Poker Tournament Strategy Tips for 2020

Poker Tournament Strategy

Whether you’re playing micro stakes tournaments or the Sunday Million – you need to know what you’re doing to have a chance at winning. That seems obvious right? But trust me, there are too many players entering tournaments with no clue. That’s great news for you though cos it mean’s poker is not dead, despite what you hear. This article is going to give you poker tournament strategy tips that can be used to increase your cash rate, final tables and wins.

Don’t stop stealing the blinds

Tournament poker regs seem to nit it up and count on making it deep with premium hands. Don’t be one of them. Stay active, keep stealing the blinds from late position and don’t give up. A lot of poker sites are advocating the slow down approach but that’s what your opponents want. Regs are playing too many tables, not paying enough attention and missing profitable spots to steal the blinds. Tournament poker will always reward those who are able to consistently steal blinds and keep their stack alive.  The fact that people are defending their blinds loosely should not make you fold more often in late position. Why? You have position. You have the advantage in a hand, even if your hand is weaker. Never forget that.

Pre-flop bet sizing

Consistency is very important when it comes to raising pre-flop. It’s fine if you want to make it 2.5x then stick with that. Please don’t change it based on hand strength. It’s 2020 and even the most basic of poker players will notice and instantly tag you. If you are a poker training video membership member, you’ll know my preference re’ pre-flop bet sizing but I will re-iterate it here non-members.

Early Position Min Raise

When I’m raising from early position, I lack information on the rest of the table. I want to open raise if I play but I also want to steal cheaply and/or keep the pot smaller against my opponents that flat in position. I also have no problem with it folding to the big blind and them calling a min raise. In fact, I welcome it. I will have position, a better hand and have increased the pot a little. My hand range is likely to be stronger than theirs and I have the pre-flop aggression.

Middle Position 2.2x

With fewer opponents behind us, I am happy to increase the sizing a bit and play a slightly bigger pot against the blinds. I don’t want to raise too much as I am still potentially acting first post-flop if someone in position calls. I am also slightly dissuading the blinds to call which is no bad thing in tournaments. I am likely to have a wider range from here so I have no problem with them just folding.

Late Position 2.5x

This may seem counter intuitive to some. Why raise more with a wider range? I want to play bigger pots when I have positional advantage. Sure, sometimes I will be light but sometimes I will be strong too. I want to charge the blinds more than the minimum to play against my wider range. By making it 2.5x I am also protecting myself against 3 bet bluffs a little more. Consider a min raise from the button. The big blind is far more likely to 3 bet bluff that than a bigger raise.

Notice – my pre-flop raises changes based on position – it doesn’t change based on hand strength. Therefore, it is logically consistent as I am raising 2.5x from late position with A-A and K-6s.

Defend the big blind

Everyone and their dog are loving the small ball approach these days. The standard small raise is popular and with good reason – it works. One of the results of this is that you have to defend your big blind more. It means calling raises with hands you won’t necessarily want to but pot odds and solid poker tournament strategy dictate you must. Let’s look at a quick example to illustrate this.

Blinds – 600/1,200 (antes 120)
Player A- 42,500
You – 36,900

It folds to Player A on the button. He is a capable tournament player. He raises to 2,500. The small blind folds and the action is on you. Before even looking at your hand, let’s do some poker maths.

Pot – (1,080 antes, 1,800 in blinds + 2,500) = 5,380
Cost to call – 1,300
Equity needed to call – 19.4%

As you can see, you need to defend super wide in this spot. You just can’t afford to fold too many hands when you are getting these kind of prices in big blind.

https://mmwebhandler.aff-online.com/C/42411?sr=1740942

3 Bet with 30 bbs +

Tournament poker is often playing shorter stacks and less “poker” playing but that doesn’t mean you must play shove or fold poker. You don’t want to 3 bet bluff with short effective stacks cos it means the 4 bet from your opponent will always be all in. With slightly deeper stacks though (30 bbs+), you can afford to 3 bet bluff and take away a lot of pots. Poker tournament strategy is usually to attack short stacks. Screw that, 3 bet bluff the bigger stacks. I find that the big stacks are just as protective as the shorter stacks, if not more. It also means you can potentially get the last bet in if they decide to 4 bet. Good spots for 3 betting are when the raise has come from middle or late position.

CAUTION – Avoid 3 bet bluffing when they are raising from under the gun or UTG +1 as their range is likely to be tighter.

Learn continuation betting strategy

This article is dedicated to poker tournament strategy, not continuation betting but the fact is, c betting is an important part of tournament poker. You need to understand which boards favour your perceived range and what favours your opponent. A lot of players waste chips throwing out foolish continuation bets. You need to appreciate board texture, number of opponents and stack sizes when choosing whether to continuation bet or not. If you want more help with continuation betting, check out our article on the do’s and don’ts of continuation betting.

Isolate the limper(s)

An oldie but goody. Raising over a limper or limpers is still a very profitable play. It’s crazy to think there are still players that adopt this limp in mentality, but it’s great for us. If people want to try and limp into the pot with pocket 3s or A-9 offsuit, that’s fine, we will take their blinds all day. In some scenarios, it may seem prudent to over-limp but most of the time, just raise it 4x and win it. If they call, you can often just win it with a flop bet anyway. It’s a great way to build a stack in tournament poker and is also good for your table image as people. This might help you get paid later in the tournament.

