Introduction to Poker Tournaments

Poker tournaments offer a competitive environment where players vie for a share of a predetermined prize pool. The objective is simple: outlast your opponents to win the largest possible share. Tournaments differ from cash games in that you buy-in for a fixed amount and play until you’re out of chips. There are various types of poker tournaments:

  1. Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs): These tournaments have multiple tables, with players being balanced between tables as others are knocked out.
  2. Sit-and-Go Tournaments (SNGs): These start when a predetermined number of players sit down.
  3. Turbo and Hyper-Turbo: These have quicker blind levels.
  4. Satellite Tournaments: These offer entries into bigger events as prizes rather than cash.
  5. Freerolls: Free entry but with a real money prize pool.

Basic Rules and Objective

You buy-in for a set amount in exchange for chips. Blinds increase at regular intervals. Your objective is to accumulate all the chips. The last person standing is usually the biggest winner, although most tournaments pay out to a small portion of the field.

Pre-flop Strategy

Hand Selection

Strong starting hands are crucial. Premium hands like AA, KK, QQ, and AK are almost always worth raising. Medium-strength hands like suited connectors can be valuable in late position. Weak hands should generally be folded.

Bet Sizing

In tournaments, a common pre-flop raise is to 2.5x-3x the big blind. Sizing may vary based on stage, stack sizes, and table dynamics.

Post-flop Strategy


Being ‘in position‘ gives you the advantage of acting last, providing crucial information.

Reading Opponents

Look for betting patterns, timing, and table talk to gauge the strength of your opponents’ hands.

Pot Control

Manage the size of the pot based on the strength of your hand, the board texture, and your read on your opponents.

Independent Chip Model (ICM)

ICM helps you understand your chips’ value, especially crucial in the late stages or on the final table. It calculates your equity share of the prize pool in a tournament based on the stack sizes and payout structure.

Betting and Raising Strategy

Size your bets relative to the pot. A ‘half-pot’ or ‘three-quarters pot’ bet is standard. Know when to be aggressive; leveraging a strong position or stack size can pay dividends.

Bluffing Strategy

Bluffing is an art. Successful bluffing involves representing a hand you don’t have while picking the right moments and opponents to deceive. Defend against bluffs by identifying ‘tells’ or inconsistencies in betting patterns.

Bankroll Management

Keep track of your poker finances. Never invest more than 1-2% of your bankroll in a single tournament to mitigate variance.

Mental Game

Poker is a game of skill and psychology. Stay focused, manage your emotions, and always be learning. Avoid tilt, as emotional play will erode your decision-making abilities.

Specific Tips for Tournament Stages

  • Early Stages: Play tight and pick your spots.
  • Mid-Stages: Start taking calculated risks.
  • Late Stages: Use ICM and shift gears as needed.

Types of Poker Tournaments

  • MTTs: Suited for patient players who can outlast large fields.
  • SNGs: Great for quick sessions and honing short-handed and heads-up skills.
last updated 18.09.2023