Tournament poker is undoubtedly the most popular form of poker. Even if you stick primarily to cash games, the odds are that you also play tournaments from time to time. As a result, you will need to learn the proper strategy in tournaments, and it is definitely a much different game than what you will find in cash games or even sit and gos. Tournament strategy is a very complex topic with seemingly unending dynamics. Yes, it largely comes down to luck, but skill will allow for long term edges to prevail.
Rate of blinds, starting chip stacks and amount of entrants are all variables so let’s discuss large tournaments and turbo tournament strategy first.
Topical tournament strategy articles are useful in most any type of event. They cover a broad range of theories and plays that can be implemented in many different ways. These articles are a benefit to everyone, regardless of the particular events that you tend to play. For example, the simple idea of 3-betting in tournaments is a skill set in and of itself. Tournament 3-betting is going to be useful in some spots and not so useful in others, and they aren’t going to vary all that much from event to event.
Topical articles also deal with a lot of theory, leaving a lot of room for creativity and execution. Theory is nothing without the ability to actually use a play when it is needed. This is one of the biggest reasons why some of the biggest poker theorists are not necessarily the most well known players. Theory will allow you to learn how things work, and more importantly, why they work. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a poker player is making a move or a play, but not knowing why you did it. Why are there people who re-raise with suited connectors in late position? They probably think that it is a good idea based on the idea of aggressive play being winning play, but implementation is everything. Theoretical and topical articles serve as a primary framework and layout for your future play and more specific skills.
Game and Limit Specific Articles
Game and limit specific articles are created to fit a very particular set of players. If you only play 180 man turbo tournaments, you aren’t going to have much need for early stage strategy in small stakes, regular blind structure tournaments. As was alluded to earlier, tournaments are never all that similar to each other, even if they are run in the same fundamental way.
It is a mistake to think that strategy for one event is at all what would be useful in another. For example, you won’t be playing the same sorts of hands in the beginning of a regular tournament that you would need to play in an ultra turbo tournament. In normal events you can be quite selective in what you are going to play because the blinds are not going to be of ultimate relevance. When you are in an ultra turbo tournament, however, you will have no choice but to widen up your ranges and play a lot more hands as a result of the fast blinds. This is just one demonstration of how one tournament is not at all similar to the next one.
As peculiar as it might sound, limits are not always as important in tournaments as they are in cash games, for example. General skill sets and approaches will vary wildly in different limits of cash games, but a successful tournament player could theoretically apply the same strategy from one limit to the next. Now, this would obviously not be the absolute best strategy possible, but it could definitely work.
Take a look at all of the different World Series of Poker winners on an annual basis. Many of them either have very average, elementary, or even worse understandings of how true tournament strategy works. Regardless, they wind up winning and cashing in plenty of tournaments. An ABC tournament strategy can be quite useful as you shift from limits to limits, it is the small adjustments that will make the biggest different in the long run. For more particular skills, though, you are best off reading the situational strategy articles.
Situational Strategy Articles
In Action: Playing a Short Stack in MTTs
Situation strategy articles will guide players through specific trouble spots. If you are having trouble with when to 3-bet or re-steal in a tournament, for example, you would want to check out the situational articles. This type of strategy is best for plugging one leak at a time, so to speak. With theory or even limit specific articles, there is a lot of useful information that should be applied broadly, but situational strategy is the exact opposite.
These are not the type of articles that are meant to form a playing style so much as they are aimed at ensuring that players focus on a well rounded game. In other words, you are refining the small elements that work together to form your complete tournament strategy. Situational strategy is flawed only in that every situation is going to have innumerable variables that are all but impossible to account for. You might have 5 players in a hand, 7 players in a hand; you could be in the early stages of an event, or you could be near the bubble.
Making the necessary adjustments for any piece of strategy is an absolute requirement. Of course, this is virtually impossible to teach and can only be truly learned through practice and experience. Use these articles as a super basic framework while making modifications as they are needed. The ability to adjust and compensate for ever changing dynamics in tournament play is what truly separates the long term winners from the losers.