Top Tips to Refine Your Poker Tournaments Strategy

Poker tournaments can be exceptionally exciting, plus they can also come complete with massive prizes, especially if you’re playing a multi table tournament with hundreds, or even thousands, of players. Winning these big prizes isn’t easy however, as there will always be other strong players vying to scoop them.

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There are so many poker strategy tips and hints to be found online on the general approach to take while playing poker, which can prove to be confusing to those simply looking to get the best advice possible. That’s why we’ve collated nine of the best pieces of advice on poker tournament play we’ve found, ensuring you can easily sift through the chaff and find the tips that will really help you.

Take It Easy Early On

Tip number one concerns the early stages of a tournament, and in particular, your playing style. During the early stages of a game, the blinds are small and therefore not particularly worth winning, while the pots also aren’t always worth getting involved in. Some players don’t even both with the early stages of a tournament, preferring to instead join the action when the stakes are higher.

It’s not just that the blinds are small though: playing tight during the early stages of the tournament allows you to cultivate an image for yourself – an image that portrays you as a tight player, unwilling to enter pots without knowing you’re going to win. This can be hugely beneficial in the latter stages of a tournament, as you’ll be able to get away with a few things when you start to bet aggressively.

Finally, playing tight also ensures you’ll probably make it past the early stages, and be one step closer to making it into the money. It might not be very interesting, but playing conservatively in the early stages of a tournament is a tried and tested tactic, used by most of the best online poker tournament players out there.

Ramp Up the Aggression Later in the Tournament

When you get to the latter stages of the tournament, you’ll notice that the playing styles of many other players changes, and yours should too. While you shouldn’t play every hand, you should be far more aggressive . This is particularly true just after the bubble, as the jump in prizes probably won’t be significant for a while. This means there’s not much difference between finishing 60 th or 50 th .

What’s more, the potential prizes are now worth becoming more aggressive for. The pots will often be large, therefore the risk is often dwarfed by the reward. If you’ve followed the advice in the previous tip, your tight image should help you get away with any bluffs or semi-bluffs made during the late stages of a tournament.


One effective way to be aggressive is to steal the blinds, which are now going to be pretty large. This is especially something you should do if the player posting the big blind is weak or has a reputation for being tight. Of course, be aware that good players will be waiting for this though, so weigh up each raise before you make it. If you’re the big blind, be aware that others might be taking the chance to steal, so consider a re-raise even if you have a medium strength hand.

Always Consider Pot Odds

As every poker player should know, pot odds are exceptionally important, especially when it comes to playing poker online. If you understand pot odds, you’ll know exactly whether it’s worth calling a bet or not. We’re not going to go over calculating pot odds on this page, as we’ve already got an explanation of it, that you can read in our blog about mastering poker tactics.

Being able to use math to your advantage will give you a huge boost, especially during online tournament play. This is because you can’t really make any reads when not playing face-to-face, so you’ll have to rely heavily on the mathematics of the game. Sure, you’ll lose sometimes, and a bad beat might even knock you out of a tournament, but in the long run, you should find that playing pot odds correctly wins you more than it loses you.

Always Know Stack Sizes

It’s very important to understand stack size when you’re at a poker table. Amateur players will look at one stack, and one stack alone: their own. Knowing how much money other players have sitting in front of themselves is more important though, as it will usually influence the way in which they play.

Here’s an example: imagine there are a couple of players at your table with small stacks and the bubble phase is in process. Are they going to be willing to risk their chances of making the money by calling anything too risky? You can use their small stacks to bully them, in a way you wouldn’t be able to do to a player with a large stack.

Here’s another example: let’s say you have a smaller stack and the other player left in the pot has a much larger stack. In this situation, the fact that your opponent has a much larger stack size means that they’re more likely to call, as the bet you’re making might be large to you, but it won’t be as significant to your opponent. Bet too aggressively and your whole stack could quickly disappear.

