LIVE POKER TOURNAMENTS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE

LIVE POKER TOURNAMENTS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE

Poker tournaments are exciting and very popular events. Everyday poker players all over the world play in poker tournaments, from the big televised $10,000 events, to freerolls that cost nothing to enter. Most poker tournaments are played online at sites like Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars, where tournaments are available twenty four hours a day, and many beginning poker players are somewhat familiar with these online tournaments. But eventually the beginning player will want to play a live poker tournament, either because of the large prize pool, the added prestige of certain poker events like the WPT or WSOP, or just because live poker tournaments are so much more exciting and fun then their online equivalent. And after reading these tips on live poker tournaments, a beginning player should have no fear about playing in their first live poker tournament.

THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF LIVE POKER TOURNAMENTS

For those used to playing online or in small home games, a live poker tournament can seem overwhelming. The sheer number of people all together in one room is quite a sight, and also can be a little unsettling on the ears. Hundreds or thousands may be playing the tournament and it can be a noisy experience with people talking all over, and chips being shuffled everywhere, and the inevitable. But at least the place won’t stink so much, as most casinos and cardrooms have long ago banned smoking in their facilities, so the only stench you will have to worry about is the random player who hasn’t showered in awhile! The best thing you can do is to try to relax and have fun, remember, even though it feels like a million people are running around yelling, they are just playing poker like you, and if you can remember that your primary goal here is to pay attention to your table and game, and you can stay focused, the background hustle and bustle will become a small distraction, if any at all. Remember that this is the same game of poker you have been playing, with the same rules, and if you try to bring you’re A game, you should be fine.

THE EARLY STAGES OF THE TOURNAMENT

A good way for the beginner to start off in a live poker tournament is to play tight. Unlike online tournaments, live poker tournaments usually have you starting the tournament with a much larger stack, and the levels are much longer. Because of this you can sit back and play it slow, only playing your premium holdings. Use the early rounds to steady your nerves, and study your opponents and table. Tables don’t break up as fast in live poker tournaments as they do in online poker tournaments, so getting a good read on your opponents is even more important in the live poker tournament. Try to see who is playing loose, who is playing tight, who seems to be folding to pressure. Again, remember that not getting involved in a lot of hands early in the tournament, when blinds are low, will not put you at a disadvantage, and when you do get a good hand, chances are you will be ahead of your looser opponents.

THE MIDDLE STAGES OF THE TOURNAMENT

Once the blinds start getting higher, and antes kick in, and several players have long since been eliminated, you can start to switch gears a little bit. By now you have got a better feel for how the table is playing and some of your opponent’s tendencies. A good skill for the beginning poker player to put in use is the blind steal. Basically, whenever the table folds all the way to you, and you are in late position, either on the button or just one off the button, you can raise cards you would normally not raise with in the hopes of the small blind and big blind folding to your raise. This is a great way to pick up blinds and antes and to keep your stack healthy. This is especially helpful once the bubble is near, and the tighter players are trying to survive into the money. On the other hand, many people may be short stacked towards this point and you may see a more aggressive or experienced player re raising your steal attempts, or pushing his entire stack in preflop. Remember that you will need a far better hand to call a raise with than to raise with yourself and be careful. You may also have to slow down your steal attempts if a more seasoned player starts to re raise you a lot. Again, try to stay focused and play your best game, and the middle stages should not be much of a problem for you.

THE LATTER STAGES OF THE TOURNAMENT

The latter stages of the live poker tournament can seem quite hectic to the beginning player. Often times you will find yourself with a short stack in relation to the high blinds and antes and may feel panicked. Or you may have a large stack, and be unsure how to play the large stack with so many short stacks pushing all in preflop. The key thing to remember, and to keep you calm, is that nothing out of the ordinary is going on. If a player has less than ten big blinds or so, he is often correct to push all in if no one has entered the pot before him. He is not going crazy, but playing correctly, where winning the blinds and antes is going to increase his stack by quite a percentage. If you have a big stack and keep this in mind, you can put those players on a very wide range of hands and call or fold accordingly. On the other hand if you are on the short stack, you will need to try this move yourself, as there may be no time to wait for a quality hand, and you can either increase your stack dramatically if you win the blinds and antes, and hopefully you will at least have live cards if someone calls one of your all in pushes. What is good is that if you do happen to pick up a quality hand like AA or KK and push all in with a short stack, there is a very good chance you will get a call. Remember to stay calm, keep your head, and just play your best game.

THE FINAL TABLE OF THE TOURNAMENT

So in the event that your skill and some good luck combine and you make the final table of the tournament, you should feel extremely good about yourself. Some seasoned players go years without making a final table in a live poker tournament, and making one as a beginner will be a great boost to your confidence. But don’t start celebrating yet. You still have to play the final table. If your stack allows, you will want to start the beginning of the final table much like the beginning of the tournament. Stand back, play premium hands, and pay close attention to the table and your opponents. If your stack is low, you will have to jump right in, pushing all in preflop when folded to you and hoping for good things to happen. After you get a feel for the final table, start playing your best game. Decide if stealing blinds will work against the players to your left. Start bullying the weaker players, and try to avoid the big stack if you are also the big stack. The pay increase are often quite drastic between the first person knocked out of the final table and the eventual winner, so try not to bust out too early. If and when the table is down to three or four players, often players will decide to make deals. These deals can vary, and will sometimes pay the players out due to chip percentage, with the winner receiving a little extra. As a beginner you may not be familiar with these deals, and if you don’t understand them, there is the chance that you would be agreeing to a deal that is actually unprofitable for you. Unless you have an experienced player who is your friend who can explain the deal to you, don’t be afraid to politely turn down any deal and just ask to play it out. As a beginner you will have enough pressure on you without having to iron out the math on a proposed deal. As stated previously, the most important thing you need to do at the final table, is to play your best game. If you can play your best game, and avoid some bad luck, there is a great chance you will win this live poker tournament, and winning a live poker tournament, wether it be a weekly held low buy in casino tournament, or the World Series of Poker Maine Event tournament, winning is one of the greatest feelings a poker player will have.

CLOSING THOUGHTS ON YOUR FIRST LIVE POKER TOURNAMENT

Again, nothing is quite as thrilling in the poker world then to win a live poker tournament. As a beginner, remember to play your very best game at every stage of the tournament, beginning, middle, later and final table. Keep your wits about you, stay focused and calm, and remember again, that this is the same game of poker you are familiar with, even if the stag might seem a bit more intimidating. So have no fear, keep your calm, play your best game, and go play in a live poker tournament! With a little luck, and a lot of skill, you could win one of these!