Poker Tournament Strategy

The strategies required to win poker at tournament level differ significantly from those used to win ring games. The key for all players is to adapt to the different approaches needed to win at both forms of poker.

In an online poker tournament, the stakes are constantly raised, forcing players to make quick and accurate decisions. Tables are broken up and new tables formed when players fold or lose all their chips. Therefore different types of strategy are called for and must be adapted to whether a player's stack is short, medium or large.

To succeed at an online poker tournament, it is useful to understand what a gap concept is. This concept bases itself on the presumption that a player will need a stronger hand than usual to play against an opponent who has opened the betting. The difference between a poker hand required to call an opening bet with and the hand a player can open with is known as the gap. This gap changes when players play a tight game or a loose game of poker. For example, if a player has a weak hand, he would normally fold in a ring game. However in a poker tournament, if the player is playing in a late position and his opponents have not yet raised the stakes in the pot, he can raise with a weak hand.

The size of a player's stack of chips should influence how many weak hands he can afford to play. The gap between strong hands decreases when playing with a smaller stack. However, a player can still use this to his advantage. His opponents may believe that he is less likely to bluff in a game with a smaller stack and less likely to raise bets without a reasonably strong hand. This increases the likelihood that the player can bluff successfully without being caught out.

In the early stages of a tournament, most players wait to obtain strong hands before attempting to manipulate the pot. A recommended strategy is to exercise patience and play to trap weaker opponents into revealing their poker hands. In the middle stages, most players start to play more aggressively. Knowing the game plan of some opponents is a distinct advantage at this stage of an online poker tournament. Protecting the stack of chips is also important; risks should be calculated if a player wants to progress into the final stages.

Towards the end of the tournament, players with medium to large stacks are recommended to raise and bet as much as possible. Stealing pots is made easier as less experienced players are weeded out from the pack. Players with small stacks and strong hands should try to double up. Even with a small stack, a player can make it through to the final table if he is prepared to gamble and risk more.

If a player is lucky enough to make it to the final table, he needs to concentrate on basic strategy to win the poker game. Players with medium to large stacks should try to manipulate the game plans of those with smaller stacks. Most players opt for the most aggressive play at the final table regardless of stack size in an attempt to finish in the final three. Even those players with small stacks are encouraged to finish and play their poker hand strongly to avoid being anted out.

The best way to gain valuable poker tournament experience is to play poker online. These games move quickly because there is no shuffling and counting chips and hands are played much faster. Buy-ins are generally much lower than in live poker tournaments, which gives players the opportunity to play several tournaments and increase their skill level against multiple opponents.