Since the first organized World Series Poker tournament in 1970, poker tournaments have become extremely popular. In the last few years, poker tournaments televised on major sports channels have attracted millions of viewers. The multi-million dollar tournaments that attract the leading poker players around the world have spawned hundreds of online poker tournaments of various sizes. Despite the prize pools vary in size, the larger tournaments have prizes of more than one million dollars.
Although the wins are great in most cases, there is a major difference between successful money players and successful tournament players. Tournament players can not bide their time in the same way that a money player needs to. In a tournament, the player has to win all the chips on the table if they want to progress; they can not afford to wait and bid their time. They must play with an aggressive edge.
One of the most important tournament skills is a strong psychological presence. It sounds odd and a little unnerving, but luck has a lot to do with tournament success in poker. To compensate for this, you need to try to make yourself as lucky as possible; think positive, do not let your moods swing with the tilts. Be sensible but keep up the aggressive plays. In tournament poker, you need to get all the chips on the table in a certain amount of time, against the added pressure of increasing blinds. You can not afford to let a run of bad luck hit you if you want to get anywhere in the tournament. You must do whatever you can to maintain a positive outlook.
As a general rule, you should play tight at the beginning of the tournament, when the blinds are low; This is the only time you can afford to sit and wait for other players to make mistakes. As the blinds rise - as they do in tournaments - you need to start gambling aggressively.
Controlling your tournament gambling should be the gap concept, introduced by David Sklanksy. The basic principle and practice of this concept is that you should open the betting whenever your hand makes it prudent. You can open the betting yourself with a marginal to semi-strong hand and it's a lot easier to bet with yourself. However, if the betting has already been opened, if someone else makes a bet before you, then you must have a strong hand to call.
Table positions also come into play in tournament poker. You should play tight in the early positions and let the people playing after you take the lead most of the time (unless you have a hand that warrants aggressive play, such as high honors). As you move to later positions, particularly the end positions, you should look to bluff and play semi-strong hands.
Online distractions are not such a problem, but you can still get put off by some of the pop-ups and information bombardments. You should not worry about the other tables or the other players in the tournament. Your focus needs to remain on the table and chips you're trying to accumulate.
Your focus in a tournament needs to be on your table, on your position, and on your opponents play. Good tournament players look to shift gears, alternating between tight and aggressive plays as the situation calls. Watch your opponents for sighs that they are following one or other of these strategies.
Follow the strategies yourself. Remember that survival is key to winning a tournament, more so than in money games. You can not be eliminated from money games, per se, but you can and will be knocked out of tournaments for careless mistakes.
To win at tournament poker you need to train your brain to focus above and beyond money game play. In tournaments, how you have towards your opponents, how you respond to your opponents on a psychological level, can have an impact on your game if you do not check yourself. Some of the best advice from tournament champs is to play our own cards. Do not think about anyone else's cards and do not try to analyze or criticize the plays of anyone else. Never voice your opinion about anyone else's plays, strategies, or styles. It's never worth owning on someone else's game except to understand them as an opponent.
And the last snippet of tournament-play advice: trust your instincts. Know the guidelines for poker play - for tournament and online tournament play specifically - but trust your instinct and feel for the cards. The leading tournament poker players play by feel much of the time. You should too if you want to win.