Thoughts on my tournament strategy

My strategy has resulted in making final table in about 1 in 5 of the multi-tables I enter. Rather simple actually and I just wonder how many others play the same. I wait till the final minute to register before registration closes. I avoid the kooks betting all-in like rats on speed and usually end up entering 20-25 in a 100+ player tourney. Ten kooks are gone, and maybe ten ahead of me. The game has settled down and I can actually use the limited skills I have. Of the remaining bingos I only call all-in from position with top 15 hands and it works out pretty well it think. Sure, I have some catch up to do but my heads right from avoiding the craziness. Is ending up final table 20% of the time typical?

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Yeah, those 2.5K MTTs are brutal for the first 20 minutes or so. About 30 minutes in, the field is less than half of the amount that started.

Sometimes I make the mistake of trying to play “normal” and end up getting hosed by showdown. It’s nigh impossible to make a read on someone who has no idea where they stand. Usually, I can come back from this later on by watching from the sidelines with half my starting stack.

It’s certainly a worthwhile strategy to just blind off early, unless you get one of the nuke 'em hands (QQ+, AK). In which case, you can just call the all-in and hope for the best.

It’s something I need to work on but the madness messes with my head so better to register later. Might be worth a shot watching on hold, laughing at the silly fools and only play monsters. Entering late still involves aggressive initial play to provide a stack to jump on opportunities. Just easier in the calm keeping everything " in front of me"

Entering final table every one in five tournament though looks above average, mathematically it may be just about the performance of every standard player. Percentage position would have helped. Being in final table, how good to know it depends on number of participants and number of players per table.

I assume you play six players table and an average participants forty eight. Totally eight tables. Fifty percent of the time you will go to next four tables, Twenty five percent of the time you will go to next two tables. 12.5% of the time you go to the final table. That is one in eight tournaments. In my experience I feel early elimination is about 40%, people get eliminated early due to bingo playing or all in/high bets in an attempt to build the stack early. Excluding the 40%, your chance of reaching final table is 12.5/0.6 = 20.8%, that is one in five tournaments.

This assumes six players tables and forty eight participants. Your are doing better if the participants are more than this, more than seventy two players in nine payer table and more than thirty two players in four player tables.

To put in position terms, with the standard play statistically one should reach prize position (one in six in Replay) every 3.6 tournaments. Note that it assumes 40% early elimination. If all payers are playing tight its just one in six.

Commenting on your game strategy, it looks to me a good strategy. I get confused playing against opponents who bets with no stand. Worse they don’t go all-in in one shot. They play in peace meal, like betting 400 each time of starting stack of 2500 chips.

Still I would like to enter a tournament early, because it gives me the chance to play low blinds, which suits my game. Playing steady I can hope to increase my stack by 50% without much risk, before the blind increases. During this time (any time to tell the truth) I avoid high bets and bingo plays. Sometimes you get a windfall from bingo play.

Tried this out today. I was busy with Asian Sunset, but did the late reg for Texas Rally which started shortly after to mitigate the distraction of two tables.

There were 73 entrants and we were at paydirt (15th place) within 50 minutes of the start. I was able to get a few big wins early and easily coasted into a paying position. If you can manage to survive until break in these 2.5K MTTs, you’re “in the barn” so to speak.

I’m experimenting by employing some strange tactics to combat the chaos…

I consider the old stand-by: play the opposite way of everyone else. In this case, it would mean playing tight-passive and letting them tighten the noose around their neck by slow playing your monster hand. It also means playing Limp Bingo!™ instead of making a modest raise pre-flop.

These people only understand two bets: all-in and not all-in. If you make any attempt to bet or raise appropriately, you will be immediately re-raised, without fail. As such, your two options are thus: shove all-in with the nuts (or near nuts) OR check it along and see what they do.

I ultimately end up at a “when in Rome” style of play because of this and it puts me at severe risk of a brain aneurysm trying to endure it.

I’m going to go lie down now…

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If the average field is 90 players and the final table has 9 seats, one should expect to make the final table 10% of the time, assuming everyone is at the same skill level. Obviously then, if one makes the final table 20% of the time, they are performing above average.

However, this isn’t to say the strategy is optimal… there’s always room to get even better.

