The Secret to Making it Deep in a Poker Tournament

ConfidentialPlaying in a large field (300+) freezeout tournament is a skill that can be learnt just like riding a bike. That after all is the whole aim of this guide.

Once you have it it’s there for life and it’s exactly like riding a bike – if you crash and burn you can dust yourself off and start over again hopefully leaving minor mental scars to heal themselves.

Repeatedly cashing in big field events requires a special skill, a special type of focus and a bankroll that supports your style of play. We’ve already talked about bankroll and focus and we will continue to expand on them throughout the rest of this guide.

But before we get into all the detail, I thought that I would try and come up with some generalisations to help the aspiring tournament player cash regularly in these events.

Remember that simply scraping into the money, whilst great for the novice player as it recoups their buy in, is completely different to playing for the win and as you become a more confident player after reading this guide you will understand that we are playing for the win, or at the very least a high cash finish to return a bigger pay day for the hours invested.

First of all let’s get your mind sorted out properly.

A poker tournament like a $10 buy in $10k Guaranteed payout will typically have around four hundred players or more. Making it to the final table means that you will have to invest something like five hours of play in the game. That’s a long time to be playing poker and it’s the number one reason that people bust out early, because they don’t take into account the patience factor required to last the distance.

In a tournament you can often be putting a significant portion of your entire stack on the line every time you play a hand and whilst it’s true that you do need some luck to win the tournament you also need to make sure that the luck is riding with you on the hands you play rather than against you.

In no limit holdem according to the laws of probability you are only going to hit the flop with any two cards 1 in 3 times. Even though in the long term you will only hit 30% of the flops you see in any one particular tournament you could get lucky and hit the flop every single time you play a hand or alternatively you could keep missing for long stretches and keep losing ground on the other players.

In a cash game it doesn’t matter because the blinds are (hopefully) a small portion of your stack but in a tournament it matters greatly because you don’t get that many attempts at hitting a flop before your chip stack starts to get decimated.

So how much better would it be if we went into every flop with a made hand?

We get dealt pocket pairs on average every sixteen hands so the chances of getting a high pair in the first hour or being able to limp in with a speculative low pair are very good.

So if the chances of getting a premium hand is reasonable then why don’t we limit the hands we play to just these premium hands. Well the answer is you should. I quite commonly go for three or four orbits (dealer button passing around the table) without even thinking of playing a hand because “I don’t need to”.

This is the opposite approach to the way most poker players approach the tournament. They see the chip leader with a huge stack of chips and figure that they need to race to catch up, but this is not the way to do it.

As the blinds get bigger in the later stages of the tournament you can go from a short stack to being a contender in a very short space of time if you get favourable cards and that is the time to be taking risks, but not in the early stages of a tournament.

To make it deep in a tournament all you need to do is play premium cards in the early stages of a tournament while the blinds are low. You will find plenty of fish that are prepared to try and hit the flop with J8 off suit and of course occasionally they will get lucky but your skill and advantage over these players starts with your ability to always have the better hand going into the flop.

We will be talking a lot more about limiting the hands you play in the next section which is focused on how to play the early stage of a tournament, so I won’t go into any more detail here, but I just wanted to try and get a light bulb to go on in your head to understand that it is in our control whether we go into the flop with the best hand or not and that is a massive advantage if you choose to take it.

Play your premium hands against one Opponent

When you do get a premium hand then you should be playing it aggressively. Your chances of winning the hand with a premium hand are very high against one opponent, maybe as high as 80-90%.

As you introduce more opponents into the mix with another set of cards that could connect with the board that percentage reduces, you may still be a favourite but your percentage may drop down to more like 50%. With each opponent who enters it will continue to drop and suddenly you are not a favourite any more.

So when you do play a premium hand you should be focused on isolating one opponent, if there are multiple players in the pot then you are going to have to be aggressive and raise it enough to get people to fold.

Even if there is only one opponent in the pot before you acted you should still raise it up to discourage other players from coming into the pot after you and isolating the poor opponent already in the pot.

But I saw this guy play like that on TV…

And lastly, take what you see on TV with a pinch of salt. Watching Poker programs on TV is great because it is entertaining and really ignites your interest and passion for poker.

However you need to bear in mind that these Poker Tournaments you see on TV take a long time to complete, sometime days and what you see on TV is just the highlights.

The highlights are edited drastically to make it entertaining and what you don’t see is the mundane stuff that you should be doing as a good player – folding good hands in early position, not bluffing and waiting for opportunities to exploit.

So don’t watch a player on TV play every hand and think you should be doing that, he’s probably folded about 10 times the amount of hands you have seen in the period of time that section was edited.

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