The no strategy strategy for tournaments

I came home from work the other night with an hour to kill and joined the 7:30 pm (Eastern US Time) The Hijack tournament about 10 minutes into late registration. There were 52 entrants.

My game plan was to play for one hour up to the break, then quit, or throw away my chips and go to bed. I started out well, but then was nearly eliminated when an opponent hit one of his two outs on the river. I quickly came back and was around 7000 to 8000 chips for most of the first hour. At the break I was ready to quit, but decided to come back to get rid of my chips, then decided to stay on so that I could sneak into the money before I went to bed, then decided to stay on a few minutes more to make the final table and then go to bed. Then decided to play a few more hands, then got one-on-one with the last player, went all-in to get it over with, and my Q9 beat his KJ and I had won the tournament.

No special tricks. Sometimes I shoved on the flop to end the argument. On one hand I raised big from early position with rags and had 2 callers, I missed the flop, shoved, and opponents folded. No monster preflop raised with AK, just raised 2 BB and laid down the hand if I missed and there was significant opposition to me taking the pot. Won several pots from small blind by attacking the BB with or without cards. Mostly just played conservatively.

Key to winning tournaments is to be completely observant of what is going on at the table, like relative stack sizes, and noticing if any player (especially BB) becomes disconnected and can be raised out of the pot. Noticing that if a player is eliminated and you go from a table for 5 to a table for 4 for a couple of hands, you can loosen up a bit and steal pots, or tighten if the table capacity increases. Sometimes show your cards instead of mucking if you bluff with rags or have Aces. But do this in a random way that will confuse opponents into making errors. Note the playing style of each opponent. Note how long to the next blinds increase, and what effect this might have on your opponents.

Here’s one hand I liked with a move that often works for me–the two pair shove that looks like a bluff.

Here’s a move called beat up on the little guy. If he had put in all his chips and won, it was not the end of the world, but he folded and left himself with a crippled stack. I am pretty sure he had Ace something, or a pocket pair. If he had an Ace, three to one it was not a spade. If he had AA, KK, QQ, AK, or AQ, he would have shoved preflop. If he had 2 spades, the pot was his, but I think he would have shoved with two spades or Ace of Spades, not checked. The slight hesitation, then a check, is usually a sign of weakness. A long pause then a check is often more likely to indicate a coming check raise. However the check raise is pretty useless for a small stack against a much bigger stack and has no bluff value.

Here is a hand where I was a bit lucky to win a large pot from the Big Blind, but shows the merits of raising from the BB if you have a playable hand and three limpers. You can always fold your hand if the flop misses you, but you are making your opponents pay to play, and even if you don’t take the pot, with such a large pot, somebody will probably get hurt, and if you can’t win a pot, then seeing an opponent crippled is some consolation. In this case I led out after the flop with an exploratory bet to determine if anyone had something better than my gutshot straight draw and two overcards, or if anyone felt like folding

Although this looks like an insignificant hand, I started it as the small stack at the table, and came out as one of the big boys.