Winning tournaments

I had got up to a ranking in the top 500, based solely on tournament play. Then I had to go overseas for a couple of weeks and did not play. On my return I hit a losing spell. I was not playing badly, but nothing went my way. On a few occasions I had to abort tournaments due to having other things to do, but this was not a major factor. I lost a lot of chips due to playing 3 times in the Granddaddy Of Them All tournament which has an entry fee of 5 million chips. I you discount them, I have more or less broken even over the last 2 months.

However I gradually returned to form and over the last 10 MTTs, I have had 2 wins, 3 second places, and two other money finishes, with 3 failures, so not too bad. The only thing is that I think I am now losing interest in poker, as I have probably gone as far as I can, and have other more constructive things to do with my time now that the weather is a little cooler here in the northern hemisphere of Planet Venus, where the weather is similar to north Florida for you earthlings.

Right now I am enjoying the cheaper tournaments more than the high buy-ins. Two reason for this: 1) In the 250,000 plus tournaments, you see the same opponents all the time and it gets a bit boring, 2) the larger buy in tournaments have smaller fields, which translates to smaller stacks at the final table and less prize money relative to the entry fee.

Last night I won a little tournament with just a 50,000 buy-in, but with 128 entrants the prize money was not too bad, even though 25 players were in the money, at least getting refunds of entry fee plus some change.

It was surprising that some of the players who made the final table were ranked as high (low) as 500,000 or worse, so relative newbies, but still putting up a tough fight at the end.

I got off to a good start with this play. With two black aces in early position, I just shoved, fairly certain that one or two players would call me, and was lucky enough to get a caller with a dominated ace, so I got my early double up. In these low entry tournaments with over 100 entrants, you have to do something early on to get your nose in front.

As with any victory, sometimes you need luck to go your way. On the hand that follows, in many cases I would have folded preflop, but I sensed that the raiser, based on his earlier play, was not really looking for a call.

In this hand, I had observed that the player to my left was an incredibly loose caller, and I needed a double up, but I was well beaten until the river delivered the card I wanted.

The method of winning these tournaments is as follows:

  1. Get a good start with a double up while there are still a lot of very loose players to kick around.
  2. Play tight, avoid raising preflop with unpaired cards if you are going to get several callers. You will just deplete your stack this way. Abandon suited flops if you have no cards of the relevant suit.
  3. See cheap flops if you cards have some kind of draw potential or suited Aces. Abandon suited flops if you have no cards of the relevant suit. Do not play flush draws unless you have the Ace of that suit, or have other potential out that might win the pot.
  4. Aim for a double up or bluff steal any time your stack get down to around 10 big blinds.
  5. Play tight around the bubble.
  6. Play tight if the final table is just around the corner. With ten players left in the tournament, you might not want to risk all your chips stealing in a 5-handed game when you could be in a 9-handed game on the next hand, where you have few more hands between blinds.
  7. On the final table attack the stacks that are smaller than yours. If you are the smallest stack try to attack the third or fourth smallest stacks preflop.
  8. On the final table try to raise/steal a lot, but avoid calling any raises unless you have a pocket pair that could lead at the flop without improving, in which case reraise.This way you have 3 ways to win the pot–either opponent folds preflop, or you win on the flop, or you win at showdown.
  9. When down to the last 3, if you are not in the blinds either raise to take the pot preflop, or fold, do not limp unless you have AA, KK, QQ and plan to surprise an opponent if the flop looks good for you. If you raise preflop and opponent reraises all-in, fold if you hand is trash.

Happened 2 be intrigued when I saw ur opening so I read the post. I am glad u have been recently having some success in what you feel are the best options for you. I thought I would suggest u try something that maybe different, but much more profitable. A few times a day there are 1mil buyins that start with a 15mil GTD. These typical have no more than 25 - 30 players and pay 3/4 spots. Each of the places though has a huge payout!
I also want to warn you that the set of “rules” u have for winning a specific type setup, that will not hold up over time. While right now you are getting terrific results you always have to keep the word VARIANCE somewhere in ur mind. Right now I am stuck just below 200mil & have been in that vicinity for a couple of months. But I have dipped to 100mil & swelled to 400mil. Now I do play ring games as well so that makes the swings more. But I assure you time always tells.
Furthermore, take it from some1 who exclusively plays tournys (Live), & often - several a week. I have been working on my game a substantial amount. Getting news letters & a mentor, made spread sheets, read books…still haven’t found a formula like you. Then again, neither have %98 of the poker playing world.

Thanks for the comments. I have actually played in and won and placed in 1-million chip tournaments, and once took second place in a 5-million chip tournament.

The higher you go, the less likely are opponents to make gross errors and they will also be craftier and more deceptive. Additionally, in the higher entry tournaments, you are less likely to be punished for your own mistakes.

The plan I detailed above will be fairly effective in the lower chip count tournaments. It just details a few tips for each stage. If you are in the final stages of a MTT for the very first time, you will probably be very excited and nervous and prone to making basic mistakes. By having some kind of plan or system, you will increase your chances of winning even if you don’t pick up premium hands preflop at opportune times.

