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5 Tournament No-No's - Poker Strategy

5 Tournament No-No's - Poker Strategy 0001

In order to win a tournament, you need to accumulate a lot of chips, but more importantly, you should try and lose as few chips as possible. The following five tips were designed to stop you form leaking too many chips.

1. Continuation betting too often and too much post-flop

A tournament consists of playing hundreds of hands (if you make it deep that is). During the course of these hands, you will fire out quite a few continuation bets. Most of the time, however, you will have missed the flop and might be forced to lay down the hand.

That is why it is sensible to:

a) don't C-bet 100% of the time

b) don't make the C-bet too large

Only place a continuation bet when you are pretty sure that your opponent is going to fold or when you hit a nice draw. Losing those chips will make a difference when you start adding up all the lost C-bets. These chips might have formed a substantial part of your stack.

Another aspect is the size of the C-bet. You often see players raise the standard 2/3 of the pot or even the whole pot. This is a serious mistake, because in the long run it will lose you money/chips. Keep your bets smaller, so that you have to win less and still make a profit. If, for example, you only bet half the pot, you will only have to win 1 in 3 continuation bets to break even.

A couple of hands:

Your hand:{a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}


Opponent(s): 1

This is a relatively good flop for your hand. Although you actually missed, you have a draw that is strong enough to justify a C-bet here. Even if you get called, you still have a good chance of taking down the pot.

Your hand:{k-Hearts}{q-Clubs}


Opponent(s): 3

A C-bet here would be a mistake in my opinion. First of all, you're dealing with 3 opponents, which increases the chance that one of them is holding an Ace or maybe even a pocket pair. The chance of all 3 players folding is very small, so you might as well hang on to your chips.

2. Overplaying premium hands

You are in late position with {a-Hearts}{k-Diamonds}. A big stack player in middle position raises 4x the big blind. You think for a couple of seconds and decide to push in your whole stack. Your opponent calls with {q-Clubs}{q-Hearts}, and before you can even type "nh", you're already out of the tournament.

This scenario occurs all the time, especially during the early stages of a tournament. Good players will want to take a look at the flop before committing all of their chips with Ace-high.

Instead of just pushing with this hand, it makes more sense to call or maybe even re-raise. If your opponent makes it $100, you make it $400. Maybe your opponent will fold and you pick up the pot there and then, or you get to see a flop and can still fold your hand if you don't hit. At least you're still in the tourney when the hand is over.

The same counts for hands like JcJd. Often enough players will raise this hand all-in so they can't be outplayed on the flop. In the end, you will most likely only get called by higher pockets or by hands against which you have a 50/50 chance. Take a look at the flop, and if there are no overcards, make a bet to see where you stand. This is poker. Pushing blind is more like Russian roulette.

3. Not adjusting your 'calling hands' when the blinds are relatively high.

Towards the beginning of a tournament you might be able to call a bet of $80 with a hand like 6c7c, to see if you can flop a well hidden monster. When the blinds have increased to 400/800, however, this play becomes pretty expensive.

The same can be said for small pocket pairs like 4d4c. You want to flop a set, but this only happens 1 in 8n times. So if you have to call a $2,400 raise 8 times and don't hit 7 times, you lose 16,800 chips in these 7 hands. So that one time you do flop a set, you need to make sure to win at least 16,900 to make this play profitable. I prefer to just hold on to the 16,800.

4. Not stealing the blinds

The deeper you get into a tourney, the more aggressive you need to play. Playing tight is a great strategy for the first couple of levels, but as soon as your 'M' starts going down, you need to start making more plays in late position.

Your hand:{k-Spades}{10-Diamonds}

Position: cutoff

Blinds: $300/$600

Stack: $10.000

Everyone folds towards you. Your hand isn't that great, but it's not a helpless hand either. It is definitely strong enough to try and steal the blinds with. Raise it up to 1500 and see what happens. If the button folds but the big blind calls, you at least have position on your opponent, and he can't really do much more than check when he misses the flop. A simple continuation bet wins the pot more often than not, and you can add 1,800 to your stack.

If you keep on waiting for premiums and don't want/dare to make a steal, you lose 900 chips per orbit, which won't have a very positive effect on your stack.

5. Chasing draws without getting the right odds.

This remains to be a very frequent problem; somebody flops a nut flush draw and his prepared to call off a great deal of his stack to chase the flush. On some sites a nut flush draw is often seen as the absolute nuts and players have no hesitation to insta-push.

Your hand:{a-Hearts}{j-Hearts}


Your stack: $11.000

Pot: $2.500

Your opponent (stack = 5,000) bets 1,900 here. Do you have to call here? No, because you're not getting the right pot odds to call.

You have a 35% chance of hitting your flush but have to call 43% of the pot. In addition to that, your opponent is pot committed, so you already know that he is likely to push on the turn. His $5,000 is enough to hurt your stack, but not enough to justify the call in terms of implied odds.

Let the hand go and wait for a better (cheaper) spot. Too many of these calls can make sure that you quickly join the group of the shortstacks.


The aim of this article was to present you with a couple of tips that will hopefully extend your tourney life. Of course you're going to have to take risks every now and then, but try to minimise those situations, and don't blow have your stack in a situation where you shouldn't have called in the first place. You're not going to win all the coinflips, so the less you play, the better.

What do you think?

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