We all know that there is a certain element of luck about the game of poker; however, more serious poker players realize that there's a lot that they can do to minimalize the luck factor. When poker players use a strong tournament strategy in conjunction with a well thought out bankroll management plan, the game of poker becomes a challenge instead of a chance.
As players build a strategy that lands them in the money more often than not, they can actually map out a battle plan that allows for some loss, but is geared overall toward making a continuous profit playing poker either online, or in live games at casinos or other establishments.
The strategy below is a very simple strategy that guides players through a multi-table poker tournament by dividing it into three stages. If you divide poker tournament into three distinct stages, and execute this simple strategy properly, your results will improve significantly.
For multi-table tournaments, the beginning stage usually continues on through about the first 5 blind levels. During the early stages of a tournament it is important to keep in mind that a player with no chips cannot possibly make the money. In Early Play your primary objective is non-elimination, your goal at all times is to hang onto your chips, without risking them unnecessarily, while accumulating more chips and advancing your position in the game.
Often times in this stage of a tournament, players test the waters by going all in, or seriously over-betting their stack. If you're able to take advantage of these types of situations, then by all means double, triple and quadruple your chipstack. The only hands you should be prepared to play for all-in are: QQ, AK suited, KK, and AA. For the most part however, just hang back, relax and enjoy the game. Learn what you can about the other players.
Blinds are cheap at this stage, so it can be tempting to get involved in a lot of hands; however, this is a major cause of chip bleeding, and can get you into situations where you could bust out of the game. If you're seeing flop after flop, and throwing away blind after blind, you're slowly bleeding off chips that can be saved for larger opportunities later on in the game.
It's possible that you'll catch someone at this stage of the game and double up early, so by all means, if you can get into a pot for just the blinds with a pair, or other playable hand then this is the place to do that. The way to do this is to play multi-way pots that have not been raised or has been raised a minimal amount. You can try to win these pots but stay out of the big pots and avoid major conflicts in this initial stage.
The mid stage of the tournament begins when there are approximately 30% of the tournaments entrants left in the event. If at that time you've already made the money and will be cashing in the event, skip over the midlevel strategy section and move straight toward the final stage strategy.
During this stage of the game players will be using the knowledge they gained earlier in the tournament to garner chips and prepare for the final stage of the event. During the 1st stage, you were playing a very tight game; here you'll loosen things up a bit, as opportunities arise. You must now become very aggressive, overplaying hands before the flop and pushing other players around.
When the blinds are raised players will become tighter and less inclined to risk their stacks. Some will also start to play just to finish in the money. You must feed on this weakness, by realizing that elimination is a possibility but victory is a more likely possibility through strong and confident betting. This is the time to feel out these types of players, and take advantage of them. Steal blinds, re-raise and outplay them.
If you can't outplay your opponents, or you're not great at getting away from a pair of tens when the table-nit flops AK, then don't get into the habit of playing to many hands here. Stick to AJ, AQ, AK, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA and hammer your opponents when you have those hands.
You must be prepared to take risks, to accept the possibility of defeat, and start to accumulate the chips you need in the final stage.
Toward the end of the game, things have gotten serious, players are tightening up, or loosening up, depending on their standing in the event, and their overall skill-level and strategy, and the final table is a reality. The end stage begins when you're in the money. That means you've won your buyin back, and are going to make a profit no matter how, or badly you play. Many players use this knowledge as an excuse to throw their chips around, taking unusual risks.
Putting this into perspective, if you're the lowest chipstack, and you're about to be blinded out, go crazy. You're already in last place, so you can't possibly do any worse. If you're not sitting on the smallest stack however, keep in mind that the amount of money you'll be receiving for the work you put into getting this far probably goes up for each and every person that you outlast.
When you do play, you want to play aggressively at this point, in fact, you don't want to play a hand you didn't raise, but, there's also nothing wrong with sitting back and letting the other players take each other out of the game if that's a possibility either. Successful late play revolves around attacking players that have fewer chips than you do. Do not challenge opponents who have more chips than you, unless you are certain that you have the best hand. Let the weak knock each other out. Let other players take unnecessary risks. Your goal is to protect and grow your stack by pressurizing weaker players, and to stay in the tournament until it is heads-up.
Once you get down to three players, you'll switch gears again, going into ultra-aggresive gear. Show the other players that you're there to play. Shove into them when they're in the blinds. Steal any pot that you deem attainable without going out yourself, especially if you're the shortstack.
Keep this up right on through the heads up portion of the game. You remain in charge and buy as many pots as you're able. By this time in the game, the blinds are generally pretty high, and by the time your opponents realize that you're stealing pots, you'll either be out, or have a pretty considerable lead.