3 Top Tips to Improve Your Live Tournament Results

No Limit Hold’em is a very diverse game, and there is a world of difference between playing cash games and tournaments even though the basic rules of the game itself don’t change. Likewise, playing live poker tournaments is quite different from playing online MTTs, and there are certain adjustments that can help you improve your performance in a live setting. This article brings you three top tips that will boost both your confidence and your ROI in live poker tournaments and what to consider when playing for real cash.

poker tournaments

Tip 1: Adjust Your Ranges

Very broadly speaking, live poker tournaments are much softer than online tournament as they attract more recreational players with less experience. This fact should be reflected in the way you construct your ranges, as a more exploitative approach will usually do better than sticking to GTO ranges and balanced play.

opening ranges

It doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the idea of hand selection and just get it in with random hand, but you’ll usually have a chance to see cheap multi-way pots and can take advantage of that. Try to mix in some hands that have solid nuts potential, like suited aces and pocket pairs, and see if you can get lucky on the flop. When you do, try and go for the maximum value; when you don’t, don’t get stubborn and insist on winning pots at all costs. Simply wait for a better opportunity.

This poker tournament strategy works well in live events because players don’t pay as close attention as they do online to what you’re doing and they don’t have stats available to them to indicate your exact ranges. Playing an exploitative style in live MTTs will pay off in the long run, simply because there isn’t as much downside to it. If people aren’t taking advantage of your exploitative play, just go for it.

Tip 2: When Blinds Go Up, Start Pouncing

An aggressive approach to poker is generally considered to be good, but this especially applies to live tournaments. As the blinds start to go up and antes kick in, you should start putting your chips to work and open with a broader range of hands. This doesn’t mean you should be reckless with your stack, but if you are in late position and there are no aggressive actions in front of you, there is no reason to be shy about going after the pot.


The reason why this approach is even more effective in live tournaments than in online MTTs is the fact people really hate busting live events; there’s much more of an emotional connection to one’s tournament life. When playing online, people aren’t particularly shy about getting their chips in the middle because there is always another tournament they can register for right away if they feel like playing some more. Additionally, they don’t have to deal with the “walk of shame” that comes with busting in a live tournament.

Keep all these factors in mind when playing live and, as blinds go up and those uncontested pots become increasingly important, look to become the table captain. Of course, always stay aware of the situation and adjust your play accordingly if you notice someone is starting to challenge you, but stealing blinds aggressively can be one of the best ways to build your stack in live tournaments.

Tip 3: Don’t Neglect Live Tells

Some players believe that poker tells are overrated; others think tells are hugely important in live games, and it is hard to say who’s right and who’s wrong. However, the fact remains that live tells do exist, and they’re something you should most certainly take advantage of when possible.


Rounders’ Mike McDermott had a keen eye for spotting tells in his opponents.

Many good books and articles explainin how to crush live poker games while taking into consideration different types of tells. Thus, we won’t go into specific reads in this article, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of information if you aren’t paying attention to the behavior of other players. Keep in mind that many players in live tournaments aren’t hardcore professionals – unless you’re playing in High Roller events – so they won’t be particularly good at hiding their emotions.

Moreover, you don’t have to be a master of psychology to recognize many of these tells. They should be fairly easy to spot because they’re part of normal human behavior, so you’ll instinctively know how to interpret them. The old saying “Strong means weak and weak means strong” holds true in many cases, so you can often easily interpret your opponents’ behavior.

Naturally, you should still stick to playing solid poker and making decisions primarily based on the underlying math of the situation, but keeping an eye out for obvious tells should help you win extra few pots or lose fewer chips in bad spots.



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Tadas Peckaitis poker author
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Tadas Peckaitis

Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author of the free poker book “Play ‘A’ game and be the boss at your poker table”, and poker coach at He is also a big fan of personal effectiveness and always trying to do more. Tadas shares his knowledge about both of these topics with his […]


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