The Best Tips for Playing Poker Tournaments

By Marcus Harmon
July 12, 2021

There comes a time in every poker player’s journey when they set their sights on making it to the big leagues by competing at a tournament final table. After all, we’ve been raised on the legend of Chris Moneymaker and his staggering success at the 2003 World Series of Poker. The man himself is living proof of what you can achieve by following your dreams…

However, it wasn’t dreaming alone that got Moneymaker through the endless satellite rounds to the most prestigious seat in pro poker. He was aided by an innate talent for the game, airtight strategy and a winning mindset, all-wrapped up inside a perfectly executable plan.

If you’re looking to break into the tournament scene and maybe someday compete in the WSOP yourself, there are some key things you should bear in mind that will set you up for success, no matter long you’ve been in the poker game for.


Skills Development

This tip is specifically aimed at beginners, but more experienced players can get a lot of value out of giving their basic poker skills a refresh.

Before you even think about signing up for a tourney in your area, you need to have played a variety of different types of poker games against a variety of different players.

Tournament poker is very different from cash game poker, so exposing yourself to unfamiliarity at the start will condition you to play at your best in the strangest environments.

Don’t discount playing online poker either. While some cash game players prefer not to dabble with poker in the digital realm, playing poker real money games online can actually be invaluable for the player looking to break into the tournament scene. The faster pace of online poker will train your brain to think critically and strategically on your feet, and you can find yourself dueling against some genuine pros in the online realm.

Chip Stacks are Important

As you might have already inferred, tournaments are different to cash games, so your strategy needs to be different too. If there’s one simple piece of advice that we can give players at the beginning of their tournament careers it’s that playing in a tournament is all about survival. Once you lose your chips, you’ve lost your place in the game.

Knowing how many chips you have and how your stack compares to the increasing blinds in a tournament will determine how you need to play. Think of your chips as changing in value: at the start of the tournament, you’ll have plenty of chips compared to blinds, but as blinds increase your chips will likely decrease too.

Keep your stack at a healthy level at all times and you’ll be well on your way to the final table.

Improving your Profitability

Even if you’re some years away from competing in those big-money tournaments, you’ll still want to focus on maximizing the opportunity to make a profit during each event you play.

Improving your profitability during a poker tournament can be achieved by following four simple, but golden, rules:

  1. Play a tight game during the early stages. Maintain your stack at a healthy level by resisting the urge to play second or third-best hands.
  2. Loosen your game during the middle stages by stealing blinds and antes
  3. Don’t make big raises in the late stages of the event; mini-raises are more than adequate during these moments.
  4. When you do play your hand, do so aggressively. Fold or raise when you need to, but only call in those instances where no other options are available.


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Marcus Harmon poker author
Written By.

Marcus Harmon

Marcus Harmon is a poker writer and editor of Sunshine Poker Rooms, a poker news and information source. With a decade of experience in the online gaming industry, Marcus has been lucky enough to have met and indeed been beaten by some of the great players. His other passions are soccer and travel.

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