Many players play really well to make the money of a poker tournament but actually then change their game from an optimal aggressive game to one that just hopes to slowly advance to the next payout levels. Since most poker tournaments have a top heavy payout structure, the prize for first is often more than the combined payout for second and third. This makes playing for first the most profitable outcome, and your play should be always geared to aiming for the top prize.
Keeping Up The Aggression
Playing too conservatively when you are finally in the money means that the blinds will continually eat up your stack. It’s important to continue to accumulate chips and build your stack. This allows you to avoid busting out if you take a major hit, and hopefully if you win a few races to go into the late stages of a tournament with a good-sized stack that gives you a strong chance to claim the top prize.
Advantages of Open Raising
By being the first player to make a move or to go all in at the table always comes with the benefits of having two ways to win. Everybody might fold to your raise or all-in bet, or your hand can showdown to the river as the best hand. With all the other players tightening to try and scrape into the higher payouts, it is usually the most aggressive players who are able to utilise the power of acting first.
Knowing The Costs
Remember that since cashing in tournaments can occur at a rather low frequency, when you only just limp into the money, you are giving up a great opportunity. You’ll need to finish towards the top of the payouts and land a big score at some stage in order to maintain a positive expected value return for your tournament buy-ins over the long term.
Mix It Up
Don't be afraid to mix things up. By varying your play, you will be able to keep your opponents guessing and keep the pressure on them when they think about putting chips in the middle. Use check-raises and look for scare cards on the turn and river to exploit the opponents who are tight.
Exploit the Tight Players
Many players do not play optimally and look to just fold their way into the higher payouts. Although this may have worked once or twice in their playing experience, this means that their blinds are always up for grabs. Pick on these players until their stack is depleted and they are no longer a threat to your stack.
Making the money is already a good achievement in tournament poker, but it is still short of the grand prize. Play correctly and aggressively to get that elusive victory!
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