For example, I have done very well with AQ in recent tournaments by limping the hand and folding it if the flop misses. The thing is that when the flop comes AQx, no one expects you to have AQ and you can win a large pot. On the other hand, raising high with AQ preflop with relatively small stacks is often fatal as you may lose a large proportion of your stack, or maybe all of it when 3 or 4 people call and the flop misses.

On the other hand, it may be best to just shove preflop with AA early in a tournament, and kill off the limpers. Invariably you will get at least one caller, often with a suited Ace that he cannot let go, or an underpair, and have an excellent chance of getting that early double up.


2 quick things. #1 I sent u a friend request on Replay. That way I can find out if you are in any tourneys that I may want to play in too. You seem like a level-headed player.

#2 - U R definitely right about AA. Unlike AQ/AJ don’t ever slow play it (preflop). Yes, very frequently when u r in early position & make a decent raise, every1 folds. BUT, if you don’t do that and no1 else raises either, you end up having no way to get your bearings once the flop hits. “Win a small pot or lose a BIG one.” But, the size of that bet is totally debatable.

I greatly appreciate your keen insights (and will return to read this article again)…… I have only played in one tournament…placing 22nd out of 89 Players…fast and furious betting with blinds going upward by level is a new experience…-> thus your strategies are definitely educational for this relative newbie (2 months of many hands; and not much poker at all, before that)… Take Care Friend !

This is where psychology meets mathmatical odds.
(Lets also assume this is a Non-rebuy MTT)

I will focus on what I call “The aggressor” vs “The counter-puncher”. Some ppl are very astute at using the correct amount of pressure, to achieve getting other ppl to fold. Whereas others may be well versed on the classic, Admiral Aaackbar - Its a trap mentality. No different really than Boxing vs Judo.

Personally, here is where moderation is the long term winner. Too much of either is bad, while everything in moderation is the ticket laddie. Either strategy, if used correctly, can work … yet a good combination of both is King.

We have all been there :
You open the betting preflop, or you flat-call the opener preflop. Either way you have the same choices postflop… do you get/stay agressive or do you try and trap. At this point the odds are the guide, psychology is the gameplan, and whos left/where they are in the betting order, is the situation.
We all have also heard : Play the player, not the cards.

Lets take a specific hypothetical, shall we.
You have AA, you are the preflop opener, and luckily you only get 1 caller.
Flop comes out J-J-10. Now, does the other player have preferred cards that they like to play? Do they have them here ? What is thier stack size compared to you. What is going to help you improve if you’re behind ? Are they bully-able ?
If you can’t answer these questions, you’re playing blind, and must rely on the odds to make your decision.
ANY pocket pair has the same problems… limited draws, yet probable better overall odds of the stronger hand once all the cards are out. ( You either need runner runner, for the nut Str8/Flush, or a 2 outter for a boat ( needing 1 card ) or runner runner for quads ). Contrast that with any random J being ahead of you, plus they can hit just 1 runner for a str8/flush… that will exclude you from improvement ( like 8-Q, or that flush that you have no part of )

In tournaments (no-rebuy), making the wrong decision can get you crippled stack wise, or bounced out from the tourny… or @ the least, its gonna cost you a chunk of chips. The less information you have, the more ANY play is more of a gamble. While having more information allows you to augment the odds, to more of an educated guess and less of a gamble. Therefore psychology ends up being the deciding factor, most of the time. Who’s “head game” is stronger, not who’s cards are stronger.

Recently I was on a table, I was playing fairly tight… (1st time) I opened up, with a 2.5bb raise and everyone folded. I turned over 2-3off, and giggled to myself. 4 hands later with the same raise I got 5 callers, and lost with AA. While it sux to lose with AA, I have now showed the table a 2.5bb raise preflop = any 2 cards. If I can also show the table that I’m willing to limp/flatcall both of these hands, then effectively my Range is ANY 2 cards no matter what I bet.

How anyone plays a specific hand, isn’t a Right/Wrong answer, its more of a Better/Worse answer. Tournament play (no-rebuy)(no Leaderboard concerns) will always require players to play with and win with sub-par hands, some of the time. You can’t just play only strong hands. All good/successfull Tourny players know this.

While Xpusher32 is correct, in that if you slowplay and noone raises, you’re prolly facing more callers and have less information to use, … its also easier to lay down a monster hand that got crushed by a low board, and noone knows you actually just folded that monster.

Bottom line is , predictability usually means ppl have a better read on what you have or think you have… while the opposite means you keep everyone guessing.

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Mostly I am playing between 7:30 and 10:30 pm, US Eastern time, but I will usually enter the next tournament that starts, rather than any particular tournament. I tend to favor the ones that are 250,000 to enter.

Incidentally, after a poor run of form in which I had only won 4 of the last 60 tournaments I entered, two days ago I won a big one and added 15 million to my stack. As ever, the key is to concentrate and wear down opponents. Too many times I lose simply because I am not paying attention.