From the Blog

A brief history of online poker

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery

Firbolg is Back

Key Tournament Strategy Tips (Part One)

Tournaments (MTTs) are one of most lucrative ways to build up a bankroll and make a lot of money in a short period of time. Compared to that of cash games, tournaments will provide a large prize pool and an often more than rewarding first prize.

However, they are far from easy to master and require a lot of skill and patience to succeed. Throughout this two part article series, we will be looking at; end game bet sizing, exploiting limpers, squeezing, tournament selection and a deep stack overview before finishing with some key points.

End Game Bet Sizing

Most bet sizing concepts advocate that you should be looking to remain as consistent as possible so your opponents can’t pick any betting pattern tells from you. However, as we reach the end of tournaments this concept should be adapted slightly due to the stack dynamics that occur throughout a tournament.

If at the beginning of a tournament we start off with 100 big blinds then we do so with all of our opponents on the same amount. As the tournament progresses, stack sizes will differ, it’s at this point the tournaments average stack size comes into play and becomes much more significant.

If the average stack size reduces to say half of the original stack (in terms of big blinds) then this should adjust the amount in which we want to start opening with.

For example, in the early stages its pretty common for players to adopt an opening bet size of around 2.5-3.5 big blinds. This is because we have more chips to play with and the blinds are less, so our opening amount to stack size remains relatively low. However, as our stack decreases in terms of big blinds, we should look to lower our opening bet sizing to around 2-2.5 big blinds. This means that we can risk a lower percentage of our stack whilst still showing aggression pre flop.

There are key factors to consider however, such as opponents stack sizes and player tendencies. For someone who has a shallower stack we can raise less (fewer big blinds), due to the fact they have fewer chips in play. With a larger stack to our left, we need to look at how our stack compares to theirs and whether they have been aggressive or not previously to people opening.

Exploiting Limpers

Generally when a player limps, it is a sign of weakness of a relatively weak hand whilst a player tries to get a cheap look at the flop. They can be some of the easiest players to exploit in the game and for tournament play, can be a great way to pick up a lot of dead money from the pot.

There are however, factors to consider when any player limps.

  • Playing style – if you see someone who constantly tries to limp in then it’s pretty clear they are going to be weak, passive players and it’s these players that we should be targeting to raise and take down the free money. However, if a player we know is competent then raising might not be the best line. We should look to either fold or maybe try and also enter into the pot cheaply.
  • Blind level – In the tournaments earlier stages its harder to get people to lay down their hands with a raise after they have limped in, simply because the amount they have to call in relation to their stack is much less. Targeting limpers in the latter stages will have a much higher success rate.
  • Stack sizes – Limpers who have only a few big blinds left are less likely to fold when you try and steal their money, so make sure that if you do decide to steal that you have a legitimate hand
  • Position – From the blinds is one of the most popular places for players to try and take the aggressive line with limpers already in the pot. However, if they are called then they have to play the whole pot out of position which is less than desirable. If we are looking to steal, try and do it whilst in position on the button or in the cut off, this way if they do call we will be able to take the appropriate lines whilst acting last post flop.


The squeeze play can be very high risk in tournaments but if it comes off, extremely rewarding. The concept of the squeeze is 3 betting two or more opponents that have entered the pot of which we think can get to fold their hand pre flop.

By squeezing, we are looking to show massive strength, which may not actually be the case. Instead of just calling with most marginal hands after a raise and at least one call, we are implying that our hand holds great strength and putting our opponents under a lot of pressure by 3 betting.

However, over the past few years since its introduction by Dan Harrington in the books ‘Harrington on Holdem’ many players have started to become wise to the play and try to counter it, that’s why in the modern game, we must have a diligent set of rules of which we must stick to.

  • Know your opponent – this is the most important factor before considering any squeeze play. A lot of articles out there say we should be targeting loose players who open a lot rather than the tighter players who are raising better hands. Whilst this theory has its merits, the tight player is likely to fold a lot of hands and the loose player may be a savvy internet player who isn’t afraid to come back over the top. For this reason we need to meticulously select which players we think will fold to our squeeze
  • Know your callers – do you think the player who has flatted the opening raise is creative enough to be trapping with their premium hands in this situation? If the answer is yes, then this not a good spot to squeeze.
  • Our hand strength – the beauty of the squeeze play is that we can execute it with a wide range of hands, from junk to premiums. Our hand can become irrelevant if we find the right opponents to target.