Playing Aggressive Tournament Poker

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Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for decades you know that most poker pros and poker commentators have been preaching the value of aggressive tournament play for a long time now.

With so many outstanding online poker tournaments happening in the Bodog Poker Room right now, we thought we’d take a look at some of the tournament poker advice that’s been offered by one of the top poker pros - Gus Hansen. Hansen is a highly aggressive player and a prime example of how to succeed by putting the pressure on when playing tournament poker.

Hansen has been categorized by some as a loose player. It's a term that borders on insulting in that it implies a certain recklessness. But the proof is in the pudding, and Hansen’s pudding is his place in the World Poker Tour Hall of Fame, his four WPT titles and a first place finish at the 2007 Aussie Millions Main Event. He currently has total tournament winnings exceeding $7,200,000 – that’s a lot of pudding.

Hansen’s success as a tournament player is in direct contrast to hits he has taken in cash games. Despite his big tournament winnings he has struggled with money problems in the past partly because he has taken huge hits while playing in The Big Game that’s normally held in “Bobby’s Room” at the Bellagio. Hansen has admitted to losing a approximately a million dollars at couple of the games. Perhaps this is a good indicator of how an aggressive player might be best suited to tournament poker.

The success of the aggressive tournament player stems from the need to collect every last chip in the tournament and let’s face it, even if you make the final table, your chances are severely reduced if you’re the short stack. And it’s easy to think in terms of just trying to make it to the money but it’s more important to keep in mind what the payout structure is.

A good example can be seen in the WSOP Circuit Tournament at Caesars Palace last year. Chad Brown and Cory Carroll both made the final table; Brown as the short stack with $136K in chips and Carroll as chip leader with $713K. Not too surprisingly Brown went out first and Carroll won the whole thing using his chip lead to make plays that would be impossible if he were short stacked. Everyone knows the importance of getting a big chipstack but this should help illustrate how important it is in tournament play. Brown ended up walking away with $32,592 in cash. Not bad, but just eight spots ahead of him, Carroll made over half a million dollars. In other words Brown would have to finish ninth in the exact same tournament another 15.5 times in order to earn what Carroll did in one. That’s the value of a big chipstack and that’s why so many pros endorse a more aggressive tournament style.

It's something to keep in mind the next time you get to the bubble and everyone at your table starts playing tighter than a tourniquet. It is probably worth the risk to get in there and steal some blinds. However, you’ll always want to keep in mind what the payout structure of your tournament is and gauge your aggression accordingly.

Test the value of aggressive poker tournament tactics yourself in one of Bodog’s many online poker tournaments.
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