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Consider Using Check Raises

The check raise can be a hugely powerful weapon during poker tournaments. It’s particularly useful when you have a short stack but a big hand. In this situation, pushing all-in might scare others off, so why not check and wait for someone to fall into your trap? You can then go all-in, safe in the knowledge that your hand is likely to be the stronger of the two.

The same can also be true in the reverse, when you have a large stack and are playing against a far smaller stack. By checking, you might make them think like pushing is a way to steal a valuable pot. You can then call their raise and hopefully pick them off, winning the pot and perhaps even a bounty, if they’re being offered in the tournament.

Of course, you must be intelligent with check raises. Do them too often and other players will become wise to your tactics, and try a check raise at the wrong time and you could miss an opportunity to make some money instead. The more you practise, the more you’ll understand when the right time to check raise is. You’ll also work out how to adjust raise sizes to best take advantage of the situation.

Always Consider Bankroll Management


Whether you play deep-stack poker, turbo poker or any other type, one thing that always remains important is bankroll management . The theory behind bankroll management is that you’ll look after your bankroll, instead of blowing it all in one session. It does, however, mean that you might not be able to play in more expensive tournaments until you’ve built up your bankroll considerably.

A basic formula for bankroll management is this: take your bankroll and then divide it by 20. The number you’re left with should be the maximum value of a tournament’s buy-in. So, if you have $100 in your bankroll, you should only be playing in tournaments that cost $5 or less to enter. This will allow you to always have money left over for another day, plus it will give you the chance to ride out any periods of bad luck.

When it comes to bankroll management, you should also constantly be checking your results and analysing the periods when you’ve both won or lost. This is something you’ll be able to do by downloading the Poker Stack app.

Understand Small Ball Poker

Bet-sizing is one of the most important skills in poker and must be correct when used in any tournament, from a small MTT, through to one featuring thousands of players. One of the most popular strategies to do with bet sizes at the moment was invented by Daniel Negreanu , and it’s called small ball poker.

In small ball poker, the idea is to play a larger range of hands, but to size your bets lower. The fact that you’re placing smaller bets is what gives you the scope to play in more hands. The smaller bets also provide some pot control, making sure pots don’t get out of hand, pricing you out of them.

By raising a small amount, players will often pin you on a weak hand, and will therefore call you. This will give you the image of a loose player, which you can exploit as the tournament progresses, especially when you get a genuinely strong hand. It’s also the case that you can easily pull out of hands at any point, without losing a large sum of money.

If you’re going to start playing poker tournaments, we’d strongly recommend reading more about small ball poker, as it is now used by many top tournament players.

Take Advantage of the Bubble Stage

The bubble stage of a tournament is the stage approaching the start of the money places, so many players will start to play exceptionally tightly, eager to hunker down and ride things out until they’ve earned some money. This is especially true for those with smaller stacks, who could find themselves out of the tournament with just one wrong decision.

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You should be using this bubble stage to your advantage, simply by bullying the other players at the table. You can do this in the knowledge that other players will be more likely to fold in this situation than normal. Of course, you need to pick your target though – there’s no point trying to bully a player near the top of the leaderboard, as they’ll have few concerns about not making it into the money. Also, still pick the right starting hand, although your parameters regarding what a good starting hand is might broaden.

Learn to Accept the Bad Beats

The final tip on tournament poker is this: you have to learn to accept bad beats . It is exceptionally frustrating when your aces are cracked by an average hand, especially if you end up being eliminated near the bubble, but it’s going to happen at some point, and you shouldn’t let it bother you. When you’re eliminated, take a break and don’t enter another tournament for a while, to give yourself a chance to regain some composure and play the next tournament in the same intelligent way. Over time, high-quality play will be rewarded.

Many players also go on tilt when they lose a large chunk of their stack, perhaps dropping them from the top of the leaderboard into the middle of the pack. This can be very frustrating, and it can feel like you won’t get back to the top again unless you start playing differently. However, you’ll give yourself the best chances to climb the leaderboard again if you continue to play sensibly.

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