Poker Tournament Advice You Should Ignore And Habits You Should Break
Lots of tournament players fall into bad habits that wind up costing them chunks of chips. Some of these leaks are actually couched in what many players believe to be legitimate tournament strategy. Identifying these behaviors in your play style, and working to correct them, can dramatically improve your tournament results.
Bad Habit #1
I've got to keep you honest
I think you've got me but I feel like giving you some chips anyway
When faced with a river bet, you have three options: fold, call or raise. If you are pretty confident your opponent has you beat, the one thing you don't do is call. You either fold and save your chips or try to take the pot down with an aggressive re-raise. If you think calling when you know you're beat will deter your opponents from betting against you later in the hand, you are sadly mistaken.
Bad Habit #2
I needed the information
I'm willing to waste my chips to see what you are holding because this intelligence will help me defeat you later
Too many players overvalue poker "intelligence", especially in a tournament. In a multi-table tournament, you're just not going to get enough data to generate any reliable assessments of your opponent. You change tables frequently, and players come and go as they are knocked out.
Instead of wasting your precious chips in some vain effort to find out that your opponent opened from an early position with K-8 suited, you are better off just paying attention to every hand and trying to make assessments of who are the good players at your table. You may waste 15 percent of your stack paying for information only to see that player moved to another table three hands later, or knocked out by somebody else at the table who took advantage of the information you paid for.
Considering that only about one in four hands actually make it to showdown, most of the intelligence to be gleaned is going to come by observing your opponents' betting patterns pre- and post-flop and not from seeing your opponents' hole cards. Remember that the best time to get information is when you are NOT in the hand, and "paying" for information is never a good idea.
Bad Habit #3
Always defend your blinds
When you're in the big blind or small blind, you must call any pre-flop raise
This is one of the worst pieces of advice a tournament player can follow, especially in the latter stages of a tournament when most hands are decided pre-flop. There's a saying in the stock market, "Don't throw away good money after bad." If the stock is a loser, cut your losses and look elsewhere for profit. If you get bad cards in the big or small blind, let them go no matter how tempting the pot odds are. Remember that you still have bad cards and you will be playing out of position after the flop. There's no reason to risk a significant percentage of your stack hoping for a miracle flop. Save your chips for when you have good cards to play.
Bad Habit #4
The price was right to call
I knew I was behind, but the pot odds were so good I had to call
In tournaments you want to get into as many +EV situations as possible. Pot odds encourage you to play -EV situations as long as the "odds" are in your favor. Early in a tournament, when blinds are small and effective stack sizes are huge, it makes more sense to play speculative hands, as long as you keep the pots small.
Playing pot odds, especially late in a tournament, when blinds are big and effective stack sizes are small, can cost you a shot at a really big payday. When your stack size gets to be less than 15-20 big blinds, it's time to stop chasing flushes, straights and sets. You're looking for monsters to shove with and not hands where you need help, because that help doesn't always come.
Pot odds are more important for cash players, whose losses are limited to how much they bought in for, and who can rebuy if they get wiped out. Tournament players, however, have a much bigger pot at the end of the rainbow and only get one shot at it
Bad Habit #5
Watch out for big stacks
Try to avoid tangling with one of the chip leaders at your table because they can take you out
This part is true. The chip leader, or any player with more chips than you, can take you out on any hand. Instead of being afraid of the chip leader, look at them as the source of a double-up because they might actually be more willing to enter into -EV spots in an effort to knock you out. This is when you want to use their stack and lack of discipline against them, even if you are also one of the big stacks.