MTT – EARLY STAGE STRATEGY

The biggest predictor of success in tournament poker is your level of focus. The more focused you are, the more able you will be to accomplish the goals of early stage play. Pay attention and take notes! Here are your missions, if you choose to accept them. (And if you want to take it your MTT performance to the max, you will!)

Your Mission: Identify weaknesses.

Your Tools: official poker rankings.com, sharkscope.com.

Your Objective: To scope out the inner workings of your opponents by using these covert (and yes, completely legal and equally available to all) websites. Pay attention to the hands, especially the showdowns! This is your only chance to see your opponents’ hands and how they decided to play them – and this, my friend, is gold. Now you know what makes them tick, and that will help you keep your stack more safe. The best defensive is a good offence, right?

TIP: Look for signs of fishy players. These are players who go in on too many hands (>25%, who make overly large raises and bets). Alternatively, they are also characterized by passive play and making bluffs that just don’t make any sense.

Your Mission: Wait for the sweet spots.

Your Tools: Patience.

Your Objective: To sit calmly and wait for profitable opportunities. There’s no rush to get involved in the action. Being impatient pre-flop can lead to compounding errors post-flop. It’s never a winning play to make losing investments.

A motivational stat:

Winning players will typically fold 80-90% of their hands in most positions.

Your Mission: Brand yourself.

Your Tools: Basic Psychology.

Your Objective: Establish your table image. How you are perceived determines whether your opponents will give you a lot of action or stay out of your way. Here’s the tricky part: how you wished to be perceived depends on you and your own unique style of play, so I cannot conclusively and absolutely tell you how to brand yourself. What I can tell you definitively is that just about any table image can work if you can accurately predict how
your opponents will react to it. Thus you will be able to make adjustments to your strategies accordingly. For example, if people think I’m a calling station, I’m not going to expect them to try and bluff me, and thus I can
fold more often to their bets. If they think I’m a maniac, then again I’m not going to try and bluff them as much, but I will be more inclined to make bigger bets when i do bet to get paid off more often. The biggest key when
it comes to table image is self-awareness and understanding how others perceive you and consequently, how they are going to adjust to you.

Like I said, it is difficult (if not totally impossible) for me to tell you how you should brand yourself – but I CAN
tell you what images you’ll probably want to avoid. Being considered a ‘loudmouth’, a ‘hotshot’, a ‘weak tight’ player, ‘easy to bluff open’ ‘overly loose and passive’ or a player who is never able to fold a hand is generally not a good thing. This is because the best image to have is one that people respect. You should want to project the image of a table captain; someone who has all their things in order; a real winner at life. This sort of image commands respect and will typically make it much easier to play a profitable game. When opponents fear you (and therefore worry about what you are capable of) they are much more likely to just play a straight game against you, letting you have control of the action.

Now, loudmouth, cocky players may have their things in order, but since they come off as jerks, people will want to take them down. As a result, they have to deal with a lot more questionable situations; they have to wonder
if people are making a move because they actually have a good hand or because they want to impart a little lesson in manners.

In short, the more players respect you, the more you’ll be able to get your way. The more you get your way, the more you win. After all, respect doesn’t breed contempt; acting contemptuous breeds contempt. Along the same line, if you’re a friendly, fun person to be around, a lot of players will actually be happy to see you win. They will actually be happy to lose their money to you. Seems almost oxymoronic, doesn’t it? Who would be happy to lose their money to another person? Answer: someone who genuinely likes that other person.

Your Mission: To the max.

Your Tools: The following equation.
Your Objective: I want you to take your value to the max on every single hand, every strategic opportunity, and

you’re going to capitalize on this strategy by using this simple equation:

Opponents style + Value of Your hand = optimal line to extract the maximum payoff

So, take what you’ve learned about your opponent, then add in the strength of your hand and voila! – the best way to get the most money out of the situation will present itself to you.

Example: let’s say you get 99 pre-flop and you’re in late position. 99 isn’t a particularly great hand, but it is not something you’re going to want to muck right away either – especially when you are in late position and can see how everyone else is responding to their own hands. If you find yourself up against a looser, more passive player who is checking and calling, chances are you can squeeze a few bets out of this person and get a feel for his or her hand before you have to commit any major investment yourself. The idea here is to take control of the action; to know when to play your hands as value bets or as bluff catchers.

Your Mission: Chip security.

Your Tools: Iron-clad bankroll management.

Your Objective: Don’t give your chips away. It’s common to get no hands for the first few levels, so just blind down and stay focused. In the event you do have a good run in the early levels, build your stack but don’t get reckless with your newly amassed wealth. You are its proud parent and like any parent, some mistakes are inevitable, but you can avoid the big ones (read: the detrimental ones) by making sure every action made is an informed action; that every risk is calculated.

Calculated’ is the operative word here. Not every aspect of MTT play can be calculated, but you can roughly (and profitably) predict more than you probably think.

Let’s take a look at some basic and effective calculated MTT strategy.

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