Poker tournaments require constant adjustments in strategy. Unlike cash games (and re-buys), when you lose your chips in a poker tournament, you’re done. Here are some tips to help you handle decisive moments in online poker tournaments.
Never Be Afraid to Fold
If you think someone has you beat, why pay to find out? In a tournament, you can always afford to fold a good hand. If you’re pot committed, it’ll make your decision a whole lot harder, but you have to realize that tournaments require patience. If you don’t like the situation you’re in, fold and wait for a better set of circumstances. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground, but don’t hesitate to throw your cards away if you think it’s the right decision.
Consider Pot Odds
Using pot odds is an effective way to improve your decision making skills. To figure out pot odds, you compare the amount it will cost you to make a call to the amount of chips that are in the pot. If the pot is $100 and the bet you have to call is $10, then your pot odds are a favorable 10 to 1.
Playing on the bubble means that you’re right near the cutoff point for winning a piece of the prize pool. When you’re playing on the bubble, you don’t want to just pack it in. Don’t sacrifice blinds and tighten up so much that you refuse to compete. If you’re stack is on par with the remaining players in the tournament, keep playing your game. Don’t feel like you have to fold every hand until you make it in the money, just don’t make an overly stupid play for all your chips. Take advantage of all those short stacked players that have gone super tight in an effort to make it to the money. Be aggressive against players that don’t want to compete. Just make sure that you don’t beat yourself before you get paid.
Playing With a Short Stack
When you’re a frequent tournament player in Texas Holdem, you will find yourself in plenty of short stack situations. Don’t give up. Coming from behind isn’t the ideal situation, but it isn’t the end of the world either. When your stack is about one-fourth of what the average chip stack is for the remaining players in the tourney, you’re going to have to adopt a push or fold mentality. Fold all the marginal hands you get. This isn’t the spot to play low suited cards or connectors. If you get dealt an ace or pocket pair, push all-in. You may find yourself in a coin-flip situation, but that’s okay. You can’t afford to wait for good hands. Eventually you’ll get blinded out, so when you get dealt semi-decent cards, be prepared to go all-in. If you win, you’ll double up and stay competitive.
Don’t be afraid to fold a big hand if it means that you’ll stay in the tourney. Use pot odds to help you decide whether or not you should make a call. Play tight when you’re on the bubble but use aggression to steal the blinds away from super-tight short stacks. If you find yourself in a short stack situation, be prepared to go all-in with semi-decent hands. Whenever you face a critical moment of decision, stop and think it through. Consider your options. Play the hand out in your head. What sort of reaction is your move going to illicit from the players who still have to act? What will happen if you re-raise an opponent who never folds? Use your table observations to choose the best possible poker strategy in any situation.