Poker patience playing tournamentsArticle By: RuffPoker.com
When playing tournament poker the key ingredient for success is patience. Many players fail to change their one table playing style to accommodate tournament poker strategy. What is more they fail to adapt as the tournament itself takes shape. This evolution manifests itself in three phases. They all have equal importance and more than anything else, demand patience.
In early rounds of every poker tournament it is important to know that of the several hundred, maybe even thousands of players at the tables a considerable number are ‘fish’ (who don’t know the subtleties of a tournament game) or ‘hangers’ (who have simply entered with no clear strategy in mind). If you are playing a tournament with, say 10,000 people you can conservatively estimate that around 3,000 of these people have no real business even being sat at a table. You then have maybe another 2,000 who don’t really appreciate how to play tournament poker. That’s half the field! Of course the higher the buy-in the better the level of ability but the norm is that in ANY tournament you can work your way into the game with patience. Play ultra tight, and very aggressive ONLY when you are dealt great opening cards/flop a monster. Don’t limp into pots hoping to catch something and don’t go all in unless you have someone beat. Staying in a poker tournament early on requires an ability to play incredibly tight and with ultra patience. This is essential to eliminate loose opponents from the game. Sit tight and let the game progress. There are many hours to run in a tournament at this stage, you are in the opening gambit. As there are thousands of people at this stage who don’t really care about their chips, you aren’t going to bluff many people out of hands. Within an hour or so the field will be dramatically cut and from here on in you need to change tactics.
This is where patience manifests itself in the second phase of tournament play. You’ve been playing ultra tight and only when on a monster have you been going in. Now an hour or so in all those who play every hand, make ridiculous all-in’s and chase cards all the way to the river are gone. Now you are up against the second tier of opponent. Those who know how to play and are focused on making that final table. At this stage it is paramount that you build up your chips so that you have some clout later in the day. Don’t be foolhardy and start making brave calls or stupid re-raises, as opponent skill levels will be higher you won’t scare them off easily. Be patient but play a little looser when your position, opponents or cards allow it. Analyse your opponents styles and wait for opportunities to steal or maximise pots. If you get dealt decent cards with only a couple of opponents in a hand don’t be afraid to push chips into the pot. Show an aggressive nature but do so with caution and sparingly because after a few hands the good players at the table will see what you are doing. Once you start to build up a stack you gain leverage to play much more aggressively and open up greater opportunities to bluff.
So you are down to the final ‘money positions’, maybe even the final table. At this stage with every departing player your winnings increase. However, herein lies a big problem for many tournament players and why patience, AGAIN, is the key. Because of the very nature of the competition many feel like they have ‘won already’. Whilst this is true, consider what you joined the tournament for. You really should be thinking to yourself ‘I have gotten this far, I am here to win outright’. As such you really need to batten down the hatches and play extremely patiently. You must eliminate all thoughts of being a ‘winner already’. You want the big prize, when you have this mindset you are in a far better frame of mind to remain patient, play tight and succeed. It is essential you master this art if you are to win at tournament poker. Of course the blinds are so big at this stage that your stack will soon depreciate if you don’t win cheap pots once in a while or take home pots with poor hands/position, but you must play with discipline and patience. As fewer and fewer remain in the game that is when you should start to open up, consider all-ins and bet ultra aggressively.
Of course following this poker strategy is no guarantee you will win. At any moment your all-in with a flush could get beaten on the river by another’s full house. However with patience you stand a much better chance of progressing to the ‘money’ stages, and certainly will be a more consistent performer.