There are many formats of poker tournament to choose from nowadays. These include different poker games, speeds, betting rules and many quirks like knockout bounties or qualifier games which award entries into bigger online tournaments. This article shows you the key strategy changes you’ll need to play the major variations profitably.
First you will find advice on handling rebuy poker tournaments, which are one of the most popular variations online. Next turbo games, where the blinds increase very quickly, are covered before you will the knockout bounty games are looked at. Satellite qualifiers have their own strategy considerations and you’ll find that last.
In a rebuy tournament there is a set period – usually 1 hour – where you can buy additional chips when you have your starting stack or less. This ensures there are a lot of chips in play, with people rebuying after they bust and most players starting with a double-sized stack. You will also get the opportunity to purchase an additional ‘add-on’ stack of chips at the first break.
Since you can rebuy, there is less pressure to avoid busting out in this tournament variation. This keeps the games loose and wild. In any wild game you have the opportunity to bet for value more often with good hands, but are less likely to succeed with bluffs. I like to play hands with high ‘implied odds’ value, such as small pairs in rebuy-tournaments. When they hit a hidden set, you stand to win a big pot. With so many chips in play it is easy to get left behind in this format, you really can’t afford to stay too tight.
Some players go crazy in these games, pushing all-in often in an attempt to buy a big stack for themselves in rebuy games. Make sure you watch these players closely once the rebuy period is over. They will often revert to ‘normal’ play – and calling big bets from them could be a mistake.
In my experience many players do not speed up their play enough in Turbo tournaments. With 5 minute blind levels you really do not have the time to wait for good hands. Instead stealing and re-stealing become the key strategies.
I recommend you practice putting opponents on ‘ranges’ if you plan on playing turbo poker tournaments. By estimating what percentage of hands an individual would push all-in with in a given situation, you can work backwards (mathematically speaking) to find what range of hands you can profitably call with. You’ll need to be able to spot situations where you can profitably push a wide range of hands – these are more common than many people think.
Even if you get an early double-up in a turbo game you should keep your foot firmly on the gas. It only takes a couple of opponents to double up and the blinds to eat away at your stack and you’ll be right back on average. For this type of game you need to work out how fast to go, and then speed it up even more!
In this game, the prize pool is split. In addition to a regular prize structure, each player gets a bounty on their head. Whoever knocks you out will win your bounty. In general the bounties are between 25% and 50% of the total buy-in.
The real strategy adjustment for these games comes when a player is short stacked. Many people compete to play against the short-stacked player in order to get their bounty. You will often find big raises and re-raises with speculative or weak hands when this occurs.
When a player is all-in against 2 or more opponents, it is normal in tournaments to use the ‘cooperation play’ and check a hand down. This does not happen in Knockout Tournaments, where pushing your opponent out of the hand will give you a shot at getting the bounty payment. You should be aware of this and not call a bet expecting to cooperate later in the hand.
These games award tickets to bigger online tournaments or sometimes to big live events like the World Series Of Poker.
Your main strategy adjustment comes at the bubble, when there is just 1 more player to bust before everyone else gets the prize. Since the prizes are all equal, adding extra chips does not have any benefit. This means that risking your own chances when someone else is all-in or close to it (for example will be all-in the next time the blinds come around) can be a losing play. For example, someone is all in next hand and you have a comfortable stack with several people much shorter stacked. The big blind raises you all-in and you have K-K. Here you can fold. While you undoubtedly have the best hand (75% against his range), the 25% of the time you lose is not worth it. The reason is that you can wait for someone else to bust instead.
This seems extremely tight to many new players, however the math clearly shows that risking your ‘equity’ on the bubble of a satellite when others will bust soon is a losing play.