Tournament strategy has been addressed by countless poker writers, all with their own method of play. The game of poker has no correct strategy to employ every time. Most decisions should be made based on a combination of the odds involved and the meta-game of the table at the time. Strategies are only options to have in certain situations, and are not a plan that has to be followed every time you play a poker tournament. Following any style of play too closely will only make you predictable to a skilled opponent.
There are so many different types of tournaments out there that the first thing one should consider when starting an event is the structure. Turbo tournaments have to be played with more aggression than regular blind structured events, while deep stack tournaments should be played super-tight in the early stages. Limit tournaments are also played a little tighter than usual early on, but switch to a game of seeing a lot of flops and folding or raising early in the hand.
Tournaments have lots of different situations that you’ll find yourself in. Sometimes you’ll be in many of these situations in the same event. When you find yourself short stacked (less than 10 times the blind level), it becomes important to elevate the aggression you display. Taking chances is the best way to either steal blinds and increase your chip stack or double up your stack if you can win the hand someone decides to look up on. On the other side of the coin, if you find yourself with a big chip lead you can either play a tight game punishing aggressive short stacks, or you can make the game more expensive for the other players to play by making big raises pre-flop from favourable positions.
Bubble play is often an important time in a tournament. If you have one of the bigger stacks at this stage in play it’s a profitable habit to force the action. Players are looking to make it to the money, and will give away chips instead of getting into a hand that could risk their survival in the tournament. After making it to the money it’s also important to think about surviving as deep as possible. If that means getting out of the way in a hand, even when holding big cards, it will put money in your pocket to let others battle it out so you can collect a bigger payout. Survival is the magic word in tournament poker.