Poker is the most popular card game on the planet right now, and you can play a game at any casino, whether online or out on your travels. One of the great things about the game is there are so many variations. Beginners can learn the basics by playing video poker on a phone app and can develop their skills with games against the dealer like Three Card Poker and Casino Hold’em.
Players who feel confident in their abilities can then try cash games against other players. But the ultimate challenge is to take part in a poker tournament. Tournament play provides the opportunity for the best players to win serious money – but that comes at the expense of those who are not at the top of their game.
Your first tournament is one of the pivotal moments in your poker journey. Here are some tips to ensure it is memorable for the right reasons.
Choose the right real money poker tournament
These days, most players enter tournament play online. Indeed, some of the top pros like Viktor Blom and Tom Dwan play entirely in this way and never sit down at a physical table. When you start out, there are plenty of factors to consider when choosing which tournament to enter. This guide to online poker real money sites by Legal US Poker Sites goes into detail on the topic, but in brief, these factors include the buy-in amount, choice of games, bonuses or special offers and casino terms.
Take it slow at the start
The early stages of a tournament are typically watchful and cautious. The blinds are usually low, so just keep it tight and don’t do anything rash unless you get an incredible hand. At this stage, there is little danger in seeing cheap flops when you can – you might just get lucky with a monster hand.
Having said that, if your opponents start shoving all-in you need to tighten up, however. It’s one thing to shove all-in pre-flop with K-Q with a stack of 10 big blinds, but if there are 100 big blinds, it’s another matter. In that scenario, opponents will only call you if they have something serious like pocket queens, and you are on a hiding to nothing.
Consider postflop potential early on
According to the guidebooks, a hand like Ah 9d has significant equity. But early on, it is more valuable to have cards in the pocket with superior post-flop potential. These include pairs, even low ones like threes, or suited connectors, for example, 7h 6h. They have less equity but more potential for a big reward.
At later stages in the action, offset aces can be put to great use from late position with shallow stacks. But early on, they are more likely to lead to trouble.
How to survive the bubble
Making it to the bubble is a great achievement, but it is also the most frustrating moment to drop out, as there is literally no reward for being the best of the rest. There are two approaches you can take. Either to try to cling on for survival and be guaranteed some winnings, or play to win and shift up a gear. The former means folding practically everything, even good hands, and waiting it out. The latter strategy is to start raising or going all-in to take advantage of those playing conservatively. There is no right answer, and experience counts for a lot here.
The final table is a world of its own
Make it to the final table of a poker tournament and you will taste a wholly different experience. Chances are you are now guaranteed a reasonable pot of money, but the lion’s share is invariably destined for the top three finishers.
Obviously, it depends on the game and the pay jumps, but this is the moment when you need to unleash that big play. Good luck!