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Tournament strategy

I read something interesting, a little while ago, on online poker tournaments. I don’t really remember where, but the content of the article caught my eye and my imagination.

The author was writing about an online poker tournament (I don’t recall what online poker room it took place in, nor do I consider this piece of information relevant ) where there’d been a guy playing, who’d probably been away from his computer and had the blinds set to “auto post” and the “ check fold” or “fold” option ticked.

It seemed a bit weird that someone had entered a tournament and then had done something like this, that was, until I found out, the guy had ultimately finished third out of 10 or 20 players. Yeah, that’s right. The guy who wasn’t even there beat two thirds or so of the players who sweated it out...

There must be a lesson in this thing somewhere...
Those other players who were eliminated before our AFK guy, had actually played worse than him. Could it be possible that they were all fish? A more reasonable explanation would be that they were regular online poker players who were used to ring games, and had little understanding of basic tournament strategy.

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The first thing, anybody who intends to last some in a tournament, needs to learn, is to fold. Don’t take chances in the early stages of a tournament by going all in on a marginal hand. It’s simply not worth it. While it may be something to consider in simple ring games, in tournaments, taking such chances just doesn’t yield a positive expected value.

Just think about it, if you win, you’ll certainly double up, but will that mean that you get more money out of the whole thing? Not really. You may last a bit longer in the tournament, but if you keep taking chances like that, that’s not guaranteed either.

If you lose, you’ll bust out. That’s it. Over and out. You’ll lose your buyin and won’t have the chance to come back.

All right, so that settles it: that’s why the guy who wasn’t even there, beat so many other players... he took no chances whatsoever. He folded to everything. The other players, having just come off some dog-eat-dog ring game, couldn’t switch to tournament mood, so they busted out early.

That would be a reasonable explanation right there.
Being placid early on in the tournament doesn’t mean you need to keep up the attitude all through. By the middle stages of it, one needs to change the approach to an aggressive one.

By keeping up the tight-passive thing, you’ll quickly see your stack dwindle. The explanation is simple: by this stage, the blinds will have become much bigger, and thus losing them would be a much more serious blow to your effort than it would’ve been earlier on.
You can no longer afford to let others steal your blinds. You need to step up more decisively when defending your blinds and also attempt some blind-stealing of your own with marginal or downright weak hands. (that is, of course, if the situation allows it).

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Another thing that says you should indeed step up the pace, by mid-tournament, is the fact that most of the other players still in, slowly begin to see themselves emerge in one of the money-positions at the end of it all. That’ll make them more cautios , and they’ll stay well out of your way on anything but solid hands.

Try not to make mistakes in later stages of a tournament. This is the time when nerves of steel are called upon, and this is the time those less edowed with such nerves will make mistakes. Going all in preflop on a small stack is one of these mistakes. The risk one takes with such a move is way too high to justify anything. Just think about it. Nobody will get scared of your feeble little preflop reraise. Someone will certainly call it, and unless there’s a miracle in store for you, you bust out there and then.

- written by Jonathan Paige

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