Multi-Table tournaments are without a doubt the most well-known form of poker in the world. Thanks to massively popular tournaments as the World Series of Poker and WPT as well as online poker tournaments, many novice poker players know only this form of poker. This results in hundreds of bad or just inexperienced players flooding the tournaments around the web making lots and lots of beginners mistakes. This in turn means that there is much more for the taking for us, the good poker players. The problem with this sort of tournament is the unbelievable unpredictability. In the late stages of the tournament so much money gets in the pot before the flop just from the blinds that the pot odds are becoming extremely close.
The strategy you should use in a multi-table tournament can be divided into three parts – the early stages of the tournament, the middle stages of the tournament and the final and conclusive part of the tournament. The pace of the tournament depends mostly on the level of the players involved. In a tournament packed with skilled players the middle stage can come extremely fast. In a tournament filled with inexperienced players the game can progress very unpredictably, as they tend to call and play with any playable hand. Let's review the different stages of the tournament and see how you can maximize your chances to finish up in the top places and get paid.
In the early stages of the tournament the game is still filled with fish and reckless players. Your goal is to play as conservatively as possible and not to bluff in almost any position. Play only top hands and never go all-in. Some experts even claim that you should play only AA, KK or AK. Generally you may mix up your play a bit more if you are in a good position but try to keep your play as solid as possible. This method has several justifications: A) You have much more to lose by bluffing than you might potentially gain. If you have started the tournament with a 1000 tournament chips you are risking much more by going down to 500 than you might gain by going up to 1500. This early in the tournament, while the blinds are still relatively low, you can afford yourself being more selective in your play and take less risks. Try finding the bad players and push them out of play with good hands. B) With a little luck you might build a facade of a tight player that plays only extremely solid hands. This might scare some of the less experienced or even mediocre players from calling your bluffs in the next parts of the tournament.
Most fish are already eliminated from the online poker tournament by now. The players you are now playing against are mostly fair and above. This is the time to play a smarter game with some similarity to your ring game. At this part of the tournament some of the players are setting into 'survival' approach, thinking that they are more than halfway to the money. Some players might even switch to an extremely closed play. This is generally a bad decision as the blinds are getting quite high. Try winning in small portions and still some blinds. With some luck the image you established in the first rounds will help you still some extra blinds as players will know to revere your raises and re-raises.
Play aggressively with solid hands but do not take reckless risks, you are still a long way from the money. If you have an above the average stack you might try and use it in your advantage. Attacking players with short stacks can be profitable as they have much more to lose by calling you. Many players will rather fold than risk going all-in in these parts of the tournament. They know you will still be able to struggle back in the game, while they will have to turn home. However, do not overdo these moves. You do not want to risk being apparent to other players. This might resolve in you being called on every big pot by any player with a more than decent hand. Also, do not try this on bad players that got here by luck. They tend to call with anything, absolutely anything, just to see the river.
The final table or tables are the most loose and unpredictable parts of the tournament. In this stage the blinds are incredibly high. There is no point trying to fold to the money as the blinds are sure to eat your stack in no time. If you got up to here with a short or even a medium stack than you should play very aggressively. Note that aggressive is not the same as stupid. It does mean that it might be a better a good idea to go all-in before the flop than fold. If you have a strong hand, like an Ace with a good kicker or maybe a high pair than you should shove all your chips in without hesitating. Not only that you might gain something but it is also much better than being blinded out of the game. By going all-in you have the chance to steal a couple of blinds (a hefty sum this late in the tournament) and maybe even sweep a pot or two.
Try stay out of other people's battles. If to players raise and re-raise each other, do not get in the middle. First, at least one of them might have an actual hand and second, it is definitely better to wait for one of them to lose and then attack him and push him out of the game. If it gets to Heads Up go to our section to read about how to play there.
Article submitted by Alex Chamberlain, 12/12/2005