MTT Tournament strategy

Well, I have been playing on this site now for two months and have 1.3 million chips from sit’n’gos and tournaments. What amazes me is that there are still almost 9000 people with more chips than me. Where are they winning them, seeing that most of them play so poorly?

I was doing good for the first month, then I hit a bad patch in which I could not win a hand in any kind of tournament, even in a 1K buy-in sit’n’go I was the first to be eliminated. This went on for days and days, and my chip count was falling and falling.

This was getting really frustrating, and I was in a MTT and down to my last 500 chips and could not win a hand, and threw everything all-in as I had other things to do, and won the hand, then won again, and again, and actually ended up in the money, though not a winner.

Suddenly I was back on the winning track. Sometimes it must just be luck. You can butt yourself out of tourneys by making mistakes, but without a bit of luck, it is hard to win them. One of the biggest mistakes people make in tourneys, no the biggest mistake, is getting all their chips in a horserace against a bigger stack. If you never get all your chips in against a bigger stack when you do not have the nuts, you will win every tournament.

(Of course this is not always possible, but it is what we should be aiming at.)

Tonight I just won a nice juicy 90-player (or was it 70?) tourney for a firsT prize of over 300,000 chips, but here is the hand that turned me from one of the crowd into the tournament leader. See if you can spot where I had a bit of luck.

On the hand before this I was dealt a pair of 8’s in early position, limped, missed, took a small stab at the pot, and then folded as I appeared to be beaten. Now I was under the gun and AGAIN was dealt a pair of 8’s, so I limped again, and this time there came a lovely flop of Ace, King of Hearts, and the 8 of diamonds giving me a set.

I led with a small bet to hook a fish, he called, then on the turn I made a large bet and he called again. On the river another 8 fell, so I made a small bet not wanting to scare off the prey, and the villain obligingly raised all-in. Kaboom! I was now tournament leader and able to assume my favorite role of table bully and persecutor of small stacks and play tricks like raising the big blind, then flashing 6 2 off suit when he folds and hoping that he/she goes on tilt.

I seem to have hit form again and am getting into the money most of the time, except when I get bored or have other things to do and play impatiently.

Here are my current strategy tips:

  1. Watch the behavior of all the opponents. Monitor their stack sizes. At high blinds it is amazing how often three players will limp in with rags and I will duck when it is damn obvious that the Big Blind is going to raise all-in based on his stack size and prior form.

  2. Fold most opening hands. Limp small pairs strictly for set mining, but you can call small bets on the flop with them if there are also low straight draws.

If you have a really good hand like AA, KK, QQ, or AK, raise high enough to get only one caller. In Replay Poker tournaments this may have to be very high. Make a large continuation bet on the flop, but if you are called, you probably need to give up or call down the hand. You may be up against a set or two pairs. This way you will usually win decent sized pots at the flop and can stay ahead of the blinds.

  1. Play out of the blinds if it is cheap for you to do so. If I am in the BB and several players limp, I will often raise to 2 1/2 blinds even if I have rags, just to teach them not to mess with my big blind. If the flop comes with something like a pair of twos I will often bet the flop as they will probably not have limped then called the raise with a 2 in the hand. Anyway, even if you fold on the flop, if there are four other players who called your raise, three of them are going to suffer stack damage, which is good for you.

  2. Duck when other players get into preflop fisticuffs unless their stacks are less than half the size of yours. Even AA does not play so well in a 3-way hand. I folded AK preflop this evening in such a situation, and would actually have lost all my chips if I had played it against two crap hands. Remember if you are up against two pocket pairs, the odds of one of them making a set and beating top pair is doubled, but beating two hands is always harder than beating one opponent.

In this hand here I actually folded AK off suit, and you will see why.

  1. If you are going to raise after an early limper, you need to raise high enough to drive off either the limper or the blinds, so you might has well fold unless you have a premium hand or a pair rather than limping with KT, which will make you leak chips like crazy. It is always best to be first into the pot with a raise as you have three ways to win–either everyone folds preflop, the flop hits you hard, or you sense that opponent has missed the flop and you win with a bluff or continuation bet. If you don’t have a plan to win a pot, it is better to stay out of it altogether and let opponents inflict harm on each other.

  2. If you get down to less than 10 BB, you need to get all in and try to steal the blinds. When the money places are not far away, most players are not willing to call off more than 1/3 of their stack unless they have a premium hand. Players with lower pocket pairs may call you, so better if you have at least one card of T or higher. Sometimes you may pick up a couple of hands like T 2 and raise all in and steal the pot, and on the next hand you pick up AA and do the same thing and someone will call to teach you a lesson. or the flop comes A T 2 and you double up. If you let your stack get so small that no one is afraid of calling your all-in, then it is too low and you have lost your last weapon.

