Be realistic, improve your chances of winning


Common wisdom says every time you enter a multitable tournament, you need a lot of things to go your way to win. You need a good table assignment. You need good cards or at least a few well-timed hands. You need to avoid coolers. You need to play well. And you need some luck. All of this may well be true. It’s also self-defeating.

I’d like to offer another more productive way to look at a tournament. Say you enter a 100-person tournament. Only one person will win. So, all things being equal you have a 1 percent chance of winning. Let’s look at reality, however. Of those 100 entries, maybe half or 50 have no chance of winning because they’ll make too many mistakes. So, now you have a 2 percent chance of winning. But, let’s say you’re a well-above-average player. Enough so that it increases your chances to 5 percent. Sounds like you will have to get a lot of those “needs” from above to win. In hindsight, it will often appear the player who got the most “needs” did, in fact, win.

I want you to take a different angle next time you play. Every time you play in a tournament, no matter what your draw or the hands you receive, there’s some combination of moves you can make that will ultimately make you a winner. Everyone has that potential. It may be folding the best hand when you will get sucked out on. It may be playing a gutshot because it will come in. Of course, those kinds of moves aren’t sound poker. And it’s virtually impossible to know the results of every hand ahead of time or even what opponents hold every hand. However, it’s about developing the right mind-set. If you feel your moves ultimately guide your outcome more than any other factor, your results will start to improve.

You’re not going to win every tournament. However, you give yourself the best chance, when you take control of your destiny.

Rather than blame the cards or your seat assignment, next time think about what you could have done better. How could you have had used position better? Did you attack weakness? Did you use chips as leverage when you still had fold equity? Did you win enough uncontested pots? Did you maximize value with your strong hands? Did you not squander chips? Did you study and manipulate your opponents? Did you control to maximum efficiency the one variable over which you have absolute control – you? If you do all of these things, you won’t win every time, but you will go deeper and give yourself more opportunities than ever before.

— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker books. His latest, You are the Variable: Play Your Best Poker, is available on Amazon Kindle for $5.99. Contact him at