How to Play Poker in a Tournament
For the players who wish to learn how to play poker in a tournament, here's a quick guide with basic practices, rules and strategies.
Tournament format games are conducted over a fixed period of time.
To start with, you can read the guide I wrote on how to play poker in a casino. After that read this article on How to play poker in a tournament.
All the players are supposed to buy-in a certain amount of chips to start with to enter a tournament.
#2 Types of tournaments
Know the type of tournament you're entering in. Depending upon the manner in which people are eliminated, there are different tournaments conducted all over the world.
a. Elimination: In such tournaments, all the players entering a tournament are seated on various tables. Each player enters with a buy-in, that is equal for all the players. The players who lose all their chips are eliminated from the tournament. Players who are left, move to tables of survivors, and the game continues until the last table is left. The pot is distributed among the top players, and the winner of the last table gets the major share of the pot.
b. Rebuy: In rebuy tournaments, in the first two hours, (or any defined time period) players who lose all their chips, are allowed to buy-in again. This allows players to play aggressively to start with to eliminate many players and get another buy-in chance. This also adds to the pot distributed at the end.
c. Shootout: In this, all the players but the winner are eliminated from each table. The winners move to another table to play. This continues until there is the last table left, like in Elimination format. The shootout has quicker eliminations and hence leads to a shorter tournament.
d. Satellite: These tournaments are played to enter the main tournament. The top players of a satellite tournament enter the actual tournament.
#3 Know your game
When you enter a tournament, you must familiarize yourself with the game being played in the tournament.
#4 Your game strategy
Make a strategy for each poker round of a hand. Decide the kind of card range you'd be willing to play with from each position, as per the bets made by the players before you.
It's suggested to play conservatively from the positions closer to the left of the big blind and then make your game aggressive as you move to later positions in a hand and have a lot of players before you who have already acted in a round.
Have a strategy, but be flexible with it. Change the rules as the game dictates. Sometimes the only way to survive is to bend.
#5 Tournament strategy
In a tournament, play conservatively to start with, unless you're in a re-buy game and wish to play to kill in the start. Otherwise, make your game more aggressive only towards the end. Even then, keep your head on your shoulders.
Play calmly in the bubble, when the players are about to enter the final stage of the tournament. If you have a small stack of chips in the bubble, then it can be tricky. Play cautiously with a small stack. Play like a shark if you have a big stack in such a situation.
#6 Know your opponents
To win a game, you not only must know your game but also analyse the game of your opponents. Learn how they behave and how they play when a certain situation occurs. The better you know your opponents, more informed your game will be.
Some players play only when they have good cards, and hence become very predictable. Some players play aggressively no matter what. Some players do not play aggressively but they like to stay in the game as long as they can, expecting to have a few big wins. The most efficient category of players are the ones who know when to play which move.
Also, others players are also always watching your game, so try not to be too predictable, and at the same time, follow your strategy to win the odds.
#7 Chip count
Keep a track of the chips you have with you. This will determine the kind of risk you can take and the kind of bets you can place.
If you have $10,000 in your chip stack, then taking risk of 10% or $1000 is justified, but if you have $4000 in your stack, then $1000 is too risky to play unless you have a very strong hand.
Only the top winning players win money in tournaments, while the others go home with no money.