I can’t emphasize enough how bad it is for players in tournament play to get caught up in the moment and suffer huge chip losses or, even worse, bust out of a tournament.
Why then do we see this so often? I believe the main reason is a lack of attention on the player’s part. There are several more reasons this occurs and we will cover those also, but the fact that this player busted doesn’t seem to be appreciated by him. They attribute the poor performance to the bad beat or suckout, when in fact their lack of concentration sends them to the rail.
How then do we overcome this and prevent it from happening to us? There are several strategies and game plans we can use to keep us focused on the game.
First, understanding the type of tournament you’re playing in is very important. Don’t laugh; there are three types of tournaments. Fast ones have blinds that increase quickly with small starting chip stacks (e.g. 1,500 units, 25-50 blinds, 20-minute levels). Medium tournaments, which have one-hour levels and larger starting stacks and 25-50 blinds, have much more play for the entry fee. And lastly, slow tournaments have blinds that increase every two hours with large starting stacks.
Realizing that in fast tournaments there are two strategies you can use depending on the type of action the table is giving will help protect your stack. If each hand has a jammed-up pot preflop be extremely selective with your starting hand as you’ll be playing against more players after the flop. Second, if the table is playing with less action preflop be more aggressive to limit the number of players in the hand. You’ll be winning more blinds with this style of play. Again it all comes down to paying attention to detail and having a strategy for what the table action is offering you. Don’t feel you need to acquire a big stack early in tournament play. You have to win all of the chips to win the tournament, and you can’t do that in the early rounds.
In medium-action tournaments you also want to pace yourself based on the type of action the table is giving you. Be aware it will require a more disciplined style or strategy to overcome the rigors of the many more hours of play you will face. Again knowing the structure of the tournament and planning a strategy for the table action will keep your stack safe and allow you to acquire many more chips with your good hands.
In slow-action tournaments (World Series of Poker Main Event) and larger buy-in tournaments ($5K-plus) there never is a need to play fast. I often see players trying to acquire large stacks on the first day as if that will win the tournament for them; it won’t. Slow is the way to go in SLOW TOURNAMENTS.
Now that you’re aware of the type and style of play you’re going to use you’re focused and into the game. The next step is using position to your advantage.
Your starting hands become important in the early stages of a tournament when the blinds are small (25-50). When there are four or five players in the hand preflop avoid lesser-type hands such as small pairs and suited connectors. If there’s only one limper and the blinds in the hand when it gets to you, you’re able to gamble a little more with the lesser-type hands as long as you can see the flop cheaply.
If you enter the pot and get raised you fold to the raise when any of the other players call or if you’re the only caller since you’re out of position for the remainder of the hand.
The problem with calling is you may hit a portion of the flop (which happens a third of the time) with your lesser cards and trap yourself for much more of your stack.
Many players lose the majority of their stack in the first two levels of tournament play gambling more than they should with lesser hands. They are forced to gamble more with the same type of hands that got them into the predicament in the first place.
Most players don’t have the discipline to lay down a hand when they catch a piece of the flop. They may have played a lesser hand without having good position, and continue with the hand trying to draw out on their opponent. This lack of discipline accounts for major chip loss.
You now have a simple yet effective strategy for the type of tournament you’re playing in and this should protect you, and your stack.
— Antonio Pinzari is the host of Poker Wars Live, which airs Mondays from 7-9 PM (ET) on WBZT-AM 1230 Radio from West Palm Beach, FL and streams live at www.pokerwars.info.