How Not to Suck at Playing Poker Tournaments

Poker tournament guide for IndiaEveryone likes to talk about what you can do to play better in poker tournaments in order to make it in the money or go onto win it so it’s not a huge waste of time.

It should definitely go without saying that it’s definitely helpful if you take steps to improve your game.

Here are some things you can do if you want to stop sucking in poker tournaments.

Stop Bluffing the Calling Stations

The first thing you should avoid doing is always betting after raising pre-flop or making a big bet on the river when it’s likely your bluff will be called. Some players have the tendency to continue a bet with nothing despite knowing that opponents will call even with weak hands and feel pot committed once they get to the river.

The logic is that even though the opponent has the better hand, they will be more willing to fold to a big bet or raise. But the fact of the matter is that smaller buy-in poker tournaments are full of weaker players that don’t like to fold, so stop trying to bluff them.

Don’t Play Poker Tournaments Like Cash Games

Another thing you need to avoid doing is applying too much math to certain situations. You need to realize that when you’ve busted out in a poker tournament, you are done for the tournament. Unless it’s a re-buy tourney, you can’t buy extra chips, so you can’t treat a tournament like a cash game.

While in a poker micro cash game, you should often take even slightly +EV (equity value) situations because it will make you money in the long run, when playing poker tournaments, you should be more willing to pass up marginal EV spots because of larger edges you’ll have later in the tournament. It is also important not to overestimate your tournament life.

Understanding this concept is extremely important if you want to stop sucking in tournaments. It’s a balancing act between chip preservation and chip accumulation.

During the early stages of the tournament, you don’t need to be making risky plays that put a large portion of your stack at risk. When the blinds are small, they’re not really worth going after, and players will be much more likely to see cheap flops. Tight is right early on when you don’t know much about your opponents, you’ll avoid putting your entire stack at risk without a strong hand, keeping you in contention for the first place prize money.

Eventually you have to look for specific phases in the tournament where you can target weaker players and push them off their hands to continually be adding chips to your stack in order to keep up with the increasing pressure of the blinds.

Learn How to Play  at the Final Table

Poker final table strategy for India

These basic strategies and tips should help you reach the final table.

Now, the prizes which are up for grabs are really starting to look attractive and feel within your reach. Psychology plays a vital role in playing well at the final table.

Because of the pressure, some players become overly tight/aggressive or more prone to tilting.

If you’re mentally strong, you’ll avoid making any costly mistakes.

The truth of the matter is that reaching the final table of a poker tournament represents having played well disciplined poker up until this point. Now that you have reached the pointy end of the tournament, this is not the time to be making rash emotional decisions.

Are you short stacked?


It doesn’t matter because all the players at the final table are facing the same challenges.

While having a larger stack entering the final table would be ideal and perhaps change the way you would play, it’s not always going to be possible. You may have lost a few key pots or been card dead. Once you get down to around 10-12 big blinds your decisions become more simplified. You don’t want to be raising to 3x the big blind and folding to a re-raise. If your hand isn’t good enough to call off with, you shouldn’t play the hand in the first place.

It is also much better to go all-in with this stack size in order to put your opponents to a decision and to maximize your fold equity.

Even if you’re short on chips you only need a few good hands to get back into contention of the top prize. And you should still be looking for good spots to be continually adding chips to your stack. Just because you’re fairly low in chips doesn’t mean you don’t pose a threat to other players, especially other smaller and medium stacks that would be crippled if they were to lose an all-in against you.

As for your lack of experience, if you’ve managed to make the final table, you must be doing something right!

At this point, you have no reason to change what is working very well for you, unless you’re super low in chips and have had to adopt a very tight game to last the money bubble. Decide whether to raise or fold and wait for a better spot based on stack sizes, the players you face at the final table, as well as the payout implications.

At the final table player styles matter the most, so focus on learning their key characteristics to beat them in their own game.

Avoid Distractions

One more thing to keep in mind when you’re playing a poker tournament is that you should avoid any distractions, so you can just focus on playing your best game. While playing an online poker tournament, you can be tempted to watch television, have music in the background, be chatting on facebook, and so on.

There is no way you’re going to play solid poker with all of these distractions, so you definitely need to cut them out.

Read Recommended Tournament Poker Books

“Harrington on Hold’em” by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie [1]  is an excellent tournament book that is definitely worth reading if you’re going to play No Limit Hold’em multi-table poker tournaments.

“Kill Everyone” by Lee Nelson, Tysen Streib and Steven Heston [2]  is a good compliment to Harrington’s book for tournament poker players. The Expanded Edition includes commentary from Bertrand ‘Elky’ Grospellier, who is one of the most successful poker pros on the tournament scene.

*If you want a great site  to play poker tournaments with nice bonus offers for new players, Betway is a highly recommended site for India players.

As explained on our Betway Review, this is one of the largest gambling sites online, not only can you play poker but other casino games as well and bet on sports like cricket and football.


[1], Harrington on Cash Games: How to Win at No-Limit Hold’em Money Games, Vol. 1 Book, 2008

[2], Kill Everyone: Advanced Strategies for No-Limit Hold ’em Poker Tournaments and Sit-n-Go’s Book, 2009