Given that beginners are absolutely not the only group of players to make fundamental errors in NL tournaments thanks to good old human nature, here are a few tips to help maximise our chances of finishing in the money. Or to put it another way, a few reminders to help prevent us from exiting a tournament because we did something we really knew we shouldn’t have.
Perhaps the most annoying way to leave a tournament is to do so very early on because we ‘played the percentages’ with a non-monster hand. Regardless of whether we think someone who has just (re)raised all-in – after we have committed a couple of hundred of our couple of thousand stack – is gambling/stealing and we should therefore oblige with our QQ, it’s prudent to fold when the tournament has barely started. Some players would be averse even to calling an all-in with kings during the early stages.
Of course the advice above is particularly relevant for freezout tournaments but it is also important not to become too loose in a rebuy just because we are ‘happy’ to invest in a certain number of additional bites at the cherry. Speculative play can pay off in these tournaments and, while we should keep in mind that the option to rebuy is going to influence how others act (and how they might perceive certain plays given this context), rebuying should nevertheless be seen as a safety net and as bringing key psychological factors to the game, rather than an excuse to go mad. A good idea is take advantage of 32Red’s excellent Auto Rebuy tool to pre-select the number of rebuys we are willing to have before the tournament starts and the adrenaline gets the better of us.
If we do succeed in building a big stack it would be nice to keep it that way. Too many players cancel out any good play or lucky breaks once they find themselves with a virtual mountain of chips by playing too many hands or taking risks that cold, hard numbers simply don’t justify. It’s one thing to use a big stack effectively when the time or situation calls for it, but quite another to get involved just for the sake of it because we think we can ‘afford’ to – sooner or later such cavalier tactics tend to come unstuck and we go hurtling back down the field, often unable to adjust.
Limping out of position with suited connectors such as 78 or with small pairs is fine in the early stages as long as we are willing to let go of the hand in the event of annoying raises, but generally – particularly with a medium stack – it’s best to keep in mind that on a full table these hands can lead to trouble and instead wait until the tournament progresses and the game tightens somewhat. That isn’t to say we should dump these hands all the time, rather be selective and conservative during the early stages.
Beware Aces with ostensibly good kickers. While AK is strong – and anyway not that strong! – AT and AJ (and even AQ) are trouble hands that are best left alone in normal circumstances. The likelihood of being dominated simply relegates these hands to the dustbin unless we have a very special reason to believe otherwise or our tournament situation demands a stand of some sort.
Finally, don’t be afraid of ghosts. There’s nothing wrong in being cautious, but if we give in as soon as a scary card appears or when someone bets big we’ll never win anything.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador
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