips in the middle. When the blinds are called this player has made a limited play. There is nothing wrong with this as it was made clear that the player was not getting any free cards. During the first phase of the tournament one will be able to determine if one has been accumulating enough chips to continue or not. Once this occurs one should either be eliminated or one should move up in the blinds. As one moves up the blinds one will need to be a better player to survive. If one is eliminated then it is best to find another player to cover the blinds.
During the middle stage of the tournament one will also be able to determine if one has been making enough generates to continue on in the tournament. If the players at one’s table are becoming hopelessly involved in the hand they will not be giving away any information about the strength of their hands. Towards the end of the tournament, when one’s stack is approaching the winning stack, one should be ready to move all in when appropriate. One will also need to be taking advantage when possible when playing against other players who are playing tightly.
As one gets closer to the winning end of the tournament one must be playing better and better. There is one other factor that the player must be aware of and that is the availability of better hands. Most often, those hands that get covered in the flop are not the hands that will win the pot. When playing for a pot, the best way to win is by making a hand that will likely win.
The final phase of the tournament is nearing and it is time to play aggressively. It is common for those players that have made it this far to begin playing their hands based on their reads of their opponents. When one has a large stack of chips, one may want to move all in against a small stack player when they believe they have a strong hand. In this way, the player is putting their money in the middle contention. The hands they are playing are based on their reads of their opponents.
Once one makes it to the top few players they will likely begin taking more risks, be it in position or by raising. Once the bubble has burst one will need to adopt a more aggressive approach. If one has made it this far in the tournament then it is usually not a wise idea to engage in large pots with players who are left. If one is alone and has a medium stack they will likely move on before losing to those who are left.
Once one has made it to the top few players they will likely begin to play aggressively, be it in position or by raising. Once the bubble has burst one will likely want to adopt a more aggressive approach. One will need to be aware that once the bubble has burst a player can go from one end of the table to the other in a matter of a few hands. One should take heed of their position and base their moves on it if they are unable to make it to the top few players. Those who make it to the top few will likely play accordingly so as to minimize risk and maximize chance of winning.