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Basic Poker Tournament Strategy

Tournament Poker: Basic Strategy
By Loki Luchs

One of the major reasons for the popularity of poker is the exposure major tournaments get in the media today. There are dozens of major tournaments that are on the air and with each amateur win, a hundred more begin to dream of taking home a bracelet and paycheck. However, most amateurs stand little chance of making it through a large field because they don't understand the strategies needed to make it deep into the money.

Most tournaments are lopsided in their payout structures. While most people realize that first place means that you make the most money, they don't necessarily understand by how much. Itís not uncommon in major tournaments for first place and third place to have more than a million dollars in difference in their payments. Making the money is an accomplishment, undoubtedly, but the true goal is ALWAYS to win. Some players, especially those who rely on poker for a living, are more than happy to take home a tournament cash; this goal, surviving, will often impede their ability to place among the highest rankings. They don't take the necessary risks to accumulate large stacks that make them a force once they're in the money. When you're playing tournaments, itís a negative expected value to have your eyes set on making the money when you should be concerned about winning the tournament. Many players who aren't looking to win, end up competing with thirty other players who are also just trying to make the money. These players are limping along and make great food for the predators who are serious about winning.

Due to the payout structure, a playerís goals in a tournament must be different than those of a cash player. Tournaments typically pay the top 85-90% of the players. However, of the players that make it into the money, a disproportionate amount is paid to the top 3 places. One way that some players achieve this is by playing in a loose style in the early stages of the game. Their plan is to either accumulate a large, early lead that might carry them deep into the tournament or to get knocked out early. Being eliminated isn't a concern because they are trying to avoid spending three days nursing a short-stack, only to be eliminated just before the money. Letís say there are 100 people in a $1,000 tournament and only the top ten are going to make the money.

1. Whatís the difference between being the 3rd player out and being the 89th one out? About two days of time! Many professionals don't want to invest the extra time in a tournament, if they don't have an advantage that might take them to the final table.

2. If a player makes the money, but only has a few chips left (a short-stack), he or she will generally be knocked out in 9th or 10th place. Letís say that 9th and 10th pay $2,000. They have invested $1,000 (and two days time) to make $2,000. To break even, this player would need to make the money 50% of the time!

A large portion of winning tournaments is early in the field. You have to make your own opportunities at times, as well as take advantage of the ones that are readily available. Set yourself up so that if you're fortunate enough to make the final table, you're in a position to dominate it.

Weekly Tournaments

Online poker tournaments can be life altering events. Each week, many of the biggest card rooms around the net offer up everything from 100K tourneys to million dollar prizes. Sure, many enter and the odds are thin, but SOMEBODY has to win and why can't that somebody be you? Check out Bovada Poker and take your shot at something huge, like winning enough loot to buy a Ferrari or pay your house off!

Tips and Advice

Introduction to Tournament Poker - Loki covers everything from the buy in to prize payouts!

Cash Games vs. Tournaments - Hank Cashman talks about the difference between the two and notes that just because you're good at one doesn't mean that you'll win at the other.