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Article has been taken from PokeriInfo website with their permission.

1. Tournaments
2. Tournament Strategy
3. The First Rounds
4. The Final Rounds
5. All-in
6. Heads-up


1. Tournaments

Tournaments are the game of the games in poker, the most exciting and demanding form, requiring a lot more skill, discipline, and courage than regular games, which are played pretty straightforwardly.

In tournaments every player pays the buy-in and a small fee to the poker room like $10+1, of which $10 goes into the prize pool. All the participants get the same amount of chips, play as long as they have chips left, and finally the player who wins all the chips wins the tournament, too. The last player going broke is placed second, the next to last gets the third prize, and so on. In mini-tournaments there are three prizes; big multitable tournaments can have dozens of them.

Tournaments have one great advantage: you'll risk only your buy-in if even that much. Many card rooms have several freeroll-tournaments every day with substantial real-money prize pools.
 
2. Tournament Strategy

The winning strategy in tournaments is very different from regular games. Some pocket hands, e.g. Q-Q, that are clearly worth a raise in regular games, may sometimes not be playable at all in tournaments. On the other hand, some hands that are marginal in sidegames, such as Q-To and K-To, can be raising hands in tournaments.
 
This article concentrates on fixed limit mini-tournaments, because they are best suited for beginners as a first step into the tournament world. No-limit multitable tournaments are different in many ways.
 
3. The First Rounds

During the first rounds, the stakes are so low that the game resembles regular sidegames. However, you are better off playing tight passively for two reasons.
 
First of all, you have to create a tight image. Since the stakes go up in value very fast, a tight image can pay back with interest. Bluffing or semi-bluffing the blinds once on a $100/200 level is all you need.
 
Secondly, in tournaments a lost chip is worth more than a won one. Therefore you are better off avoiding marginally profitable hands like Q-To, K-To, A-To and possibly also A-Jo, K-Jo, Q-Jo and J-To. Furthermore, small pocket pairs and suited connectors are playable only if they get very high pot odds. These hands often lose a little and seldom win a lot. In addition, you have to avoid raising if it doesn't kick out any opponents. Such hands as A-Js, K-Qs and Q-Js that are clear raising hands in regular games are only worth a call in tournaments. Even the strongest hands, such as A-A and K-K, can be played passively from late position, because a raise would not drive any opponents out.

You may have noticed, that, especially in no-limit tournaments, many players use a directly opposite strategy, limping in with most of their starting hands and going all-in eagerly. Their intention is to make a big stack quickly and control the game with it. In this kind of situations you can call a single bet with all the pocket cards (like suited connectors) that can make a big hand and hope to get lucky.
 
With an aggressive starting strategy, you either gather a superior stack, control the game with it and have a great chance to win the tournament or fall out quickly and can start in a new tournament. With a tight passive starting strategy, you are usually among the 4-5 players, but often get the worst of it with a small stack in the final rounds and go broke just out of the money.
 
4. The Final Rounds

In the final rounds with 3-4 opponents, the conditions have changed radically and you have to adjust your strategy accordingly.
 
Firstly, the value of the pocket cards has changed. Short-handed suited connectors and small pairs seldom get proper pot odds. Consequently, high cards are now more valuable.
 
Secondly, the stakes have gone up so much that fear is an effective tactical weapon, even in fixed limit games. Now you have to take advantage of your tight image by bluffing or semi-bluffing.
 
Thirdly, since the stakes are so high, some opponents may have chips enough for only one hand. You have to give your opponents time to knock each other out.
 
In the first rounds, you had to call or fold. Now you have to raise or fold. You have to take advantage of your tight image and raise already in early position with two big cards like Q-To or K-To, with pocket pairs except possibly with the lowest ones, and with an ace with a relatively high kicker like A-8o. The main purpose is to steal the blinds.
 
On the other hand, you have to let the opponents kick each other out. For example, in late position if the pot is raised, most of the raising hands mentioned above are not worth a call. Particularly, if someone has gone all-in and is called and one of the players can go broke, you need a very strong hand like A-A, K-K or A-Ko, possibly Q-Q, A-Qo or K-Qo to continue the fight.
 
If nobody has called the blinds, you can raise in late position even with a moderate hand, aiming to steal the blinds. In this kind of situation, you have to notice the stacks. Suppose there are four players in a mini-tournament and three prizes. The stacks are 4200, 1500, 1500 and 800. The blinds are 100 and 200. The second player has to pay the small blind 100 and the third player the big blind 200. They now calculate that the smallest stack will be eaten by the blinds and go broke first. Consequently they play very tight. If the smallest stack doesn't call or raise, the first player with the biggest stack has a golden opportunity to raise even with a modest hand and steal the blinds. The largest stack has a very strong position being able to take advantage of the opponents' tactical play and steal the blinds time after time.
 
The smallest stack has the worst of it, having to win a pot soon, otherwise the blinds will eat him out of the money. He has to go all-in at the latest, when the stack is still large enough for a raise. Raising is very important, because the play has to work as a semi-bluff. In other words, the hand will have a chance to win the blinds immediately as a bluff or, if called, as big pot as possible in the showdown.
 
Let's take two examples. In the first case, the smallest stack raises, the big blind calls, the others fold. The pot has 900 and there is one opponent. In the other case, the smallest stack just calls 200, the small blind calls 100, the pot has 600 and there are two opponents. The pot is smaller and there are two opponents instead of one. The big blind has got a free flop and the small blind a cheap flop. If both of them continue, the smallest stack can win 1200. If only one of the blinds continues, the pot will be 1000. Marginally more than 900, but a poor play.
 
If just calling the smallest stack has in fact a chance to save 200, but this small amount is usually worthless, because he has to go all-in again in the blind and even if winning, the pot will be so tiny that he has to go all-in again without a break. However you turn and twist the assumptions, the smallest stack does better by raising and forcing the blinds to pay for the flop.
 
5. All-In

When the all-in is nearing, you can't wait for a big pocket pair for a rescue. Two big cards is a superior starting hand, because a high pair is often enough and the winning odds are 1:1 by the river. A low pocket pair is also valuable, if you raise and get it heads-up. Against only one opponent, a low pair can hold as such and it can make a set 1:5 until the river. If the opponent has two cards of different rank, he doesn't get anything but about 1:1. Small suited connectors are also playable, because you can see all the cards until the river for the same prize.
 
6. Heads-Up

Finally, in heads-up you can raise preflop at least with all pairs, with two big cards and with an ace, irrespective of the kicker. On the flop, the top pair is a strong hand. The second pair is playable as well, particularly with a proper kicker. The draws are much more unlikely than in 10-handed games. A strong pair is playable even if the board has three cards of the same suit.
 
In heads-up, judgment of human nature plays a crucial role. You have to know when the opponent is bluffing, semi-bluffing, or trapping you with a strong hand. Accordingly, you have to be able to find the correct bluffing situations. Tight mathematical poker, which is the winning strategy in loose ring games, is not enough heads-up.
 
If your opponent is very aggressive, you have to trap him by slowplaying a strong hand, letting him to bet, and raising on the turn or on the river. On the final rounds the stakes are so high that one hand played to the river can be decisive for the result.
 
If your opponent is passive, seeming to play only strong hands, you have to bluff and semi-bluff a lot on the flop or on the turn, trying to pick up the blinds. If you get called, you have to believe him. He has something. Your main concern is to avoid getting trapped. Furthermore, it is essential to fold your small blind sometimes, supporting your tight image. Patient, disciplined playing is the winning strategy.
 
Last but not least, when you collect the first prize, don't forget to write the "gg" onto the chat. It means "good game" and it is the winner who says it.

 
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