Not everyone has the same approach to multi-table tournaments

That’s why poker is so much fun… This article focuses on the early levels of MTTs, particularly limping in with, for example, small pairs when in position.

Some players stick so rigidly to the ‘never waste a single chip’ strategy that they deny themselves opportunities to capitalise on the flexibility the ‘cheap’ blinds afford us during the early phase of a tournament, and with this wriggle room the chance to substantially increase their stack.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we limp in with everything when in late position, rather than we’re selective. During the initial blind levels there tends to be quite a lot of limping, so having position on opponents is very good for us, not least because with each player who calls our odds are improving. Additionally, when we do hit a monster, our post-flop problem is a pleasant one in that we’re simply looking to make the most of the situation.

Note that, due to the ratio of blinds to stack size and the potentially juicy implied odds, we’re getting so much more value every time we manage to see a flop with a small pocket pair, for instance. As the blinds increase, so this value goes down, to the point that in later stages it will no longer be a viable tactic to limp in. Consequently, it’s reasonable – as long as we feel comfortable with a ‘speculate to accumulate’ policy – to make hay while the sun shines while the relatively inexpensive blinds afford us such a luxury.

Having said that, we still need to respect the numbers – not necessarily religiously, because factoring in implied odds gives us a bit of extra flexibility. So, when dealt a small pocket pair, we include in our pre-flop considerations the fact that we can expect to see our hand promoted to at least a set around 11% of the time. If, for example, it comes down to nobody else being involved but us and the Big Blind, who raises, we can be happy to adjust based on the more important elements of the hand, a notable one being our having position for however long play will continue. Note that this scenario is more likely to happen in earlier levels when the Big Blind doesn’t have to pay so much to try to steal the pot from what they might think is someone on the Button trying to see a cheap Flop.

Back to the hand – if we don’t hit the Flop, we already have a pair but, crucially, we have position. Consequently, we don’t necessarily need to hit to win, and it’s a case of waiting to see what our opponent does. We answer passivity with aggression. Meanwhile, given a certain amount of experience and confidence, an option should the BB come out betting is to float along and try to execute a believable steal on a later street with a hefty raise. Alternatively, a raise on the Flop can be a powerful play. And what if we do indeed flop a set? Again, much depends on their action, or otherwise. But if they bet we should call, then either call again on the Turn or raise, depending on where we judge they are in relation to the board.

Note that we don’t have to limp in regardless. This is something to incorporate into our game, as opposed to an obligatory tactic in this kind of situation. In fact, we don’t want to make a habit of limping specifically with small pairs and thus become predictable and thus exploitable.

Instead, we should (re)raise occasionally pre-flop to mix things up a bit. In our example, then, rather than just call the BB’s raise we could show some strength, get the message across that we’ll be taking over from here, thank you very much. If the BB is indeed punishing our limp with the intention of stealing the pot, a sizeable reraise gives them an excuse to step away and keep their powder dry, especially when they face the prospect of being out of position. If they call, then we act accordingly depending on what the Flop brings.

Again, this is another string to our bow, to be used sparingly. But these options do highlight the advantages afforded us when dealt a small pair in position during the phase of a tournament when the blinds are cheap enough to allow us to speculate very cheaply and maximizes our chances of a potentially game-changing payout.

Such thinking is key in the quest to gradually build up our stack as a tournament progresses. The more we add to our bag of tricks, the more options we have, and some – due to the structural nature of tournaments – have a finite window in which we can take advantage. What is clear in the modern game is that folding all but premium hands in late position are essentially playing with the crooked bat, as they say.

Have fun!



AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 21.12.2020 · last updated 21.12.2020

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