Frankly, the idea of registering late is flawed, at least in my opinion. How many opportunities have you missed? How can it be better to start below the average stack and have to play catch-up against a progressively tougher field? Generally speaking those early bustouts are the easiest chips you will get in any tourney, and if you don’t get them, someone else will.

Those parts of the game that we are most uncomfortable with are exactly the parts on which we should work the hardest. Should a golfer who has a weak drive skip that part entirely and play only miniature golf instead? Or would they be better served by working on their drive?

I’m not trying to be critical here. It’s just something to think about. Your chips, your choices. Play the way that gives you maximum enjoyment.


You would think, but actually if I enter a 60-player tournament late, and I start with 5000 chips, my stack will usually be slightly above average. Let’s say that 10 players have busted out. That will have enriched slight less than 10 players who will have doubled up. Often one player has trebled or quadrupled his stack in the early going. Perhaps he had great cards, or perhaps he is a lucky maniac.

With about 50 players left, I will be starting in around 20th place, and if I quickly win one decent pot, will probably get up into the low teens.

It is very difficult to play in the early rounds when everybody has chips, because you tend to see a lot of multiway pots, which are obviously unpredictable. If you raise big preflop with AA and get 3 callers, there is a lot that can go wrong and very likely one of the three hands will end up with something better than 1 pair. And when the flop comes, it will be very difficult to get any idea of what opponents hold. Of course, if an Ace comes on the flop, that is very welcome, but then you may have a hard time extracting any money unless someone has the 4th Ace or two pairs. If they don’t have an ace, they will not have the nut flush draw either.

You will win some big pots on these early hands, but you may also lose some big pots. Once the blinds go up a bit, and some of the stacks are bigger and some are smaller, people start making all kinds of errors, and bluffing and stealing comes more into play.

So I don’t think there is any disadvantage in getting in late, and if you are a busy person, saving 15 minutes may be valuable.What you will lose is the opportunity to observe the playing styles of others at your table, particularly what kind of bets they will call or fold to at the flop.


I need to make a correction here.

I assumed a linear model of play. Like, 50% of the time you make to top 50%, 25% percent of the time you make to top 25% etc. This is not exactly true in tournaments, like the prize positions. Its not like bottom one gets say 1000 chips, next one gets 2000 chips, 3000 and so on. Its exponential, bottom one gets 1000, next one gets 50% more,1500, next one 2250, 3375 so on. 1.5^n. Its exponential model.

Seasoned tournament players play in exponential fashion. They try to bang to the prize position or bow out early. Posing the exponential model, assuming an arbitrary but looks real exponential factor of 0.015, to say every position gets 1.5% additional significant than the previous position, you get the following probabilities:

50% of the time you make to top 67%, 25% of the time you make to top 40% and 10% of the time you make it to top 17% which is prize position. One in ten tournaments you make it to prize position.

This is bit arbitrary, depends on the exponential factor you assume. Analysis will get deeper if you try to evolve a proper exponential factor. But, this is how probably you have to analyse the tournaments.

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This is correct. Both times I did this, I started at mid-pack. If I had started on-time and only paid blinds, I would be in the bottom third.

Your other points are also very important as well. Good post.


No, your stack will not be above average. Average stack is the total chips in play divided by the number of players remaining. As long as at least 1 player has busted out, you will be below average stack, it’s just simple math.

For example, with 60 players and starting stacks of 5,000, there will be 300,000 chips in play. Once 10 people bust out, the new average will be 300,000/50=6,000. 6,000 is 20% more than 5,000. I don’t consider having 20% less chips than average to be an advantage.

Anyway, play however makes you happy.

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I think we’re looking at mean vs median here. You will be below the mean, but at the median.

Anyway, good discussion.


Yes, you are correct on both points. You would be below the average (mean) stack, but probably be above the median.

In general, those at the average stack will be roughly at the bottom of the top third in terms of tournament position, although this fails at the beginning and at the end of a tournament. So yes, you should find yourself above the median in terms of tournament position.

For example, if you are at the average stack with 60 players left, you should be about in 20th position.

If one stays above the average stack for the entire tournament, they would win every time. If they stay below the average, they can never win. This is a hard fact about tournament poker, and means more to me than current position.

I should have said “above the median” stack size. When you enter the tournament there will often be more than half the active players who have less chips than you. This is important, because it means that you have the stacks of more than half the remaining players covered, and have the potential to make them play with all their chips.

