Poker is a card game that players of all skill levels can enjoy. While casual players may enjoy the game for its social aspects, competitive players can find excitement and challenge in high-stakes tournament play. Regardless of their reasons for playing, all poker players share one common goal: to come out ahead. Players must use a solid strategy to achieve this goal. Strategic planning is essential for making the right decisions at the correct times, and a proper strategy trumps even bad luck. As such, skill is an essential factor in poker. Ultimately, poker is so enjoyable because of its skill requirement and the sheer variety it offers. You can play different types of poker, like Holdem and Omaha, and choose different game formats, like cash games and sit-n-goes.
For anyone who has ever played poker, it is clear that cash games and tournaments are vastly different experiences. In a cash game, players buy-in for a set amount of money and can choose to leave the game at any time. In contrast, tournament play requires a buy-in fee, and players are typically eliminated when they run out of chips. As a result, tournament poker is much more high-stakes and complex than cash games. Players must be willing to risk their entire buy-in to win a large prize. Furthermore, tournaments often require players to adopt different strategies as the number of remaining players decreases. As the field dwindles, the blinds increase, and players must be more aggressive to survive. In short, tournament poker is entirely different from cash games, requiring a different mindset and approach. This poker guide aims to help cash game players transition into the tournament format.
Tournament poker tip #1: Play tight early
The early stages in poker tournaments are crucial for building a chips stack. Since tournament structures incentivize survival, you must play relatively tight in the early rounds to avoid losing chips and getting knocked out. The aim is to accumulate as many chips as possible so that you can survive the bubble and have a chance at making it to the final table. Once you get closer to the final table, there is less need to take risks since your chips will already be worth a lot and the extra chips you get. It might even be advantageous to give up some chips to stay alive and accumulate more later. Therefore, playing tighter in the early stages of poker tournaments is essential for survival.
Tournament poker tip #2: Pay attention to the blinds
In poker, the blinds are mandatory bets made by the two players sitting to the dealer’s left before any cards are dealt. The size of the blinds is typically determined by the game’s stakes, with larger blinds resulting in bigger pots and more aggressive play. In tournament play, the blinds increase at regular intervals, forcing players to adjust their strategy as the tournament progresses. Most players adopt a tight-aggressive approach at the beginning of a tournament, only playing premium hands to build a big stack. However, players must start taking more risks to stay alive as the blinds get more prominent and the average stack size gets smaller. That often leads to more aggressive play and more frequent all-ins. As a result, tournament players need to be able to adapt their strategy as the blinds increase.
Tournament poker tip #3: Pay attention to changing stack sizes
In a poker tournament, players start with an equal amount of chips and play until only one player has chips remaining. The big blind and small blind also increase at set intervals throughout the tournament. This structure is in contrast to cash games, where each player begins with however many chips they bought in for and can cash out at any time. Because of the constantly changing stack sizes in tournaments, players must adapt their strategies as the tournament progresses. For example, a player with a short stack will be more likely to take risks to double up, while a player with a large stack can afford to be more patient and wait for better opportunities. Ultimately, the constantly changing stack sizes add an extra layer of complexity to tournaments, making them both more challenging and exciting for players.
Tournament poker tip #4: Remember tournaments are less aggressive
When you play in a tournament, especially in the early stages, you will often find that the level of aggression is far less than it is in a cash game. This is because people are more worried about making it to the money rounds and ensuring they don’t bust out of the tournament early. As a result, you will often find yourself sitting back and playing a much more conservative game than you would in a 6-max cash game, where the blinds come around often, and you need to keep putting chips in the pot to stay in the game. This can be an advantage for those who can control their emotions and play a tight, patient game. However, it can also be a disadvantage if you are used to playing a more aggressive poker style.
Where to find poker tournaments
Tournament poker is a different beast altogether, and if you’re used to playing cash games, you need to know a few strategic differences on how to play poker tournaments. In this article, we’ve outlined some of the most critical tips for tournament success. Sign up today with GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room, and put these tips into practice! With a little learning and patience, you’ll be crushing tournaments in no time.