To Cards chat in general for helping me grow into the player I am now, if it was not for this site and the members I have became friends with this strategy would never have been made! Also a big thanks to Inscore for helping add some things and helping also with fine tuning it.
First let me start off by saying that this is my own strategy that may be similar to other ones, or somewhat slightly off and in some eyes not right....but that is their opinion and and it has worked for me so It doesn't really matter. I also want to let you know that I am open to making this strategy better, by being open to new suggestions or comments about the strategy, which can be done by commenting on my blog. Other than that I hope this strategy helps you to win money and be successful in poker tournaments!
Beginning until first break-
This part of the strategy may be very similar to other strategies that you may have read about or followed. This is a very critical part of the path to the Final Table, although almost every section of this strategy is critical but this is where we build our stack in order to survive raising blinds, and eventual use our stack as an aggressive weapon, but I'll shed light on that subject later.
Small Ball Poker-
This is a term used by many professionals including Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, and many others. I actually learned this way of playing when first reading Daniel Negreanu's book. Here is my unofficial definition of "Small Ball Poker"- Playing more pots than usual, while being aggressive and taking down small pots to build a larger stack slowly but surely.
The definition explains that you play a lot of pots, well in my strategy I don't play as many, I actually play fairly tight, but when I do play a hand, I play like this. Also later in this strategy I use this Small Ball strategy almost exactly.
Starting Hands and Selection-
These are the starting hands that are played in this strategy up to the first break.
(AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 10 10):
These hands I'm raising in any position usually about 3x-4x the BB(Big Blind). I know it's different than in all the poker books
, and from what all the pros say. Usually it's 3x the BB, but with these hands and my strategy I raise 4x or 3x the BB also so remember that! The main reason this is done is to prevent the weak hands from playing or maybe even stray low PP away and not from hitting. This is standard other than the 4x the BB raise, I only do this to keep the aggressive aura and betting strategy intact. The last and final thing is, if you are going to raise, raise either one all the time, if you raise 3 x the BB all the time it will be harder to read by others when your raising since you always raise with 3x wether you have AA or AK. Same as 4x the BB, if you do it once, do it the rest of the time.
(AK, AQ, AJ, A 10, KQ):
These hands are mainly played in late position(one of the last three spots starting from the dealer button counter clockwise). With the exception of raising AK and AQ in any position. Another possible controversial play, but this is how my strategy is played. My thoughts on A 10, AJ, and KQ are as follows. Honestly I don't like them this early in a tournament and they can get you into some trouble, mainly due to kicker problems(hitting an A, K, or Q and not having the kicker to beat hands that are better. Any of these hands the standard raise here is 3x the BB unlike the high PPs talked about earlier. Try not to play these at all especially not in early position.
With these low PPs(Pocket Pairs) I'm "limping in"(calling the same amount of the current BB), in any position, and never raising(at least at this point in the tournament). The best thing to do is just limp and hope others also get in, because the more people in the hand when you hit your set the better. These hands are also really nice to play since they are easy to get away from and usually you can't lose a lot of money, and you usually win a lot of money. There can be times where you limp in and someone else raises. In this situation you can call depending on position(mainly late) and how much the raise is or how many raises/reraises are done. There are numbers out there but I came up with my own for myself and this is what I follow for this particular strategy. Whenever you are facing a raise while holding a PP only call a raise up to 6% of your stack. The good thing about this is that usually people are raising 3x the BB and if you have an average stack you can easily call that. If you have a short stack it doesn't mean that you fold since its too much because usually your in the push/fold stage and push in that situation anyways. I like to call these the sniper hands, because usually they are not picked up on and no one sees it coming.
Raisng when faced with limpers-
The general rule of thumb is to raise your standard amount plus one big blind per limper. So if you're raising 4xbb normally, then will two limpers in front your raise would be 6xbb (4 + 1*2).
Raising when faced with raisers-
Try and make a good read on your opponent especially if you have KK or QQ as they may have AA or KK. Also remember the small PP rule of percentage, usually you will be folding to reraises or even big raises.
1st Break-2nd Break/3rd, 4th, etc.-
By this time the blinds are getting higher and the average stack is raising also. This part goes for all the breaks that it takes to get to about 10-20 people before the bubble. I'll explain why it stops at 10-20 people before the bubble in the next part, let's just focus on this time period for now. By this time hopefully you have built a nice stack which is either over or around average. Obviously being a big stack is nice but if your around or at average your still doing well and have a good shot at making the final table.
This is the way that I learned to calculate where I am at stack wise compared to everyone else in a tournament. If you have less than 12 BB: Short Stack, 12-16 BB: Mid Short, 16-22: Mid., 22-30: Mid High, 30+ : Large. The math is simple, take your stack divided by the current BB(grade school math lol)
Starting Hands and Selection-
Same as the starting hands for the first hour. I would also like to note that this strategy does not contain the use of suited connectors, which many love and can get attached to. Although many pros say to switch gears by raising in position with suited connectors and such, but this strategy does not! Suited connectors can be used to hit multiple different combinations of hands but can also get you in trouble if you do not know how to play them correctly. For now stay away from them and don't even limp with them in late position.
Pocket Pairs during this period-
This is different than the beginning until break, since now is when I actual raise with 99-77. Although only raise in late positions. This is mainly to switch gears and keep others guessing, so limp in late position every once and a while too.
