I love playing multi-table bounty tournaments. There is no greater thrill than to knock somebody out and collect their bounty. Not only do you get a nice pile of chips to add to your stack, but you also get a cash reward for wiping out an opponent. Being successful in bounty tournaments, however, requires a few subtle adjustments to your normal MTT strategy.
Bluffing, small ball go out the window early
Because of the prospect of bounties, an overly aggressive, pre-flop strategy may not be ideal. Your 3-bets and raises will get called more often because players are searching for bounties and will play more speculative hands than normal, especially if their chip-stack is larger than yours. It’s probably a good idea to dial back on your bluffing early. Instead, wait for a premium hand and then extract maximum value from opponents who are chasing bounties with speculative hands – gut-shot straights, sets or flushes.
While Daniel Negreanu and many pros opt for a small ball strategy – i.e. keeping pots small in the early levels – in standard MTTs, that goes out the window in bounty tournaments. The competition for bounties can lead to huge pots early. This is a good thing for bounty tournaments if you pay attention to the first piece of advice. One of the rules of bounty tourneys is to get your chip stack built up early, and you do this by taking advantage of others’ loose play and their quest for bounties.
Keep an eye on stack sizes
If a small-stack player goes all-in, it’s not unusual to see three or even four players call to see the flop. In a regular NLHE tournament, it would be common to see the other players check down all the way to the river in an effort to knock out the all-in player. In bounty tourneys, however, the size of a player’s stack is less important that the possibility of getting his or her bounty. As a result, if you are in a multi-way pot with one player already all-in, expect the other player(s) to try to drive you out of the pot so they can get isolated with the all-in player. Everybody wants a one-on-one shot at the bounty.
This is why calling may not be an ideal strategy, especially if you are in an early position. Let’s say you have 50 BBs and the player to your right shoves his remaining 8 BBs in the middle. You are in UTG+2 and look down at A-9 suited.
In late position, with no other action in front of you, this would be an ideal time to shove to try to isolate the all-in player and collect the bounty. However, in an early position, it’s probably safer to fold this hand. Calling would inflate the pot further and put you at risk of getting shoved on by a later player with a bigger stack.
In this situation, ask yourself if it is worth the risk of going all-in. If so, push all your chips into the middle. Be the aggressor. However, if there are several bigger stacks to act after you, caution is probably the better part of valor in this regard. You don’t want to get knocked out chasing a bounty with good, but not great, cards.
B-b-b-b-b-b-b Bounty Fever, I think it’s going around
The interesting thing about bounty tourneys is when to make the strategy shift from chasing bounties to playing it straight up. A few weeks ago, I had made it to the final 3 tables of a $54 bounty tourney that had more than 1,300 players. I collected five scalps and was assured of at least a $200 prize, when I got caught between a rock and a hard place. A player with a small stack (about 50,000 chips) went all-in pre-flop. I had been watching this guy, and he had a habit of going all-in with not exactly great cards.
I had A-10 offsuit and it folded to me in the cutoff. I was fairly confident I had the person going all-in beat (I was right, he had Q-9), but I was very worried about the BB, because he had a much bigger stack than I did.
I was going to play it safe and fold, but at the last second decided to go for it. I had a bad case of bounty fever. Of course, the BB called with A-K and knocked me out (the flop came up K-10-8).
Knowing when to shift your focus from bounties to playing it straight up is critical. When the prize money jumps become greater than the value of the bounty, it’s probably not a bad idea to start playing it straight up.