  3. Avoid calling other players’ preflop raises whenever possible unless it is a single raise and you are in the BB, or you have a premium hand, or a pocket pair that could make a set. Most of the time when you call a raise, the flop will miss you, and then when the raiser makes a continuation bet, and he/she may have AA for all you know, then what are you going to do? Fold, that is what. If the raise is really high it may even be a good move to fold a pocket pair preflop as the combined odds of you hitting a set or having a higher pair than the opponent is not good. Your job is to make easy money when opponents are relieved to fold and escape with most of their stack intact, not to put most of your stack at risk just because you have pocket 8s and there are two overcards on the flop, plus the opponent may hold other overcards that will come on the turn or river.

  4. Watch the tournament lobby window all the time, keep an eye on the scheduled blind changes, how many players left in before the bubble, which table has the smallest and largest stacks, and so on.

This was a nice hand. When the dealer favors you, it is all good.

@MekonKing - I just started to look at the promotions and leaderboards the site runs and these seem to be the easiest sources of chips on the tournament side. I don’t have time for most of them but I wanted to give it a try in October. I completed 3 leaderboards so far (1 weekend promotion, 1 weekly SnG and 1 monthly SnG) and from those 3 alone I made 1,045,250 chips in bonuses. That’s over 1 million chips in bonuses in 1 month and I only played a few boards. I’ll probably add another 300,000+ chips this week for the 20 SnG’s I’ve played in the Astral Ursa Major league (25K entry).

If you (or anyone) has the time to play 20+ games of any 1 type in a week, the amount of bonus chips available is insane. The 1st promotion I played in only required 10 games and my bonus was 200,000 chips (for 5K SnG’s I think). I don’t see myself doing these things regularly because I won’t play that many games in a week but for any tournament player who wants to increase their bankroll easily, the promotions are where to look. I think some of the leagues in the MTT lobby only require 7 games a week for people with really limited time to play.

1 Like

Thanks, that is probably the key. Of course they are only play chips, but it does tend to mean that a high chip ranking may not necessarily correlate with playing skill.


It sounds like you get it @MekonKing, especially your 1st suggestion. Know who you’re playing.

A lot of players here seem to think there’s some connection between aggression and equity. To me, bluffing with decent equity isn’t bluffing at all, it’s semi-bluffing, at best. You don’t have to have actual raw equity in order to win pots. You just have to know how to pick your spots.

To win tournaments, you will have to get lucky now and then, and you can’t get lucky if you aren’t in the pot. Of course, you will get unlucky sometimes too. It happens, such is life.

I play medium MTTs almost exclusively, though I do play a SnG now and then if there’s no tourney starting. I would suggest you find a niche, then get good at playing in that niche. Be a specialist and you will do better overall.

Yes, the leaderboards can be a good way to make a few extra chips, but you won’t win leaderboards without a certain amount of skill and the ability to put in a lot of time. The gemstone “first 7” boards don’t require as much time, but you do have to be consistent.

Overall, very interesting post, thanks!

1 Like

Yes, I agree about finding a niche and getting good at it. I think one of the greatest fallacies is the idea that there is a kind of moral worth in playing with “good” starting hands or playing “good” poker. Poker is a dirty business and you will not win many chips if you play by a set of rules that can be predicted by other people.
Any starting hand can win, but the objective is to find a way to take chips from opponents and win the tournament, even if you don’t have the best hand.

I have seen people raising from the small blind to 400 chips to win a blind of 40 chips. You might just as well fold and keep your 400 chips safe. If it is folded to you in the small blind and you are looking at AA, the question should be how do you extract a lot of chips from the big blind.

Every format for a multitable tournament is a slightly different game form in its own right and playing with nine players per table is different from playing with five or six, playing with a large stack is different from playing with a small one, playing with low blinds is different from playing with high blinds relative to stacks, playing in the small blind is different from playing in the big blind, playing against aggressive opponents is different from playing against passive opponents, and so on.


I only know a little about the SnG leaderboards because that’s all I’ve tried but they give away a lot of chips every week/month to a lot of players. If you can play 2 games at a time, you can crank through 20 in a week pretty quickly. Its still a lot of games so maybe people can’t do them every week but when you can, I think its a great way to increase your bankroll rapidly without playing rings. I just added another 450,000 in bonuses yesterday. My bankroll isn’t large so these bonuses are significant to me. They pay more than a dozen spots so you don’t need to win them outright to get free chips.

