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Initial tips for the start of your tournament career

In this article you will be introduced to poker tournaments and the kind of winning possibilities they offer. Additionally, you will get important tips for your first tournaments and it will be explained how you are able to test this format for free and without any risk via so-called "freerolls".

In tournaments you are playing for a large prize pool

In tournaments you get a predefined amount of chips for your entry fee (buy-in). Unlike in "cash games", you are usually not able to buy more chips later on in a tournament. Once a single player has won all the chips that are in play, he will be the winner and the tournament is concluded. All the other positions are determined by the moment a player was eliminated. To ensure that a tournament doesn't last forever, the basic bets (blinds) are steadily increased throughout play.

Because usually a lot of players participate in a tournament, there's also a lot of money to be won for players who make it to a prize position. Most of the time, the best placed 15% of all participants will be awarded prize money. In big tournaments the winner can get an amount that corresponds to 1,000 times his initial buy-in. In smaller tournaments the winner usually gets 50 to 200 times his initial buy-in.

Tournaments are fun, also for recreational players!

Tournaments are very popular amongst recreational and professional players alike. Since you can win an amount worth multiple times your buy-in, the risk-reward ratio in tournaments is exceptionally good. Furthermore, they wake the competitiveness of the participants: How many other players can you leave behind? On top of that, the official poker world championship ("World Series of Poker" or short "WSOP") is also played in this format.

Everyone who has already played a tournament in their life knows how thrilling it can be when the blinds slowly rise during the course of an event and decisions become more and more important.

Start your tournament career with no-cost freerolls

Freerolls are free tournaments in which you can still win real money. They are a perfect opportunity for new players to build up a bankroll at the tables without having to invest any of their own money. Since they are free they tend to attract a lot of players who only have rudimentary knowledge of the rules. Therefore, you can quickly draw profit with basic strategic knowledge.

A structured overview of our current freeroll offers and promotions can be found here: http://www.pokerstrategy.com/freerolls/

Of course, the right strategy is also decisive in tournaments. Therefore, simply stick to the following guidelines during your first tournaments.

Four tips for a profitable start in the tournament world

1. Play tight-aggressive

Tight means that you shouldn't play all the cards that are dealt to you. There are a lot of starting hands that are just as bad as they look. However, there are also hands that might look quite good to an inexperienced player but are actually bad to play as well, for instance king-jack.

After the flop you shouldn't get married to any pair that you might hit. You can save a lot of money when you develop a feeling for spots in which you are simply beat or in which the bets are simply too high to continue playing.

Choosing the right starting hands is already half the battle and many of your opponents at the lowest limits (in tournaments the amount of the buy-in) make a lot of mistakes when it comes to that. They simply play too many hands or they don't know when to get out of the way with certain cards that actually look quite nice in their eyes.

Aggressive means that you should always try to get the maximum with your strong hands. Bet big when you have a strong hand and don't start slow playing these hands (playing as if you had a weak hand in order to lure your opponents into betting).

The size of your raises should be determined by the tournament phase you are in. At the beginning, when there are no antes yet, you should always raise to around 3 or 4 big blinds (BB) if you are able to get first-in (everyone in front of you has folded or you are simply the first player to act in a hand). As soon as antes come into play, you can resize your raises to around 2.5 BB - and later on, when you already secured some prize money, you can decrease your raise size to 2 BB.

2. Apply the "Call 20" rule

Paired starting hands can be an opportunity to win big pots with a small investment. If one or more players have already joined a hand before the flop, it can be a very profitable move to just call as well.

As a rule of thumb the amount you would have to pay in order to call should be no more than 5% of your chip stack (meaning you should have 20 times as many chips left) and your opponents should have a similar or even bigger stack.

If you hit a set (three of a kind) on the flop, you should then of course continue playing the hand aggressively. If you don't hit anything, you can simply give up without having invested many chips.

3. Limping is not an option

A common beginner's mistake: You're holding a speculative hand like QSpade TClub or 9Heart 8Heart and you would like to have a glance at the flop. The cheapest way to do that is simply calling before the flop (limping), which means only paying the big blind instead of raising. That's not a good play, though!

A limp might appear enticing but it doesn't make sense in most situations. Instead, it makes much more sense to enter the hand with a raise. This will either allow you to win the pot already before the flop or it will ensure that you are able to convincingly represent a strong hand on the flop - because you've already shown strength preflop.

4. Use continuation bets

When you've raised before the flop and one or two players decided to call your raise, you should bet half the pot on the flop. Such a bet is called a continuation bet.

The following requirements have to be met for that:

• Apart from you, there are no more than two other players in the hand.

• You've represented a strong hand before the flop and entered the hand with a raise.

• Another player hasn't raised on the flop yet.

