When it comes to your tournament life, they are quite frankly many ways to manage and play it. But, only a few that are “correct.” Some players you will encounter might be notoriously loose, some tighter, and even others; you may need a crowbar to help pry their chips from them and into a pot. Regardless of your style of play, there are common rules, or strategies to abide by to make sure that you maximize your winnings.
First, it is always important to set some ground rules for yourself before you sit down at a table, whether online, or at your neighborhood game. Different than cash games, tournaments require a lot of patience, and make sure you pick your spots. Of course, these plans can change throughout a cash game, or especially a tournament, but it is a good idea to try to stick to them nonetheless. It is no accident that in countless interviews with the world’s top players; they often talk about have a strategy in place before the action starts. (Think of those speeches before a “final” table on ESPN during “The World Series of Poker”).
For example, in tournament play at FullTilt Poker, one option is to sit back and play extremely tight, allowing other players to eliminate each other while you move up in the money. This strategy is common for a player whose chip is somewhere in the middle of pack.
On the other hand, a player who is “short stacked,” or has the fewest chips, will often play marginal hands extremely aggressive in hopes of “doubling up.” If the player manages to double his chips, then he may begin to play more conservative.
Finally, that leaves us with the “chip leaders,” or the player(s) with the most chips. Since they have more chips than anyone else in play, these players can choose to adopt any number of strategies. Like the “short-stacked” player, they can also choose to play marginal hands, and try to “bully” the players with fewer chips by making them decide whether or not to “push” all their chips in the middle. This is a risk/reward type of strategy, and one that can cripple a chip leader, or in turn, allow him or her put a strangle hold on the tournament and win early on.
All in all, you must be sure to choose a strategy that works best for you. If you don’t feel like playing the “bully,” then don’t. If you cannot just sit back and allow others to knock one another out, then don’t. But, caveat emptor: “Let the buyer beware.” Not having a sound strategy in place of how you will play your stack before sitting down is a big mistake. But it is not nearly as bad of a mistake as playing the wrong way. So, play smart and mix up your actions, but stick by your guns. Remember, generally, short stacks play more aggressive, while larger stacks have some options.