10-20 people away from ITM(In the Money)-
Here is where we start to loosen up more than ever compared to any other point in the tournament and at the same time become ultra aggressive. You ask why, well it's simple but you must be careful at the same time and pick your spots. The reason why we do this is because many, especially the smaller stacks or average stacks wanna make the money and do not wanna risk losing their stack right before it hits. So you can take advantage by being aggressive and raising with a wider range of hands in position and also UTG(under the gun). Raising under the gun may sound bad but it is not, in fact it can be very effective in stealing blinds, NOT IN STEALING POTS ON OR AFTER THE FLOP(remember that) for you are OOP(out of position) and have a less advantage. If you have a small stack you are usually push/fold anyways so this doesn't apply, only to average or big stacks(which you should be by playing this strategy). Here is when you play all the hands in the last two sections plus suited connectors in position, and also raising in position with hands like (KJ, QJ, K 10, Q 10)
Remember other players, especially big stacks will also take advantage and many player in which you are bullying wont just take the beating, so pick your spots and try and spot out all the folders or tight scared people. On another note, make sure to take notes if possible throughout the tourney or now, if you can pin point a couple tight players, ATTACK! Also if you have a poker manager software you obviously can tell who is who through stats. The main point is to be more aggressive than ever at this time of the tournament.
Alright, the infamous Final Table. From Studying actual videos of my own final table finishes, I've put together the best information, not only to get higher in the money, but to win the whole tournament!
The Final Table, Just like the bubble is extremely tight, just like right before the bubble, but It seems every time I played like I do before the bubble(LAG), I end up getting knocked out way too early(9th,8th,7th, etc.). I've noticed that by playing tight I have gotten farther, as the goal is to win or get maximum prize money, but at the same time I still steal blinds.....
Please be careful and follow these instructions carefully. While stealing blinds, you can run into a hand, which is usually calling or re-raising, which means you obviously have to slow down. Now in some cases, if you have been repeatedly stealing from the same person/people a re-steal can be made, therefore looking like a big hand but is most likely weaker than yours. This brings us to when and who you actually steal from during the final table....
As was said before taking notes can be a huge advantage in the way you make plays or steal blinds from certain players.
My main concern for anyone willing to put there neck out there and steal some blinds is that many do it too much or do it in a certain patter to the same people without realizing it. Try and switch it up in a random order on the people you know are tight, make no common pattern, even make the raises different sizes, but not enough to seem strange.
I have noticed through research and studying that blind stealing is crucial in order to survive the blinds growing higher since the play is tight and few are getting knocked out.
Play here tends to get loose, as others know at this point that the odds
have changed. My suggestion is to again play tight but steal when possible. Don't forget, your not the most unlucky person here, you will get a nice hand from time to time and could possibly double up or knock someone out, stealing isn't your only option to survive. If you are up against all the loose/stealing type of players, then let them hang themselves and kill each other. It would be better to have a big stack take out 3 people to make it HU than you being knocked out in 4th or 5th, think about it.
The only time you should play aggressive here is if the others or the majority are tight players, then be hyper aggressive! Take control of everything, make them pay to see anything, but don't get caught bluffing!
One word: Aggression.
Depending on if you are a big stack, low stack, or even, some things could change for this strategy. But if you are even in stacks or if you are the big stack especially, be the aggressor, and ATTACK! Raise in position, with a wide range of hands. I don't want to go through the fundamentals of HU, but you should all know any Ace, PP's, or face cards, are good.
If you are a low stack, congrats for getting this far, and don't give up, you still have a chance here. My suggestion here is to pretty much push when you have any of the hands above obviously, but also try and steal in some situations. Depending on how low of a stack you are could be dangerous since the big stack could be calling with almost anything to win. Obviously don't push with any hand, wait for your spot, you'll know!
Never be scared in this situation also, no matter what your stack size is either. Just be confident and play with your instincts, the other player doesn't have a hand every time so don't be afraid to raise your middle pair on the flop, or semi-bluff with a flush draw or straight draw.
C-bettting and beating the C-better
C-betting can be and cannot be profitable, depending on when and who you use this bet on. Obviously scouting your opponents while playing at the same table can maximize this strategy. Using a Poker manager or a Poker Tracker type software is best since it shows whether they are tight pre flop, or make c-bets themselves. If you are not using software like this like I do, then you must pay attention to everything, from betting patterns to bluffing, always, ALWAYS pay attention. This means no distractions during a tournament. If you are serious about making money please follow this rule.
Now for the actual strategy. First we will start with C-betting. If you do not know already C-betting means: Continuation Betting: and it is exactly what it sounds, for example:
Here is a hand FR(Full Ring) with two player to the flop.
Hero raises 3 x the BB on the button and Villan calls in the BB.
Flop: 10 J 3
Hero: Bets 3/4 the pot this is a text book C-bet. Hero doesn't have a made hand, but since he has position on Villan, he bets and takes down the pot in most cases...........this is were stopping the C-better comes into play.
Lets say we are the Villan, in his position with the same hand scenario. In this case if you have a good read, or think that since Hero is on the button he has a hand like AK or AQ and is just C-betting, we could try a re-steal.(this is a very advanced move and isn't used a lot). Remember if they re-raise or just call on the flop we must slow down. This can be done to aggressive stealers, which hopefully you have spotted by now through your software or notes by paying CLOSE attention. This is also a nice thing which will pay off later, when blinds go up even more, they won't try and steal your blinds and make moves constantly.