Poker Tournament Strategies
Author Sylvester Suzuki
Synopsis of Poker Tournament Strategies
Poker Tournament Strategies by Sylvester Suzuki. Poker tournaments are very different from conventional poker games, and there are very few players who excel at both. But it can be done! There are many reasons for these differences. The most important ones are: The chips change value due to the fact that most tournaments are "percentage payback." Rebuys are available early on. And, many players over adjust their playing strategy because they are aware that after the rebuy period you cannot purchase more chips if you lose a couple of hands. Consequently, there are many strategy changes that you should be making when compared to conventional poker where you are always trying to win the most on any hand that you play.
Sometimes you should be trying to accumulate chips, sometimes you should be on the attack, and sometimes you should just survive. In fact, a tournament expert will occasionally make plays which would be very wrong in a "side game." Author Sylvester Suzuki has played in many poker tournaments. Even though the name is a pseudonym, he is a real person who understands the underlying theory that governs tournament play. This text should prove helpful to virtually everyone interested in this form of poker.
Excerpt from the Book Poker Tournament Strategies: The Third Twenty Minutes
Note: The following is from the section on "Progressive Stack Rebuy Tournaments." These are tournaments in which the size of the rebuy stack is increased the further into the rebuy period that your are, but the price of the rebuy stack is not increased. Many small tournaments today are played with this format.
Since the rebuy stack has been stabilized--typically at $400 in tournament chips--in tournaments where there are betting limits, there is little need to consider special tournament strategy as opposed to poker strategy. (One exception is discussed below.) In other words, play each hand according to the value of that hand. There are good reasons for this recommendation.
If you are eligible to make a rebuy at this point, ignoring for the moment such factors as the position of the dealer button, the strength of the players at your table, and so forth, it is always correct strategy to do so. By making a rebuy in the third thirty minutes you will be causing the average value of each chip in the tournament to decline. This means that when you make a rebuy, the value of every other player's stack will decline. Who will benefit from this? Obviously, it will be you, the one who has made the rebuy. For this reason, it is recommended that if you find yourself eligible to make a rebuy during this period of time, do so immediately. For example, if you have $395 in tournament chips, purchase some more of them. Otherwise, you may lose your eligibility to make a rebuy by winning the next hand.
This brings us to a related point. If you play one of these tournaments and don't intend to rebuy at all you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage to those players who rebuy correctly. In fact, proper rebuy strategy is almost as important as how you play your hands.
The flip side to this is that if it is advantageous for you to rebuy, it is also detrimental for you when other players rebuy. There is therefore less incentive for you to put other players all-in unless you feel there is a good chance that the player in question will "go home." (This would be the one exception to not considering any special tournament strategy at this stage in the tournament.)
Now this does not mean to suggest that you should withdraw into a conservative shell for the next twenty minutes. Play each hand according to its intrinsic value--which in poker frequently suggests aggressive play. Even though rebuy theory is very important, it is still early in the tournament and you would like to add to your chip position.
In the last minutes before the intermission, some players will be playing very loosely in order to play down their stack to below the rebuy threshold. That will qualify them to make an additional rebuy. Is this good tournament strategy? That depends on several factors such as:
- How far will the player have to play down his stack?
- What is the strength of the player's hand?
- How likely is the player to be raised?
Since betting limits during this period are typically $30 and $60, it may be possible to play down your stack for as little as $15 (from the small blind). That clearly would be a wise decision. However, the complexity and multiplicity of factors that need to be considered in playing down your stack renders it impractical to attempt to formulate any precise standards. My personal rule of thumb for these tournaments is: approximately $60 or one big bet. If I do not feel that I have a reasonable chance to win the pot, I will not play down my stack for more than this. My reasoning is that if I have no legitimate chance of winning the pot, I am practically giving another player some of my chips, and these are chips that I had to pay for and he did not.
In a no-limit tournament, as the end of the rebuy period approaches, you will find that there are large differences in the size of stacks at your table. This happens because many all-in hands have been played and the rebuy stack is relatively small when compared to the chip holdings of the players who had been successful in the tournament up to that point in time. At this stage of the tournament, because unlimited rebuys are permitted, there is a tendency for some players to play what I call desperation poker in the hope of building a large stack before the rebuy period ends. In other words, these players are calling and raising with hands that, on their own merit, do not justify such action. Is this good strategy?
Note that during this time frame, the blinds are still relatively small. Therefore, a sizable pot can be won only if the blinds are raised. If you have a short stack and cards that do not really justify such action, would it be wise to bring it in for a raise? Probably not. You have little to gain unless you get a call, and if called (or raised), you will probably be up against a superior hand. Rather than playing an inferior hand in such an aggressive manner--and most likely helping some other player build a stack--I recommend a more conservative approach. Continue to play solid, sensible poker and make an add-on at the intermission. Keep in mind that although the big stacks will have a decided advantage after the intermission, in poker, especially no-limit poker, the pendulum sometimes swings very quickly. In other words, always remember that poker is a game of patience. While it is true that the stakes will be increasing rapidly, you still have time to let your poker skills play their part.