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Tournaments

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         The  Basics Rules

From a strategical point of view, tournaments highly differ from regular games. In a ring game, you need to be able to determine when to surrender your hand, but tournaments demand that you win a substantially high percentage of the pots that you play.

Starting Off

Before the tournament, be aware of the type of Blinds structure that you are going into and how the winning pool will be divided. Remember that tournaments run fast, so it is crucial that you follow how many blinds remain in your stack and when they will start to increase.

The next thing to think about during tournament play is that it is fast. The blinds go up every 10-15 minutes so you need to keep close track of how many blinds are left in your stack, and how long it is before the blinds increase again.

While the cost of the blinds is fairly low in comparison with your stack size, you can play much more marginal hands than normal. It is worth risking a small portion of your stack to see the flop with small pairs, suited connectors and other minor hands in order to double your stack if you hit big on the flop.

On the same note it is also worth playing good hands somewhat conservatively pre-flop. If you hold AK in late position and there are several callers it is often better just to call. This reduces your loss should the flop not turn out to be to your liking and you also have the advantage of disguise if you hit a monster hand on the flop.

You can either begin building your game by taking the more aggressive route, or by trying to take the safe approach and steadfastly watching your chips grow. Each route is acceptable, it simply depends on how you prefer to play and what is your personal style…

There is no need to place too much attention at this point on extracting other players from the game. Your main focus for now should be to establish a sure stack.

Intermediate

From now, there is an increase in the blinds. Your priority here is to win the blinds at this point. It is recommended that if it is your turn to bet the pot, that you raise the stake. The chances are, the other players will not call your raise, giving you an opportunity to win the blinds.

At the same token, you must be stricter when it comes to calling the stakes, taking a more aggressive stance when you contribute to the pot. Ideally, you want to try to win the blinds once per every round.

If your stack drops lower than 4 times the upper limit, you can anticipate being called a lot more often. That’s because your stack is not large enough to critically damage the larger stacks at the table, and the other players know that you are being forced to play somewhat more marginal hands. Beat this by raising only with top hands and limping in with practical hands. It’s advisable to lower your calling requirements when you are short stacked in case a better opportunity comes along.

If you have twice the average stack size or more you are in a good position. Beware, this can change instantly as the blinds quickly add up, so don’t let things slip. Continue playing aggressively, especially with the short stacks, but be cautious of the other large stacks at the table as they can do you serious damage.

If you find yourself in a face off with a player who is almost all-in you should pressure him to commit their last few chips at the first opportunity. If you call a bet when they make one, you must bet in order to prevent them checking – knocking that player out will put you in a serious advantage position. But take note, play cautiously as no matter how few chips a player has left they can always turn things around and achieve a commanding position in just a few hands.

Final Stage – Making the money

If you have been playing well at the table you may have survived to the point where you’re nearing the paying winning places. This is when you want to move in for the kill.

By now the blinds will be so high that almost all remaining players in the tournament will have stacks around or below the critical size (about 4 times the upper limit). The game will become increasingly short-handed so you will be able to see fewer hands before your stack starts to shrink due to the blinds.

Watch the tournament lobby closely to see exactly how many players are left on the other tables and how many chips they have. Usually it’s the top 10% of tournament players who receive a share of the prize pool, so hanging in there a little longer can increase your chances of winning.

If you have an average or large stack you want to play extremely aggressively when raising but conservatively when calling. However when you have fewer than average chips it can be right to adopt a much more conservative strategy for the following two reasons:

1. Assume that there is only one more player to beat out before you increase your winnings and there is another player at your table without the chips to survive the next round of blinds. At this point it is advisable to fold any hand other than premium hands to try and last longer than the other opponent.

Play tight if you can survive longer than one or more of the other players left in the game. This will put pressure on them to try and win a pot before you – and if they lose you are one further step up the climb to the top and if they win you still have the chance to win another pot and be back in the same position as they are.

2. Assuming you have enough chips to see the next few hands playing tight also reduces the chance of immediate elimination and forces the other players to take each other out of the game which is also to your advantage