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No Limit Hold'em Tournament Strategy
No limit Hold'em tournaments are increasing in popularity. With the recent explosion of televised poker tournaments, new poker players are pouring into multi table tournaments. One reason their is such an attraction to no limit Hold'em tournaments is the chance to make a big win at the WSOP or the WPT. If you can master the correct strategy you'll have a good chance of taking down some big tournaments.
These types of tournaments involve a significant amount of luck, because in the late stages blinds put extreme pressure on the players. Almost every player will end up all in preflop at some point in the tournament. Often times, it results in a coinflip.
Ok, let's get to the strategy. Tournaments vary greatly from cash tables. You have to avoid bluffing as much as you would at a cash table, because the chip stacks are smaller in relation to the blinds. Plus, if you win a bluff, you are winning less chips than you're risking losing, so it is not a valuable play.
Now, obviously you can't just fold your way to the money, but in the early stages you need to play very tight. The main goal of the early stages is just to maintain your stack and wait for the middle and late stages. The goal of tournaments is just to win pots to stay alive, not necessarily to try and build a huge stack early.
At the beginning of the tournament, you should avoid gambling, because the chips that you gain aren't worth the risk. Now, if you have a hand like KK and someone goes all in before the flop, go ahead and make the call. But you shouldn't be bluffing or making loose calls here.
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After you ease your way through the early stages, you need to change your style of play during the middle stages. The blinds are raising, so you need to start making plays at pots to stay alive. During the middle stages, you should be stealing with lesser hands, and only calling raises with extremely strong hands. Your main goal, once again, is just to survive.
Basically, you want to avoid going head to head with someone. You should be picking up small pots without being contested, but avoid gambling in huge pots.
There is only one exception to this rule. If you have a monstrous stack, you should take advantage of the players who are just trying to survive. Raise often, and force people to commit their entire stack if they want to play you. The reason for this is that they're less likely to want to risk their whole stack, and you're only risking part of yours. When you're doing this, avoid people who call too often because they won't even realize what is happening, and will still call with anything.
After the middle stages, you need to start taking gambles. It is during the late stage when you will be deciding if you should get all in preflop in coin flip situations. Often times, the stakes are so high that players should be moving all in with marginal hands. You should be looking to move all in here with Ace-high kicker, pocket pairs, or, if you are really low stacked, any two face cards.
When you have these sorts of hands, its easier to just move all in preflop then try to make a raise then play a flop. If you try to play too many flops, you'll end up getting bluffed out when you have the best hand.
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