More thoughts on winning tournaments

I have been on a good run lately with quite a bit of luck going my way, and have picked up another million chips in tournaments in the last two days/

What is the key? I think:

  1. concentration, and paying attention to what other players are doing. For example one player I was against tonight won several hands by getting all in against other players when he flopped or turned two pairs. This came in useful on the final table, when he was showing all the signs of playing two pairs, and let me duck out of a pot that would have cost me dearly.

  2. Winning an appropriate number of pots with bluffs and semibluffs by presenting a tight image at the table and folding most hands. This makes your bluffs much more credible when you make large bets with air.

  3. Paying attention to the timing and hesitation and bet sizes of other players. One player in late position limps in when you are in the Big Blind. You have nothing, but you raise him to let him know that you have something. If he three bets, you can duck out, but if he hesitates and then calls, chances are he has not much, maybe two suited cards. He didn’t raise preflop to try to knock you out of the hand, so probably he is looking for a favorable flop. Chances are the flop will miss him. Flop comes with an Ace on it. Either he has an Ace or he doesn’t. You check to him and he puts in a smallish bet, chances are he does not have an Ace, or he would be betting to take the pot right now, not suck more money into it. Check raise to represent an Ace or better, and chances are he will fold. If it is folded round to you in the small blind, either raise or fold. There is no point limping in now, because your opponent could have anything and if he checks, when the flop comes, you will have no idea. If he has a stack smaller than you, then bully him (or her. If the stack is larger than yours, don’t attack unless you probably have the best hand preflop.

Hand of the Day.

I have a pair of 7s.

1 Like

YES!!! This is one of the most basic lessons.If the opponents see you as “always having the goods,” they are much less likely to fool with you; it’s safer to just give it to you when you bet big. A lot of players bluff too frequently–and therefore get called more often and suffer what they then call “bad beats”–that really only meant the caller didn’t respect their wagers to begin with. Table image counts.


I have been too busy to play for about 3 weeks, so my alternative theory is that you’re just picking up all the chips I would have won :slight_smile:

As to your points:

  1. I agree, playing your best game requires your full attention. I had plenty of bad nights because I thought I could play OK while web browsing in another window, doing work, and taking care of little e-chores. Now, when I’m playing, I’m playing. It makes a huge difference. That’s not to say that I can’t weather an occasional distraction, but if I’m in a hand, I’m giving it 100% of my attention.
  2. Yep. Everything plays better when you’re tight-aggressive. Bluffs work a lot better when you have a reputation for having the cards. It’s also easier to bluff from the big stack. Which, if you’ve won a few big hands earlier, and showed you had the cards, you can use that to your advantage when you do have a situation where you either can bluff aggressively for profit, or need to bluff to take down a draw that you missed on, and losing means you’ll be crippled.
  3. Nah, I don’t put a lot of stock into timing. Timing doesn’t mean anything, because:
  • Lag can screw up your perception of the time actually taken by the other player.
  • Players can take time for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they fell asleep, maybe they’re playing in 4 other windows, maybe they’re reading the New York Times in another window, maybe they had to pee, maybe the phone rang, maybe they… in a live game you can rule a lot of those things out, and it means a lot more.
  • Despite the above, some players will apparently try to use dramatic pauses before acting. You can tell, and it feels really artificial. Which, to me, it feels like a hallmark of bad play, when you can read someone that easily, it’s never good for them. I feel like I’m humoring my 6 year old nephew trying to practice perform stage magic on me. I know you hid the ball behind your back, kid. But, sure, I’m going to let you think you fooled me.

Most players don’t need a lot of time to decide how to act, they know what they’re going to do, and when they hesitate, they’re usually trying to get you to think that they’re weak, which of course means that they’re strong.

Whether they’re strong or not, I’m playing the cards I can see, and if I’m strong I’m probably playing the hand. If they’re strong and beat me, then OK, I congratulate them on the hand, take note, put it behind me, and play the next hand. If they’re weak and bluffing, I congratulate myself on reading them and calling. If they’re strong and I only had Top Pair, or a draw to a busted flush or straight, called, and lost, then I hope that my mistake makes me look like a bad player so I can exploit them later in the game when a similar situation comes up and I do make the monster hand.

