Tournament Poker Tips For A Winner´s Mindset

Tournament poker is a great poker format for both beginning and advanced poker players. However, many beginners do n´t understand what tournament poker is all about. On today´s post, I´m going to talk about the key factors of tournament poker. These tournament poker tips will help you get into a winner´s mindset. That´s the mindset you need in tournament poker, because you should always play to win.

poker chips and cash at the edge of a poker table

Play To Win, Not To Survive.

In poker tournaments, most of the prize money goes to the top finishers. Your aim should be to win the first prize, not just making it in the money. If the lowest prize money on a tournament seems like a lot of money to you, you are probably playing a tournament too high for your bankroll. Only play tournaments you can afford to play optimally – which means playing to win the first prize.

Because you should go for the first prize, you can not be afraid to bust out before making it in the money. Of course, you can ´t call with a lot of hands in the bubble, if your stack is so small that you can be busted out. However, you can ´t be afraid to push in the bubble. First of all, other players ca n´t call your pushes lightly in the bubble. Second of all, you need to gain chips so that you have a chance to win the first prize, not just a consolation prize.

pocket aces and euro notes and coins

Only Play Tournaments You Want To Win.

When you play to win, you probably should be playing poker tournaments you actually want to win. You should n´t play out of your bankroll, but if the first prize of a tournament seems worthless to you, what´s the point of playing such a tournament? If you don ´t think a tournament has a trophy worth pursuing, you could as well be doing something else.

That´s why I do n´t play, say, freerolls with a €5 prizepool, even though it´s free, because I do n´t care if I win the €2 trophy. If I do n´t care, it´s waste of time. No, I would rather play a tournament with a €5 buy-in and €500 prizepool. I would actually want to win the first prize, which would likely be more than €100, on such a tournament.

On freerolls, and not just freerolls, but also on many small buy-in tournaments, you see some players going mindlessly all-in in the first levels of the tournament. They do n´t clearly care about these tournaments, because they are willing to hand out their stack in the early stages. If you find yourself making crazy moves and gambling on a poker tournament, ask yourself why you are playing that tournament in the first place.

Antes Do n´t Favor Tight Players.

In cash games there are rarely antes in play, but in poker tournaments it´s a different story. Most online poker tournaments have antes from the start. Many live tournaments have antes too. Antes are the stakes all players at the table post on each hand, in addition to the big blind and small blind, which each player posts only once in an orbit. Antes make the pre-flop pot bigger than if there are just a big blind and a small blind.

Many players do n´t pay attention to antes, but one of the most important tournament poker tips is adjusting your game to the antes. Antes make your tournament stack diminish quicker than when there are only the big blind and the small blind in play. There is also more to gain in a pot with the antes. This means that with the antes in play, you need to play looser, raise with more hands and steal the blinds more.

Poker Tournaments Are Like Stories – Or Marathons.a running mans feet on a road

One of the reasons I like tournament poker is, that I love stories. What does that have to do with poker tournaments, then? Well, poker tournaments are like stories. This might sound a little philosophical, but just like stories, poker tournaments have a beginning, a midway and an end. Sometimes the beginning and the end are the same thing, though, if you are busted out on the first hand you play. Just kidding, usually that does n´t happen.

So poker tournaments are like stories, or like marathons. You need to adjust your play according to the phase of the tournament; are you in the early stages, mid-stages or the final stages of a tournament. You also need to be able to play optimally throughout all these stages. In a marathon, you need to regulate your strength, so that you can make it to the finishing line. In a poker tournament, it is sort of the same situation. You do not want to go crazy in the early levels of a poker tournament. There is a long way ahead, and getting a big stack in the beginning of a tournament is not really a big deal.

Play To Win – In A Long Run.1st a first prize winners badge on a red background with small stars

I have n´t always considered myself a very competitive person. When I started playing tournament poker, I realized I am, at least to some extent. You need to be, because in poker tournaments you should always be playing to win the first prize. Most of the prize money in poker tournaments goes to the top finishers. Don´t settle for the minimum cash you can win by just making it in the money. If you play tournaments you can actually afford to play, the lowest prizes should not be a lot of money for you.

With that being said, you should also play only tournaments you actually want to win. Why waste your time on freerolls that do n´t have a lot of value? Do n´t get me wrong, some freerolls actually have great value, but if the first prize is $5, ask yourself if playing that tournament is actually worth your time.

In tournament poker, the antes raise the pot significantly. This means you need to raise with more hands, when there are antes in play. Playing too tight is not a good strategy in poker tournaments.

Playing a poker tournament is like running a marathon; you need to regulate your strength to make it to the finishing line. I also like to think of poker tournaments as stories with a beginning, a midway and an end. Just keep in mind, that every poker tournament does not have a happy end, even if you play optimally. However, if you are playing optimally, you should be happy. That´s because by playing your A game, sooner or later you will be rewarded with a happy end – a nice, shining trophy when you win a poker tournament.

a golden trophy

Please share your opinion on these tournament poker tips. What do you think tournament poker is all about? Do you consider yourself as a competitive person?

Comments 4

  • Hi, I like how you have compared playing in a poker tournament to a story or a marathon. I can see how important it is to save some of your energy to make it to the end of the game.

    I consider myself a fairly competitive person when it comes to playing games or entering races. I usually like to check out the prize before I’m willing to ‘fork’ out the cash for the event. Although I do enjoy a good charity function as well.

    Thanks for sharing your tips for playing in a poker tournament. I will definitely incorporate them into my next tournament. I don’t usually do very well when I play poker, perhaps my game will improve next time with the help of your tips.

    • Hi Liz,

      Yes, especially if it is a long tournament, it is important to regulate your energy, so you still have some left in case you make it to the final table. Thanks for dropping in to my website and taking time to leave a comment!

  • I use to play freerolls and small buy-in tournaments when I was in college (10yrs ago). Those guys and girls that were going all in ever single turn used to drive me crazy. I never understood their tactic until now. I imagine that I would behave the same if I enter a $1 buy-in tournament today. Thanks for sharing the tips with which I can improve my game in the future.

    • Yeah, those opponents you faced were clearly just gambling. Even $1 tournaments can have a nice first prize, though, so playing optimally and going after the first prize would be much more profitable.

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