Anonline poker tournament tip: middle stages require an adjustment of thinking

You’ll read a lot of poker tournament tips. Not too many will make such a sweeping declaration as this: how you react in the middle stages will dictate whether you claim a prize.

Many writers have said that nobody wins a poker tournament in the early stages. 

That’s very true. There simply aren’t enough chips at stake, or enough desperate players making marginal moves, due to small blinds. Once the MTT reaches the middle stages (let’s say level five blinds and upwards) things get serious in a poker tournament.

Tips such as advising you to sit back and observe your opponents go out of the window when the blinds begin to get painfully large.

True, you could turn into an over-tight player, waiting and hoping for a chance of a prize, any prize. Congratulations, you’ve scraped into the money. You’ve not given yourself much of a shot at winning a big prize, but you have at least not lost. Did you begin playing poker to ‘not lose’? Hardly a noble cause, is it?

Among other poker tournament tips, the advice to get off your backside and begin dictating the pace is as good as any.

You must become more proactive to avoid the damage the blinds inflict on your stack. That means, raising to steal blinds; reraising opponents running a potential blind steal against your big blind; avoiding certain drawing hands (you cannot afford to draw to a longshot when the price is so high, relative to your remaining chips); and ‘backing a horse to the finish line’.

Raising to steal blinds

Stealing blinds is a dead-cert poker tournament tip. On the button or in the cutoff seat, you must make a move if nobody else has called. It’s just you versus the blinds (and the button, if you are in the cutoff seat). The blinds had no choice about entering the pot. Sure, they may have a good hand, but it’s much more likely that they have unplayable garbage.

I do have some reservations about blind stealing. I usually make a move with a pair, connectors or at least Queen-high. The reasoning is, you want SOME kind of hand if either of the blinds decide to call. But there are plenty of players who steal raise with any two cards. Be prepared to back off if you meet serious resistance.

Reraising against probably blind stealers

Another, more dangerous, poker tournament tip is reraising from the blinds (usually the big blind, but sometimes the small blind) against a potential steal raise from your right. Remember we discussed that stealing blinds was important? Well, with that knowledge, you realize that other players will be stealing YOUR blinds, too!

With absolute junk, you probably have to fold, even if the player TOLD you what he was doing. With any kind of a hand, you must make a stand and reraise. Hopefully you’re correct and he will back down. If not, you still have a hand to take him on with.

Avoid certain drawing hands

Another important poker tournament tip is to avoid drawing hands unless you are sure you will win if you hit – AND that you have chances if you don’t hit. Here, high cards are so important. Having a hand like AKs is many times stronger than a hand like A4s. You have Kings to hit as well as Aces or the flush. Sometimes, your AK high will win, too.

Don’t draw to a straight if there are two cards of a suit on the board, or the board is paired. Of course, never draw to the idiot end of the straight either. Make sure the straight, if you hit it, will be the nuts. High cards also help your straight draw. KQ on a flop with TJx is better than TJ on a flop with KQx. You can still hit a pair and win.

Back a horse to the finish line

You see this attitude in cash games all the time. People find a big pair, fall in love with it and lose their stack. But an important poker tournament tip for the middle stages is to pick a hand and refuse to fold it.

Why? Because you cannot afford to invest a large portion of your stack and talk yourself into folding later, even though you might be still winning. Back that horse to the finish line. Of course you could still lose. Folding, giving you almost no chance of recovery, is bad advice.

Need another poker tournament tip?