Aplace at the final table of online poker tournaments is up for grabs from the very first hand

The most important consideration in the early stages of online poker tournaments (MTTs) is the size of the blinds.

Usually, these begin tiny and double every fifteen to twenty minutes. Some bigger online poker tournaments increase the blinds even more slowly, placing a premium on patient play.

We’ve seen how aggression and blind stealing is critical to survival in any tournament. There is a caveat, though.

Making a bold move when the blinds are very small risks more than the potential reward is worth.

The opening stages of a MTT are frequently very cagey.

Most of the better players will sit back, prepared to fold all but the most premium hands, passing the time by observing their opponents. Given that you’re aiming to become one of those better players, you need to learn the vital talent of patience.

Wait for your moment

Remember the example of Russell Crowe in the first part of this series? He’s the ultimate gladiator, able to adjust his style of combat according to the actions of his opponents. You must aim to emulate this at all stages of an online poker tournament.

But in the opening blind levels, when the combined blinds are small, you should only be moving with a very strong hand.

There are exceptions. I mentioned how most online poker tournaments have some over-aggressive, impatient players. You should pay careful attention to the players at your table who act too often.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to adjust when taking on such a player. Bear in mind that your entire tournament future is on the line if you’re wrong, but you give yourself a much better chance of winning the entire event if you have a correct read on the lunatic and double up as a result.

You’ll often see very different play in online poker tournaments than you’d see in cash games under the same circumstances. In a cash game, you might be happy to move all-in against a lunatic. If you’ve read him wrongly, it can only cost you a rebuy. Eventually he will lose the dollars.

But in a tourney, you don’t have the luxury of rebuying for another shot at his stack. So, rather than moving all-in, get into the habit of flat-calling against a lunatic, unless you have the nuts. I’ll illustrate this with a tricky example in the next part of the series.

Next are the tight-weak players. These are your least feared opponents. In the early stages of online poker tournaments, they don’t enter the pot without a hand (remember they are tight), but according to their style of play, they are likely to give up unless they improve – or rather, if they believe they are behind due to the aggressive actions of others.

Any decent aggressive player who has observed their play will snap up 75% of the pots these weaklings contest.

Later in the tournament, tight-weak players will get destroyed by aggressive players. For now, the pots they enter will be too small to make them worth your while. Avoid them unless you have a strong hand.

How should you play against a tight, quiet player who reacts aggressively when he enters a pot? You must adjust your play here too. With such a long haul ahead, don’t get tangled up with the tough players in the early stages unless you know you’re ahead.

These guys are less easy to manipulate than tight-weak players (who often fold if pushed back). They are also unlikely to blunder ahead with a bluff (like the lunatics). Your equity for playing with the strong players is much less than the other types. Guess what? Avoid them unless you have a really big hand.

Add up all this early-stage advice and what do you conclude? That it’s really not worth contesting too many pots while the blinds are so small. Be patient, spend some time observing your opponents and wait until the blinds get bigger before changing gear. 

Next time, I’ll demonstrate a tricky example from the early stage of an online poker tournament.

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