I have been autofolding A6, A7, A8 preflop unless I am in the blinds, as these are useless hands for the most part, because if an Ace comes on the flop, you cannot be sure you are ahead. A9 suited I will play, A9 unsuited depending on the situation. It is OK for calling a shove by a microstack, but does not play very well in multi player pots.


This was one of the things I did to stop leaking so much. I’ll play weak Ax off-suit in a value situation or if I’ve been given nothing better to shove. If I hit two pair, great. If not, I have to seriously consider that I may not have the best hand.

Weak Ax suited I will play a bit more often because of the additional value of a nut flush. In both situations, A2 plays about the same as A9. See a flop and go from there based on the results.

It is always nice when you can fold your way deeper into the money. I did not win this tournament tonight, but made plenty of chips.

Absolutely agree on the attention aspect - paying attention and maintaining good observation of your opponents is so important and an often overlooked aspect of the game here on Replay. Of the basic primary skills I am somewhat acquiring, proper observation is taking me the longest. At least, I think. You really can gain a lot of useful information. People naturally tend to develop habits, good and bad. It can be tough to shake them. Even a basic grasp of balance is very, very challenging. Good players and pros often say that proper balance is one of the tougher aspects of the game to effectively maintain. Better players than myself often exploit me and take advantage of my inability to play an even remotely well balanced game. I try to incorporate it, but I am not very effective.

Regarding your hand of the day: If you were indeed holding 77, I sincerely think you did a really nice job in this hand. It might sound silly to say this (after just one hand), but the way you played it at least gave me the impression you had good eyes on those at your table. At least, that’s what I think. I would like to know your opinion on whether you think that when your opponent led out on the flop if you could have raised a little bit larger. Perhaps a little larger would still have got him to call and maybe led to him deciding to shove on the turn rather than bet half pot? It was just something I was thinking about while watching the hand.

You have so little time to type in a raise! I expected the opponents to both fold if they did not hold a 4. An unpaired 4 is not a very good hand to play against a preflop raise, but someone might have a pair of 4s, in which case it was not my day. Apparently my right hand opponent did not believe that I had a 4 either. He could have put me on a pair of 3s, or a pair of Jacks when I raised all-in. The question is, what did he have? Perhaps he was just bluffing because he believed I was bluffing. Maybe he had a 3 in his hand. What would make him flat call my check-raise on the flop? He could have had a small pocket pair, perhaps 2s or 5s, or 5s.

This was certainly a very unusual hand, and a significant one, since I almost doubled my stack, and my right hand opponent was more or less crippled by this hand.

77 is a tricky hand. At this very low blind level, my preflop raise was mainly aimed at stoking the pot in the event that I should hit a set on the flop. Had overcards appeared, I very likely would have given up the hand unless it was very cheap to see more cards.

I won a MONSTER pot against two opponents in a tournament tonight on the final table when the blinds were at nosebleed levels with a pair of 3s. I limped in and SB completed and and the BB checked. The flop was checked to me and I bet, then both opponents called, and we went to the turn, which was checked around, and on the river hit my set of 3s. Small blind bet, big blind called, I raised, then SB folded and BB called and I won a pot for 70,000 chips and the tournament lead.

1 Like

Yeah, I hear ya about putting in the bet before the clock…yeah, about his hand - maybe 22, 55, 66, or A3? Never know. Hard to say. Nice job.

Interesting hand with the 33. Scary flop. Great job being able to stick it out to get your score on the river! I like the river bet. It seemed safe, so you got your value. Fortunate with the action allowing you to remain in the pot. Nice work.

Over the last week I have played really, really badly, just for entertainment, and usually going out trying for glory preflop or at the flop. The nadir was reached yesterday when I played in a little 10,000 chip entry sit and go and crashed out in last place.

Then I decided to concentrate properly last night after everyone had gone to bed and I sat down at the computer with a glass on wine and the dog snoring gently behind my chair, and won 666,000 chips in a 50-player 9-seater tournament, ending with a new high in chip count and ranking.

The key to this was folding a lot, cutting out the limping, and just hanging in there and letting opponents self destruct against each other. The fact that I had AA 3 times was no disadvantage.

At the final table I was up against a brick wall in 3rd place against 2 large and tough stacks, so eventually went for a double and crashed out respectably, defeated by the KKK.