Playing an online tournament is one of the most exciting ways to play poker online. With many poker websites offering hourly multi-table poker games, it is a fun way to play poker, and with a small investment, have a chance at winning a substantial amount of money. There are a number of proven strategies that will help you finish in the money more often, and even win your share of tournaments.
Strategy #1: Let the blinds determine your play
The vast majority of online poker tournaments use a steadily increasing blind and/or ante structure to move the tournament along. Early on in the tournament, the blinds will be tiny in comparison to your starting bankroll. Take advantage of this, by limping in with marginal hands, and seeing more flops. On the contrary, do not get involved with big pre-flop raises, as the pot odds are generally much too small to warrant a call. Blind stealing is not recommended early in a tournament, as the blinds you steal will be small. Save the blind stealing for when the big blind (or ante) is 10% of your total starting bankroll (ex. when you start with £1000 in chips, wait until the ante’s/blinds are £100).
Strategy #2: Have a plan and implement your plan.
When I play in a multi-table tournament with 100+ opponents, my plan is to double my chip count within the first hour. This isn’t always possible, but when you find out where the suckers are at your table, you can often force them into bad calls early, as they won’t look at pot odds when calling your bets. When you do reach your set goals, tighten up, and play with patience.
Strategy #3: Always be aware of your position at the table.
This rule is most important in Holdem and Omaha, where betting position is fixed. In stud games, betting positions will change with each card dealt. It important to apply the golden holdem rule: tight at the front, loose at the back. When you are in the first 4 or 5 positions, lay down marginal starting hands, as there could be raises and re-raises after you act, forcing you to pay extra, or waste your first call. In no limit and pot limit games, position becomes even more important.
Online Poker Tournament Strategy #4: Save the bluffing for later, but always bet your good cards.
Bluffing is an important part of any poker players strategy, however when playing in small buy in tournaments, there are always suckers (calling stations) that will see your bets all the way to the end, with small pairs, draws, and the like. Bet all of your good hands, and do not slow play. Don’t be afraid to win a pot without showing your hand. This is a good thing. It is better to win a small pot early then to lose a big pot later, when your opponent catches his cards needed to beat you. Save bluffing for the final few tables, when all the suckers have been busted, and everyone is playing tight to make it in the money. Pick on short stacks, and avoid players that have more chips then you. Bluff much less in the beginning of the tournament, but more when the tournament is down to the final few tables. And always always always bet your good hands. Don’t let your opponents draw for free. This is one of the biggest mistakes poker players make. Unless you flop quads, or start with rolled up A’s, you should bet, bet, bet your quality hands.
Strategy #5: Always be aware of the money. It’s all about the money.
When you are close to the money, you should play 3 times as tight as normal. There is no worse feeling then playing in an online poker tournament for 3 or 4 hours only to finish 1 spot out of the money, and have nothing to show for your time. Payouts for multi-table tournaments usually start at 2-3 X your starting investment, which is worth playing for. I have seen far too many people, and been a victim myself, of getting 21st in a tournament that pays top 20, or 11th in a tournament that pays top 10. Almost never play hands in early positions, and don’t blind steal. Just wait patently until you are guaranteed to be in the money, and go from there.
#6: When your in the money, it is easy to get paid more.
Many players are hanging on by a thread to make the final few tables. Once you are in the money, don’t loosen up and start playing poorly. I can’t count the number of times I have moved from 20th place to the final 10 simply by letting my opponents ‘battle it out’. Many players who just made it to the money are happy with their result, and will begin to become very aggressive after reaching the money. Leave them alone, and let other players knock them out. As each position pays more, every opponent knocked out is more money for you. Here is a perfect example. I was in a no limit holdem tournament last week with 160 players, and got to the final table. When the final table was seated, I was in 9th place out of 10 players. I finished the tournament in 5th place, without ever winning a pot at the final table! 10th place paid out £40.00, and 5th paid out nearly £200.00. My patience made me £160 in profit, simply by allowing my opponents to battle. The only exception to this rule is when the blinds/ante’s are so big that you will be all in when you pay them. In this situation, if you are the short stack at the table, you need to attempt to stay in the game. Wait for a good position when many of your opponents have folded, and you have a medium-high starting hand, and get it all in. If you double up, you have guaranteed yourself a few extra spots in the money. If you lose, you did on your terms, not by being ‘blinded out’.