Getting Off to a Good Start Early in a Tournament

The age old question, "Should I play loose or tight early in a tournament?" - has stumped many.

In massive field tournaments, like we’ll witness here in Las Vegas in the near future, there’s a premium for accruing chips. Quite simply, the only people that make it to the final table of these tournaments are the players that consistently chip-accumulated. If we know going into these massive-field tournaments we’ll need to build an incredibly large stack, it’s important to start accumulating right from the beginning.

These tournaments are only so many hours long; we can’t afford to spend multiple hours on cruise control and not actively pursuing spots to increase our tournament equity. There’s almost zero room for treading water in these tournaments. Blinds are always increasing and with players naturally getting knocked out, stacks will be consolidating all around us.

Be sure to maximize your equity in the first hour of a tournament – just as zealously as you would in the last hour.

Build Your Stack Through Aggression

Earlier in the article we discussed whether it’s appropriate to play loose or tight early in a tournament. I’m of the opinion that there are only so many levels in a tournament, so we should be trying to maximize the profitability of each level.

Never has there been a more appropriate discussion as to when aggression should be utilized in a tournament, given it’s the week of the Colossus. Between all of the starting days, there will be well over 10,000 entries into the tournament. The players that make the final table of this tournament will be aggressive players; every last one of them.

Think of aggression as the ratio between how often a player bets and raises, versus how often they call. One reason aggression is so profitable is it allows us to capitalize on both hand-strength equity as well as fold-equity. We can work aggression into drawing situations by betting or raising rather than calling post-flop, as one of countless possible examples.

Many people confuse aggression with looseness, they’re not the same. We have the option of playing loose aggressive or tight aggressive, as well as a million shades in between. The most important thing is to adjust according the conditions at your table. There will also be times when we’ll choose to be passive, like when we’re set-mining, but for the most part we’ll want to be in control of the hands we play pre-flop and post-flop.

If you get into a situation where you don’t know whether to make a play or not, do it. In big-field tournaments, aggressive players give themselves the opportunity to cash in the top spots.

Mark Brown
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