You are right that the total number of chips in the tournament will always be the same and the average stack size will be the number of chips divided by the number of remaining players, but I do not find this to be a particularly useful figure, because if there are only six players at a table, the more important question is the relative size of the 6 stacks to each other and the total number of chips in play on your table relative to the blinds.

In the early going in a tournament, a useful measure is whether you have more than the starting number of chips. If you have more, that means that at least you are keeping up with the blinds so far. If you have less, then you become increasingly vulnerable to blind increases as they will take an increasing percentage of your stack on each round. To win a tournament you need to win on average > 1.5 x the big blind on each circuit of the table, so in a 6-player per table tourney, you need to win on average >1.5 the big blind every 6 hands, and need to make adjustments if the table size drops below 6.

To me, the question is, “how much of a disadvantage is starting below the average stack?” This isn’t an easy question to answer.

It’s not a huge disadvantage, and is fairly easy to overcome.

I guess it depends, at least in part, in how comfortable you are playing the “early madness” stage of the tournament. This stage presents more opportunities, but at higher risk. This is a trade off I am more than willing to accept, but others might not feel the same.

These numbers don’t add up to me, maybe I’m missing something here.

For example, if 50% of the time you make the top 67%, doesn’t this imply that you won’t make the top 67% half the time? With a starting field of 100, are you saying that the top 67 positions will be held by 50 people?

Good people of Replay,

I have been wrestling pros and cons of Late registration. How does this approach sound?

A standard way to allocate prizes in a tournament which is interrupted online is to divide half the prize pool equally between all the remaining players and then divide the other half pro rata, according to chip stacks. The rest of my analysis assumes this is a fair method.

Please feel free to comment if you can get behind above methodology.

If we have a tournament which is 1,000 chips (after fee) towards the prize pool and each starting stack is 5,000 tournament chips
60 people enter, so the prize is 60,000 chips with 300,000 tournament chips in play
Before they play the first hand the EV (refund if it is cancelled) for every player is an equal split of 30,000 prize pool and an equal pro rata share of 30,000 according to chip count, in both cases 500, so everyone is worth 1,000. - Nice sites like Replay would refund the fee too. Just sayin’

The tournament starts and all is well,

They play awhile and players are knocked out, then Hero joins in Late Registration. What is Heros EV at the point they register if:

  • The field is now 50 players.
  • Hero has 5,000 chips
  • The prize pool is 75,000 chips because they are entrant #75 and the total chip count is therefore 375,000?

According to the back of my envelope, Hero is worth 1/50th of 37,500 prize (750) because he is one of 50 players, plus 1/150th of 37,500 (250) because he has 1/75th of the chips in play, which is also 1,000.

Hero joining either as one of the first 60 or as player #75 during Later Registration is neutral.

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I don’t see where the 1/150 comes from on the pro rata part. I can see 1/150 of the total prize pool, but think he should get 1/75 of the pro rata part. Since we have already halved the total prize pool to leave the pro rata part, why half it again?

Where am I going wrong?

I REALLY don’t like this. Registering late, after players have already busted out, you will be starting with a below-average (though, as other players have mentioned, not necessarily below-median) stack. Now you’re saying I have a smaller prize pool to play for as well?

Payouts will get really screwy as well. Some players might get paid for finishing in tenth while others would have to finish in seventh to get paid - and there would be no easy way to see which players have which bubbles and related ICM considerations. The aggregate payouts will vary depending on when finishers joined the tournament, not just the buy-in and number of players, so you won’t be able to see how much of your buy-in is going to rake. If there were a back-end re-leveling after the tournament is over, then you’d have to wait until all players have busted out to get paid.

All of this assumes a standard payout structure. Bounty tourneys are a whole different beast, with even more disadvantage to players who join after other players have started busting out. Why compound those disadvantages?

These are just the issues I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure other, wiser players can come up with others.

Coder, I don’t think he was suggesting a smaller prize pool. He divided the total payouts into 2 parts… 50% to be divided equally among the remaining players, and the rest divided proportionally (pro rata) depending on stack size.

The way I see it (which is probably wrong) is that our hero would be worth 1/50th of the first half because there are 50 players left, which is 750, plus some portion of the remaining 37,500. I think his share of the pro rata part should be 1/75th of the remaining 37,500, which is 500, bringing total EV to 1,250.

This means starting late is +EV. This can’t be right, can it?