by Tom McEvoy
In this column I would like to offer another tip on how to win poker tournaments. The tip is simply this: “there is no magic formula.” Countless times over the years I have had students ask me for advice on what to do in the latter stages of a tournament. They get thru over 80% of the field, the blinds and antes are much higher and they are short-stacked. They either fail to get into the money or get only a small payoff. Don’t forget that the big money in poker tournaments is usually in the top three spots.
I can tell you that if I had a sure way to get more chips and survive I would do it. Come to think of it, I probably would be very reluctant to broadcast that fact to anybody else. The truth, of course, is that I don’t have a strategy that works all the time. That being said, there are things you can do to increase your chances. Just remember you can’t manufacture a good hand out of thin air.
What you need to do is look for situations that will give you a maximum chance of survival. For example, do you still have fold equity? This means do you have enough chips remaining that if you move-in on somebody in a no limit tournament is it an automatic call on their part because of the size of your stack, or do you have enough chips to force them to have a decent hand to call you. If you are so short-stacked that you will get called by somebody no matter what, then you are going to have to have a hand that has some chance of winning in a showdown. I am looking for players that don’t defend their blinds a lot and will need a stronger hand to call you. If you still have around ten big blinds, then you still have fold equity.
How about when you have a bigger stack? Then before I attack a player who is in one of the blinds, I estimate the size of their stack, and how likely they are to be forced to call me with any two cards. If they have an automatic call on their part, then I will not raise with hands like seven, six suited because I don’t want to risk doubling them up when I have such a marginal hand. If you have a big stack, you don’t want to play bad hands trying to run over the table. That is a good way to let your opponents up off the carpet and wind up becoming a much shorter stack yourself. If your opponents are not fighting back, then go ahead and be more aggressive, just be prepared to change gears when necessary. Players will only allow themselves to be bullied for so long. If anyone is backed into a corner and their survival is at stake, they will fight. That is exactly what happens in poker tournaments.
To summarize, you need to pick your spots carefully. Your observations of your opponents and what you have determined about their tendencies are critical to your chances of success. Big hands often play themselves, it is all the other hands that you consider playing that require good judgment. That is where the skill comes in. The conclusion should be obvious—there are many ways to be successful and there isn’t just one strategy that will work all the time.
Tom McEvoy is the head pro for www.faceupgaming. com It is a legal subscription site that is available for only $24.95 per month. You can win cruises, Aruba trips, and cash prizes. Check it out and use “Tom” as your bonus code.