Thanks - this sounds like more of a realistic number to play for me and I’ll take a look.

1 Like

MekonKing, is there a point where its too dirty of a buisness… or is poker like love/war… " all’s fair in … " ??

There are times where attacking that person, not the BB … is the objective. There must be a reason to risk 400 chips for only 40. Table presense can be worth only winning 40.

SPG is right about a niche, many players dominate the same Leaderboards or types of Leaderboards. Just playing low stakes and mainly promotions I nett’d a decent amount in LB bonuses last month. I mainly play promotions and if they cross to monthlys I try to fill those as well. I like the changing formats, table max, and game types the promotions offer. Plus as game types change, so do the “regulars” that play them, so I’m constantly playing a wider playerbase of players.

Just like you “invest” bank in a MTT to substantially increase it thru cashing, so do I “invest” bank in a promotion if necessary to profit in the end from the bonuses I earn. Sometimes, not always, per MTT/SnG profit may not be the main goal. You must identify any players that may utilize this, because they may not be playing for profit per tourny.

Replay has explanded the weekly offerings so I’m sure there’s a buyin level that will fit your bankroll… SPG mentioned Gemstones, also check Bankroll Builder and Astral SnGs . Be aware the BB 500 B&R , can cost as high as 5-7k to play, due to 30 min unlim rebuys. I’m sure there will also be “Promotions” that will fit your style of play, keep up with them… ( some pay really really well … )

1 Like

I guess I understand the strategy here but what I seen last night is people buying rebuy after rebuy going all in every single hand regardless of the cards they held just to try and get the bonuses and increase their rank on a leader board.

That is just not poker in my opinion and the advantage goes to high bank roll players that are wiling to spend 100K in chips to do that and don’t care if they make it to the final table.

Even if they get in the money and win they spent more in rebuys than the total prize awarded by way more.

I survived to the last rebuy and things finally settled down and we started playing poker but until then the entire game was a joke with several all ins every hand.

The only all in I took I won and then I just coasted folding everything until the rebuys were over.

I won’t be playing any more rebuy tourneys but good luck to those that do!

@BigDogxxx ,
In particular the 500 also offers bounties, they can ofset rebuys.
I play that MTT for the fun of it, but its a great way to help win
Bankrollbuilder or Monthly Low MTT , leaderboards …

You can search for my posts on exact strategy for the 500 & all unlim rebuy MTTs.

The 500+Rebuy tourney gives a 135 bounty per player so to win anything playing all ins you would need to felt at least 4 players every all in.

Considering these are 9 player tables and people were playing anything and everything on those all ins I just don’t see that anyone would make it up on bounties as most lost more all ins than they won and some people lost at least 20 all ins that I counted.

That is 10K in rebuys which probably is nothing to bigger bank rolls but for the average player that thought they were getting into a tourney at a cheap price they should be aware that is what is going on in those rebuy tourneys until the buy in period is over. So you had better plan on bringing at least 10K to one of those tourneys to have any chance of making up some rebuys on all ins.

I like bounty tourneys because I usually can felt enough people to cover my buy in and more like the buffalo prime bounty but that bankroll builder rebuy was seriously out of control with the all ins every single hand.

Each to their own and it just isn’t for me.

My friend, you forget that although it does not really exist, there is something that we call “time”.
The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

More info than I could possibly give on the subject from Alex Fitzgerald. Its a long one so make sure you have time to watch it all (1:42 long):

Alex is just a great person and a fantastic coach, if you want to play profitable poker as opposed to just playing pretty poker. I’ve gotten to know him over the past year or so and have the utmost respect for this guy. Anyone who wants to improve their game should look up his material on YouTube as a start. This guy has taken my game to a whole new place, even more so than the GTO trainers have.

ADDED: Please note that this guy is not in the business of making you feel good about your game. He’s brutal. That style works for me but maybe some people won’t like it. This is material for people who are serious about wanting to improve their games and willing to work at it.


My general strategy is to be the last person with chips. This can be hard to pull off, but if you manage to do it, you will win like a lot and stuff.

1 Like

Eat you cake, it’s getting cold :):gift: :hole::cake:

1 Like

Interesting vid Warlock, but I wonder how much of that translates to free poker.

You will note that he says the top-tier games will play a lot differently. This is true, but the idea can (should be) also be projected the other way too.