Practice heads up poker

Many tournaments end in deals being done but what if yours doesn’t? What if you’re against a tough player or someone unwilling to deal. You need to know how to play 1 on 1. After all, if you want to win the tournament you have to beat the last opponent. Heads up is a great poker format. Some basic heads up tips are below:

  • Raise every button
  • Bet most flops
  • Check raise more
  • Bluff catch 2nd pair down
  • Stay on top of your opponent, don’t let up
  • Don’t show bluffs

Join Poker Training Video Membership

I hope you enjoyed this article on poker tournament strategy tips for 2020 and beyond. A final tip is a little plug for our training videos. If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more, you can. By join as a member you can gain access to almost 1,000 minutes of poker training videos. I give more tips, secrets and advice beyond this article. You can see how I play tournaments, cash games, SNGs and strategy lectures designed to help members make money. The price of membership is only £49.99 for 1 year. You can join by paying below or clicking the banner for more information. Once you’ve paid for membership, you will be sent your personal login details within 24 hours.

This method will not auto-renew in 1 year

Poker Kicker – How Big is Yours?

Poker Kicker

Your kicker is the second card you are playing in a game of Texas Hold’em. To some, understanding the hand strengths is enough to get by in poker. To the rest of us, we know there is a little more to it. Unfortunately, in Texas Hold’em, you are not going to make royal flushes and 4 of a kind very often. You are more likely to end most hands with one pair or high card, this is where your kicker plays.

Kicker Problems

You may have heard the phrase “kicker problems” before. This is when you’ve made a top pair type hand, read your opponent for similar hand but identified a problem – your kicker is low. Understanding when your kicker is no good and getting out of the way is an important skill to develop to help curb your potential losses in poker. To win at poker, you will have to learn to minimise your losses and sorting out kicker problems is one way. One of the biggest problems’ beginners have is overplaying ace rag, not realising the rag is the kicker costing them money.

Example Poker Kicker Hand

You’re in a $1/$2 cash game and a conservative old gentlemen limps in from early position (nice game eh?), 2 others limp in late position, and you complete from the SB with Ac 3c.

The flop comes:
As 9d 6d.

You check, BB checks and the conservative old gent bets out $9 into $10. The button calls and action is on you: What do you do?

This is a spot where you are probably up against another ace in the hand. An observant player will recognise the early position limper almost certainly has an A 10 + type hand and is way ahead. Rather than calling with your top pair and potentially losing $10 +, folding would be a wise move here.

When does a Kicker Count in Poker?

Texas Hold’em is played on best 5 card hand. Remember, the community cards are yours and your opponents. If the secondary card in yours and your opponent’s hole cards exceed that of the board, then the kicker will count. So if you have K-2 and your opponent has K-8 on a board run out of K-3-5-J-J than the 8 plays because the best hand is:

K-K-J-J-8 > K-K-J-J-5

Kings and Jacks with an 8 kicker beats Kings and Jacks with a 5 kicker.

The kicker’s can only count in the following hands:

  • High Card
  • One Pair
  • Two Pair

Final Thoughts

Understanding your poker kicker and when it counts is very important to being a solid player. You need to combine hand reading, hand selection and table awareness to judge whether a kicker will be your friend or foe. If you’re ever unsure, stick to playing solid starting hands and you stand a better chance.

Poker from the Small Blind is the Worst

Small Blind Poker

Whether you are playing short-handed or full ring, you know the positions of the poker table. You probably have them grouped in your head “early, middle, late position and the blinds”. Have you given much thought about the small blind? How much do you win there? What strategy do you employ? Playing from the small blind is difficult for several reasons whether you know it or not. This article will explore why it’s challenging and why I think it’s the worst spot at the table.

Battling with the Big Blind

Blind battles are prevalent in both cash games and tournaments. The psychology involved in blind battles is almost as important as the quality of your hands. The problem is that being out of position from small blind puts you at the disadvantage. When it folds to you in the small blind you know you are getting a fantastic price to play the hand, regardless of your hand. This leads to many players opting to raise with junk in a bid to steal the pot. Here’s the problem, any half decent player knows this and is liable to defend or 3 bet with impunity. Then we are getting into the “I know that he knows that I know” to infinity…. This can potentially lead to a lot of unnecessarily large pots and lost money.

First to Act Every Round

You want to act last when you play poker don’t you? Well playing from the small blind means you are first to act, on every round of betting post flop. This is less than ideal to put it nicely and completely sucks to put it truthfully. You can’t pot control, extract full value or gain information when you are the first one to act all the time. You can throw in a check raise or try to trap an aggressive player but other than that, you’re pretty limited in what you can do. Gus Hansen’s style of donk leading into raiser’s is an interesting strategy but rarely the optimal play.

Solutions?

Of the 6 or 9 spots at the table, the small blind will be the one you lose the most money or win the least. Unless you’re very weak at some other spots at the table, then it’s almost certainly going to be the worst position from a win rate perspective. There are ways to mitigate your loss or help improve your win rate though. Without delving too much into technical poker here is a quick guide to help you:

  1. Throw away the hands that look pretty but play awful heads up e.g J 8s
  2. Adapt to who is in the big blind. If it’s a nit, steal. If it’s a LAG, play solid
  3. Play careful, let the strength of your hand do the work
  4. Limit your bluffing, when you don’t have someone checking to you, it’s harder to narrow ranges