Preflop raises in Multi Table Tournaments

A lot of players are very vague about what they want to accomplish with preflop raises.

For example if you pick up AA in early position in the early stages of a tournament, you ideally want to play the hand against one opponent. You may raise all-in, based on the assumption that there is always someone determined to play his A9 suited or better hand regardless of the price of admission.

In the middle stages of a tournament–say after the first hour–most of these players have been eliminated, so you want to raise high enough to deter most opponents, but still make the call possible for someone with a playable hand, but high enough to deter multiple callers.

If you just have a middling hand, but want to steal the blinds later in the tournament, then you definitely need to raise high enough to deter any casual caller, and the exact amount will depend on the level of the blinds and the size of the stacks at the table.

Or you may just want to get more chips into the pot, in which case you want to put in a single raise, that is easy to call. One of my favorite plays is to frequently raise if I am in the big blind and there are several limpers. This has the benefit of teaching limpers that you cannot expect to see a cheap flop with you Q8 suited on my blind. You may not always win the pot, but a few chips invested can be useful later in the tournament when the blinds are high and you really need to defend your blind to stay viable. At this stage the fewer limpers the better.

In this situation,if an Ace comes on the flop, limpers with no Ace will certainly fold, and limpers with an Ace with a poor kicker will be very wary, unless they make two pairs in which case they will probably raise the hell out of you.

In the very early rounds of a tournament, it is particularly difficult as everyone has a stack, and a raise to 6x Big Blind may get a slew of callers. However, if you have a pretty good hand preflop, you want to get a lot of chips into the pot preflop, and may only need to bet about 1/5 of the pot to make limpers who have missed the flop fold.

I really do not like to call large preflop raises unless I have AA or KK, because it is often better to fold and look for a better place to attack. If you call a raise with something like KQ off-suit, you may hit the flop, but be dominated and lose a stack of chips. Or if you miss the flop, it can be difficult to call a continuation bet unless you have straight or flush possibilities.

I always prefer to be the first raiser rather than the caller, because there is always the possibility of winning the pot preflop.

Perhaps I do not call enough. Obviously there are situations where small stacks are raising all-in preflop as a desperation measure and it can be productive to call with a decent hand if no more than 25% of your stack is at stake.

With good but vulnerable hands like QQ, JJ, TT, 99, you clearly want to raise high enough to get up against one opponent, or alternatively you may want to limp in and be prepared to call a raise, so that if you do hit a set on the flush, you should be in very good shape, especially if the flop comes with the top card just below your pair and someone believes he has top pair.

AK is a good hand to raise or reraise all-in with. I prefer to win the pot preflop, but at least if you get called you have outs. If there are two stacks all in ahead of you, it might even be a good idea to fold, depending on the stack and tournament situation, because if one of those hands also hold aces and/or kings, you may be blocked or beaten by an underpair.


Early in a tournament, I’ll be very tight, playing only about 8-10% of hands (9-handed, slightly wider in 6-handed games), regardless of position unless I’m checking my option to a bunch of flats in the big blind. However, I’ll pair this with a very large open size - 4BB or pot, whichever is larger - to induce folds. I’ll also avoid mucking, so people understand that when I raise, it’s with something strong.

As the field narrows and strengthens, I’ll reduce my open size while widening my opening range. It usually takes a few orbits, but eventually people will reduce how often they limp with weak hands when I’m in position, which I ascribe to fear that I’ll punish their apparent weakness.

By the final table, I’m usually using an open size of 2.3-2.5BB, plus a half-blind for each limper in front of me.

Please note - I’m not going to vary my open size based on the hand I have. That would make it too easy for opponents to play me. Rather, I want them to be uncertain whether I’m c-betting a missed AK, an overpair, or top set, on a low disconnected flop.

If I do vary my bet size, it’ll be a bit larger when I’m out of position, and slightly smaller when I’m in position.

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AA or top pair is always a tough call and I have lost playing them all in and slow playing them.

I try to get as few people on the hand as possible with a good sized bet and and then see what the pot reveals and if I hit for trips and it isn’t a straight or flush draw for my opponent that is when I would likely go all in or huge bet.

If I am 3rd or second to last bet then I might go all in and just take the blinds if they are passive players.

I pay attention to how many players are in the hand and even if I have good cards if there is going to be a betting war with 4 or more players in the hand I will fold and let them battle it out rather than risk my stack pre-flop.

Tourney strategy is different than ring and the idea is to survive and let other players get felted and just get in hands where you have good odds and capitalize big on a few hands.

At least that is the way I play tourneys and I usually get in the money.

A good rule of thumb from one of my favorite poker coaches is that every time you are opening and not getting 3-bet, you are making money. Every time you 3-bet and don’t get 4-bet, you are making money. Open/raise large enough to get 1 or 2 callers maximum. If that means opening to 5x or 8x or 10x, do it. Keep increasing your sizes until you get 1 caller - that caller will be the loosest and worst player at the table and that’s who you want to play big pots in position with. Against mostly loose opponents, tighten your ranges.


I don’t know that I would say they would be the worst player. Loose aggressive just means they will hold a wider range and capitalize on odd ball flops and low card flops. They still play top cards and know hand odds. I am a loose aggressive player on most tables.

Loose aggressive players are more likely to hold small pairs or small straight flush cards.

I agree that you need to put up a bet big enough to drive off the limpers to increase your odds on a hand BUT there may be a time when you want more people in that pot so a medium raise of 2x or 3x gets the really weak hands off but doesn’t drive off the money.

That all depends on your read on the table. If it is a very tight table full of limpers I want to get a few players in to the pot on my good hands so a 2x or 3x bet won’t scare them off.

If it is a table of big betters then I want to narrow the field down to 1 or 2 opponents and if you have a read on the table you know which opponents you want t go heads up with and depending on position you can get them into a hand and scare off the looky lou’s.

@BigDogxxx - maybe I was imprecise with how I worded that. I was not referring to LAGs but instead to loose passives, who are the most profitable opponents to face. A LAG will open wide and barrel. A LAG will 3-bet you. A loose passive will call and only call. They will call 2x or 3x or 4x or 10x with the same garbage range. These are the people you want to isolate and play big pots against in position.

I cannot stress this point often enough to the players I’m coaching (and was pointed out to me before then) - the money is heads-up against weak players. Multiway means you are going to need to make a hand. Heads-up is where you get to put your skill and positional advantages to work. Find the loosest passive at the table and target them over and over and over. If someone tries to push you out of the way to isolate that player themselves, push over. Do not let them take those chips - you should look at them as yours. Yes, poker is a brutal game where the strongest prey on the weakest.

On a side note, there are very very few good LAG’s in the world - talking about people who can beat high-level players. Even the Tom Dwan’s of the world eventually get crushed by the better players over time. It is a very profitable style against most populations though. It certainly is a lot more fun than being a nit. Enjoy it.

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Thanks 1Warock and I understand where you re coming from now.

I play loose aggressive and a wider range on ring tables but in a tourney I tighten my range and as I get closer to the money I may get even tighter.

I have found some advantage though in still playing the low end pairs and straight flush hits against very tight players and hitting those flops that they are not holding cards for.

It isn’t a hand I would big bet pre-flop but more a strategy when you are caught in the blinds and don’t want to fold a possible or everyone limps in.

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sounds like Phil Hellmuth

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I will admit I don’t get this at all. You have the deck crippled, who is going to call that bet?

Yet people do it all the time. Probably thinking I have just a small pair or bluffing.

People make fun of him but he’s still one of the most successful live tournament players of all time. His style and strategy may not be the prettiest or most complex but you can’t argue with the results.

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he is a big baby, sore loser. very rude