Online Tournament Strategy

By Nicholas James McDowell

You’ve been playing online poker for a while now, and the play money is easy to come by. Vast sums the size of last year’s salary exchange hands with every river and you find yourself wondering with childish glee, what if it was real? You figure, how much of a difference can it be to sit down with real stakes?

So then you find yourself sitting at a real money game, pocket aces in hand. There’s an inside straight draw on the board, and you have a grim feeling your pair might not hold. But no one is going to get you to lay down bullets! You’ve never mucked them before, why should you now? So you do what you did at the play money tables: test the waters with an all-in bluff. You get called big time and as you’re throwing your mouse across the room, you wonder: where can I get more experience?

Winnings for these tourneys are generally based on a top three (sometimes even four) tier system. Let’s say you bought-in for $15. This could mean that first place is $30, second place is $20, and third is $15. Can you simply play tight enough to make it to the top three? With the aforementioned dummies playing like they play, your chances are a lot better, and if you come in third, at least you’ve played real stakes for free, and learned something along the way.

For some players these single poker online table tourneys are their bread and butter. They run as soon as the table is full (every 2-5 minutes on average) and can be as easy to win as just sitting back and not getting hit by the flying all-ins. But actually playing well at these tables is altogether different. With real money at stake, you’ll find the instinct to tighten up a real asset. Unless you have an incredible hand (like those bullets you never muck) you’ll need to be conservative. Even with a great pocket pair, your betting has to be vastly different than on the fake money tables. Remember: going all in is like a nuclear option: everyone knows you have it, and, unless you are the fly in their trap, they don’t want you to use it. If you keep your all-ins to a minimum, serious players will take you seriously, which advantages you for future bluffs and paydays.

So pick up your mouse from the floor, shake off your ‘bad beat’ depression and get back out there, there’s at least one table with your name on it.

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