Anatomy of a Play Money Tournament from Beginning to End

I have breen meaning to do this for a while–an illustration of tactical moves required to get to the final table of an RP tournament and into the money that people might be able to use as a kind of template.

This is the evening Widow’s Bite Tournament on Sunday May 7th, 2023. It is 5 million chips to enter, and there are 26 entrants who start with 5000 chips each. Total “prize money” is approximately 130 million chips. It is played on a 9-seater table. This means that when there are 10 players left you will have 5 players on each table, so in practice you have to play with a variety of numbers of players on the table. With 26 entrants you start with two tables of 9 players and one table of 8 players. As players drop out the numbers will change according to divisibility by 9.

I wanted to show the very first hand of the tournament, but it is missing from my hands record, but never mind here is the second.


I folded my hand preflop. Can you guess what it was?

Aaagh!, but AJ unsuited is not a hand I like to play so I folded it. There has been a raise and a call and I am out of position and don’t like to play with a dominated hand. I note that the player who took confidently took the pot with a pot size bet may be a big bluffer. If you flop triple Aces, would you not want to get paid off, as perhaps you will make a boat by the river?

( I might well have won this pot, but if I had lost it, I would surely have lost a lot of chips.)

My first winning pot:

My hand is A2 both clubs, and there are several limpers to me in the BB. I check. Flop comes with flush draw. A very small stack shoves, inflating the pot, and I call and another player calls, and I make the nut flush on the turn.

At this point I do something I don’t usually do and just shove the nut flush, figuring that the other player in the pot has some kind of strong hand and will probably call. If he has 2 pairs and makes a boat on the river, so be it, but in fact he has a smaller flush. He is unlucky. I double up.


I am not playing many pots now, because I am in the tournament lead and there is no possibility of doubling up right now, only losing chips. However along comes one of my favorite hands. 54 suited. 54 suited is the poor-man’s JT, a hand that can make the maximum number of straights, and I am in good position, so I raise and get one caller.

The flop comes with an open ended straight draw and a flush draw for me, which is what I like to see. A simple semi bluff now takes down the pot.


Sometimes to win a tournament you do need a bit of luck running in your favor. And so it was here. I raised the pot from middle with a drawing hand to attack a row of limpers and hopefully knock some of them out, and had 2 callers, enough to give me reasonable odds. The flop was what I like to see. If I had whiffed the flop, I would have just folded. If the flop had come 8 high I would have proceeded with extreme caution. The other players left in the pot were limpers, but most likely had some overcards between them. Usually with a top pair of 8s on the flop, you need to improve to win the pot on the river.

How would you play this hand now? Here is what I did. With a flush draw on the board I was naturally hoping that an opponent would make the flush. The hand went like this, which put me in a good tournament position.


In this hand I call a preflop raise from the Dealer position. Flop comes with a pair of Aces which is a good bluffing hand. Opponent bets 300 chips into the flop and I am not very convinced. This opponent would shove if he had an Ace. I reraise and take down the pot with a naked bluff.

King Jack unsuited is not exactly my favorite starting hand, but I limped in here anyway to see if I could flop something. Two pairs was decent, but not without challenges. Anyway it all turned out nice and I won a big pot again!

Click or tap on above photo to enlarge. Pot size was 6,680 and my stack size is now 16,355.


I have said before that I do not care for AJ unsuited in multiway pots, but there is a time for everything. In the battle to reach the final table, it is necessary to wipe out the small stacks and this opponent had been teetering on the edge for some time. When it is one-on-one mano-a-mano, then high card strengh is the main thing. I have a decent stack and if I lose this one I can still recover so here goes!

Whew! AJ has its uses after all! I have him dominated and he is toast. As a bonus, I make a flush too, narrowly missing the Royal Flush.

It might look as if I am running lucky, but you cannot win a tournament entirely without good fortune, and I have omitted pots that I did not win from this account, flops where I did not flop boats, and there were plenty.


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Anatomy of a Play Money Tournament: Later Tournament Play & Final Table.

Not much to say about this hand. We are now on the final table. One player has all the chips and the rest of us are left to fight over the scraps.

I limped in with QT unsuited, not a hand I am too crazy about, hoping to catch a flop and the small stack shoves. Not much choice but to call, and I got lucky. Very lucky actually.


The big stack eliminates one of the smaller stacks by slow playing a set of Kings. Big stack has now won 9 out of last 10 pots. What is his secret?

We are now at the bubble. There is only a payout for 4 places and we are 5 in the lifeboat. Who will be thrown out? The big stack does not seem terribly enthusiastic about this stack. Maybe he has Ace something. I hang on with my pair of 4s to take the stack.

At this stage of the game no one wants to make a mistake, and we know that the small stacks are liable to explode into a shove, so you don’t want to get too many chips in the middle preflop with a drawing hand.

Finally the bubble bursts. We are all incredibly rich in play money. Big stack makes a boat with 10-4. OK! Shades of Doyle Brunson with 10-2. Well done, sir!

The big stack is now taking every pot as we cringe in terror and fold our cards, but eventually something has to crack. With 9 7 suited I decide to flat call a raise to 3500 from the BB and smack the table bully in the face. It is time to stop the bullying of the small stacks, and I am the man to do it. If I don’t chicken out. As it happens, I don’t need to, because I flop a flush. What is the odds of that? My low flush holds up.

Now the poker gods are with me as I flop a set and snap off the bluff to eliminate the Third Man.

Now it is me with 37,520 chips versus the chip leader who has 76,788 chips. Fortune goes my way and he is soon eliminated.

In hands like this the River came to my rescue when I was going to be soundly thrashed.

And in the very last hand of all, the famous RP flukery worked in my favor again. With 6 7 unsuited I flopped an open-ender, and then hit my card on the river.

OK, you can say that I was incredibly lucky all the way, but that is what is necessary to win a Play Money tournament. You can’t win by getting rivered all the time. And you won’t win if you go broke before you get lucky, so staying unbroke is a necessity. This often means getting a decent stack early on, so that you can afford to lose a few pots, but live to fight again. It had been quite a while since I last won this tournament, but this time Fortune was on my side.

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Great run through! Thanks for sharing this!