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Be Aware

You should always be aware of what is going on at your poker table – even when you are not involved in a hand. Different players have different styles; the more information you gather about your opponents and how they play, the stronger position you are in to make judgements when up against them in a hand.

Also be aware of your chip stack. Your stack size compared to other players, and your stack size compared to the blinds will influence how you play any given hand.

Be Patient

Most successful tournament poker players don’t play a lot of hands – and fold pre-flop the majority of the time. It is far better to fold before you have committed any chips to the pot, than constantly seeing the flop and then folding. Chips are your ammunition in poker tournaments – the more you have the more damage you can do. Don’t waste them by going to the flop with weak hands all the time.

Be Strong

Players are usually defined as being aggressive or passive in poker. With some exceptions, it is usually better to be the aggressive player. This doesn’t mean you have to try and bully your opponents out of every hand – but it is a good idea to play your good hands strongly. Don’t be afraid to make raises and chase drawing hands out of the pot.

Don’t fall in love

It is very easy to get attached to, or fall in love with, a poker hand. A pair of Aces is the best hand pre-flop but on a board of 7,8,9,10 all in Spades – two red aces is likely beaten. Just because you’ve made some raises and put in a lot of chips, don’t be afraid to lay down a good hand if you think you are beat.

Watch the pot

Think about the number of chips in the pot when making a bet. If you’ve got a really strong hand and there aren’t many chips in the pot – a big bet will probably scare everyone else off. A smaller bet might entice an opponent to call with a weaker hand. Just be careful not to give value to drawing hands – hands that aren’t strong yet but could improve with another card.

Play the player as well as the cards

A lot of new poker players just concentrate on their own cards, and don’t think about their opponent. When making a decision, try to think about what your opponent might have and what they might think you have.

Learn how to change gears

Like a good story, a poker tournament has three distinct stages; a beginning, a middle and an end. The optimal play during each stage is different. In the early stages of a tournament, players have largely similar stacks and there won’t be a huge amount of gamble going on.

Observer your opponents

This is a good time to feel your way into the game. Stick to playing good hands, and use the time to watch your opponents and get an idea of how they play.

Vary your starting hands

In the middle, blinds become valuable and stack sizes can start to vary. This is a good time to take a few more chances and play a wider range of hands. Stack sizes become more relevant now, and the blinds are more valuable.

Be Agressive

The later stages of a tournament are where the action really heats up. Blinds are now much higher in relation to stack sizes and there will likely be a big difference in stack sizes. It is very important to pay attention to stack sizes – short stacked players can get desperate at this stage – and be prepared to take more risks.

Be flexible

There is no perfect way to play tournament strategy. Different approaches can work for different people, depending on how they apply their strategies. Although the basics are invariably worth remembering, don’t be afraid to mix it up or try something different if the time is right. Concentrate on getting the fundamentals right, but develop your own style and don’t become predictable.

Poker Clock Tournament Strategy