I also agree 100% when he suggests that you have to think about situations before you get into the situations. A lot of things simply can’t be done in real time in the few seconds we have to act. Understand what I would call “the bones” of a situation and then spend your time factoring in the other stuff.

Well, yes, and if I can add a couple of points to that:

  1. Never lose a pot you enter.
  2. Win at least one pot on each round of blinds.
  3. Have the luck of the Devil.

I was playing the 7:30 pm Hijack tourney last night and was playing very well, was not under any time pressure to quit and do other things, and felt I had a good chance to win the tournament, until this happened.

Basically, the blinds were high, I called a raise with a pair of 2s and hit my set on the flop. After a flurry of exchanges myself and a slightly smaller stack go all-in the cards were revealed and I was up against a pair of pocket Kings. Naturally, you know what happened on the River–and it was not the appearance of the 4th 2.

Had I won this pot I would have been in a very favorable position in the final stages of the tourney, and I don’t think I would have played this any differently if it happened again.

Unlike my previous elimination in this tourney in which I really screwed up. I raised big preflop with AK and got one caller, and the flop came KK4, I checked the flop expecting opponent to take a shot at the (huge) pot, villain checked behind me, and the turn brought a 3 which combined with his pocket 3s to give him a full house. I won’t make that mistake again. Of course villain might have raised all-in on the flop, but more likely would have folded the small pair to a bet rather than continue against 3 Kings or a possible pocket pair.

The conventional wisdom is that a bad beat is a good thing, because if you keep getting all your chips in when the odds are in your favor, you will be a long term winner. Well, yes, and no. You could win a lot of pots in tournaments, but fate saves the bad beats for the times that really matter.

I thought so too @SunPowerGuru. Alex has been a fantastic coach for me and opened my eyes to a lot of things, including the applicability of GTO-based strategies at anything but the higher levels (its sub-optimal). Do these concepts apply here? I’m not sure. His focus is on live tournaments up to $3500 entry (WPT Main) and online MTT’s up to $200 or so. He readily admits that these strategies would get brutalized at higher levels but the data shows they clearly work at cash-stakes under that.

Where does the play in a 15K or 50K or 250K MTT fall in terms of skill related to a $350 live buy-in event? I’d be comfortable saying its much lower on the whole. This is free poker and there is no way of getting around that fact. I think that this should make the strategies he discussed more effective in many areas but it would be up to someone like you to experiment and find out. I’d guess that you’d be able to exaggerate some of the exploitative plays but have to abandon some of the others.

This has been some of the most productive training I’ve engaged in and it has helped me a great deal. Being able to quickly recognize a situation as being similar to one I’ve practiced before lets me take more time on the specifics. Alex likens this to NFL quarterbacks running through simulators to speed up their decision making process. The faster you can recognize the big picture, the more time you will have available to tailor your move to the exact situation you find yourself in.

I know I sound like a broken record at this point in recommending him as a coach but I honestly believe he’s the only one out there doing it the right way. Opinions are great and theory is wonderful but actual data on tens of millions of hands is where the rubber meets the road. Being able to look at this data has been game-changing for me. I think anyone who wants to make money playing poker would benefit from his research and material.

I don’t think GTO type strategies are optimal at any level. A few months ago, I saw a video of Doug Polk leaving a WSOP event muttering something about abandoning his GTO approach in favor of a more exploitative one. I’ve been saying the same thing for years.

I’m not saying the idea of a GTO type strategy is worthless. There are some interesting concepts coming out of that school of thought, but the work is far from finished.

You might find this article interesting…

GTO vs Exploitative Play: Which is the Better Strategy? by Doug Polk

Here’s a question I have that maybe someone can address: At what point do people start going from limp-in or raise to push/fold in these games? I was looking at the Bust the Staff game and 1 1/2 hours into it, there are 81 players left and the average stack is 12BB (largest is 42BB). Many players are at under 5BB. In most online tournaments I’ve played this never happens. Push/fold/shove starts at anywhere from 20-30BB depending on the game. For SnG’s, its more like 10-15BB.

So, I see a lot of tournaments where the average stack is too short to really play any postflop poker. Well, unless you count limping in and shoving if you hit top pair or something like that. This doesn’t seem like a great strategy to me but on the other hand I’ve been called super-light when I’ve shoved 10BB+ by absurd hands like Q5s. Has anyone developed a good general push/fold strategy for the games here?

1 Like

I think, (guessing) that since bust a staff doesn’t use a points ranking system, and that you are ranked by total number of people you bust, that the play is very loose, and the people that play conservatively are the staff…