Play "push or fold" when you have few big blinds left

Once you only have 15 big blinds or less left in your stack, you should stop making standard raises and your only moves before the flop should be either going all-in directly (push) or simply folding.

Step 1: Determine the situation and your position at the table

You can only play "push or fold" when no opponent has entered the hand before it's your turn. So always check if you are "first-in", meaning no opponent has called or raised yet.

Your position at the table is determined by the dealer button, which is also known as the "button". The other positions are illustrated within this image:

UTG stands for "Under the gun", MP is "Middle Position", CO is the "Cutoff", BU is the "Button", SB stands for "Small Blind" and BB for "Big Blind".

Step 2: Choose the right table

Three tables are available for the different positions:

• If you are sitting in the positions UTG to MP1, you should choose Table 1.

• In the positions MP2 to CO you should use Table 2.

• On the Button and in the Small Blind your decision is presented in Table 3.

Step 3: Make the right "push or fold" decision

All tables include any possible starting hand. The following abbreviations are used:

• A = Ace, K = King, Q = Queen, J = Jack, T = Ten (10)

• "s" stands for "suited" and means that both cards are of the same colour

• "o" stands for "off suited" and means that both cards are of different colours

For example, ATs would represent a hand like AClub TClub while KJo would stand for a hand like K JSpade.

You should only go all-in with hands that are highlighted in either red, blue or green. The different colours correspond to the amount of big blinds left in your stack:

With red hands you should go all-in when you have 15 big blinds left or less.

With blue hands you should go all-in when you have 10 big blinds left or less.

With green hands you should go all-in when you have 5 big blinds left or less.

Table 1: You are in UTG to MP1

Table 2: You are in MP2 to CO

Table 3: You are in BU or SB

Bankroll management

If you want to have long-term success in poker, you should definitely use a bankroll management. Always consider the money you pay in order to join a tournament an investment. You should only invest money when there is prospect for a good return and low risk. In poker, you can achieve that by sticking to bankroll management.

It will basically tell you which buy-ins you can invest (how high you can play) in order to find the right balance between your wish to ...

• ... win as much money as possible in a successful tournament.

• ... bridge any losses when you hit a bad run.

At the beginning, you will accomplish that when your bankroll is always 150 times as big as the buy-in of the tournament that you would like to play. Bankroll management is especially important when you play tournaments on a regular basis. Of course, you don't have to start out with 150 buy-ins in order to simply test this format. However, the higher the limits you're playing, the more conservative should be your bankroll management.

Good luck in your first tournaments!


Comments (23)

#1 NextChamp, 24 Aug 14 21:38


#2 hamid507, 26 Aug 14 12:09


#3 Tomis92, 26 Aug 14 17:49

Thanks :)

#4 tourizmo, 18 Sep 14 07:42

Bankroll management is the pillar of your survival as MTT poker player...

#5 Socialhabit, 16 Oct 14 16:00

Just readinggg :) gl to all bigginers

#6 BenBlakeIsTilting, 20 Nov 14 04:03


#7 omega21, 28 Jan 15 18:17

Great info, tnx!

#8 nekkk92, 27 Feb 15 08:03


#9 LeNNy010, 15 Mar 15 08:24

Nice pointers, especially with the push fold chart. It's bigger then my pushing range normally is. Gonna try printing it and use it for the coming week.

#10 silvachigor, 09 Apr 15 13:09

I liked this information so much! Thank you!

#11 vl4d1m1r4, 17 May 15 11:34

I finished 3rd in a tournament just by blindly following the strategy explained here. Great info!

#12 justice04, 11 Oct 15 17:27

got a doubt<br /> when i have 10 big blinds or less and i am in UTG to MP1. should i go all in with only blue hands or red and blue hands?

#13 surabaya1209, 12 Oct 15 19:53

semi tight-aggressive

#14 AApoKKer, 26 Oct 15 23:10

Does the chart apply to any caller/s before you or no caller before you ?

#15 DemonDavies, 08 Nov 15 01:33

@justice04 Red and Blue

#16 machichi, 15 Nov 15 09:59

Good tips, thanks!

#17 walidoux, 16 Nov 15 13:51

nice, but in MTT every one have a specific strategy adopted just for him, i was a good mtt player until i started to follow the advice given by the pro !! <br /> astrategy which make money for someone it cannot be adopted the same for another one...

#18 bubamarasr, 29 Jan 16 15:49

Read it, thank you.

#19 Nhoxalone, 18 Feb 16 15:51


#20 tzar63, 09 Apr 16 14:37

I liked "Call 20" rule

#21 Airboyz, 07 Jul 16 08:37


#22 Chris61180, 14 Jul 16 06:39

Great tips

#23 muska411, 12 Sep 16 16:35