Multi-table tournaments or MTTs are one of the most exciting formats of poker. A small initial investment (known as the buy-in) can yield big rewards if you make it through to the final table, or even win the tournament.
It can take a long time to master the many facets of winning tournament play and this is a brief introduction into just a few of the strategies that can help you advance. Of course there are many different ways to skin a cat so be sure to think out your own lines (ways of playing situations) and techniques.
So you’ve paid your buy-in, taken your seat and the first hand is being dealt. What should you do now?
Well, firstly it is important to be patient over the early levels. The blinds are small compared to the stack sizes, so you are under no pressure to play lots of hands just yet.
Typically, you will start the tournament with weaker players who have yet to be weeded out, so patiently waiting for decent hands such as big pairs and ace-king, ace-queen type hands is a perfectly viable strategy.
When you play pots, look to get value for your big hands whilst exercising caution when you have medium strength hands and face resistance. Pocket tens might look pretty but there’s no need to get married to these hands on risky flops or facing strong pre-flop resistance.
You should look to accumulate chips however so when the situation demands, you can take speculative shots with small portions of your stack with hands such as suited connectors (like 7d 8d) and small pocket pairs, looking to flop trips, straights and flushes.
Typically conditions are right for playing these sorts of hands when you are in later positions (hijack to button) and when many people are in the pot or when you believe your opponent to have a strong hand that will pay you off should you hit.
If you reach the middle stages, when antes may also be introduced, you should loosen up the kinds of hands you play with, as stealing the blinds becomes more valuable – adding a much bigger % to your stack. Start raising more often from the hijack, cut-off and button at this stage with a wider range of hands.
Keep an eye on the other players at your table as well. Although you may be moved about from table to table during the tournament, you may well play with some players for a while, so observe them closely to see if you notice any patterns of behaviour.
Do they play big pairs in a certain way? Do they raise often from late position? Do they defend raises of their blinds much?
If you ask yourself these sorts of questions, you will get information that could be invaluable during a particular hand they play with you.
These are just a few points to think about during the early to mid stages of MTTs, and we will go into a more complex strategy including bubble dynamics and final table scenarios at a later date.