Making Your Way Through Large-Field Poker Tournaments

It is fine to turn down situations where you have a small edge so that you can take advantage of a spot where you have a larger edge later on.

Tournament poker is one of the most exciting and potentially profitable forms of the game, but large field multi-table tournaments can be frustrating if you do not approach them correctly. As with all forms of poker, there are many ways to tackle tournament poker, here's one such way.

Early Stages

The early stages are when the tournament has its largest percentage of weak players in it. Obviously, with so many weak players in the field, the early stages are great for chipping up and adding to your stack, especially when you consider that you will almost certainly playing with 100 or more big blinds in your stack because weak players make larger mistakes with deeper stacks.

Although the field is at its weakest in the early stages, you shouldn't take too many daring risks in an attempt to win chips. If you start with 1,500 chips and there are 1,000 players in the field, there is little difference between having 1,500 and 3,000 at this stage. Try to see a few flops cheaply with pairs and suited connectors when you have position, but try not to be coming out three-betting with ace-jack and putting yourself in awkward spots. 

Value bet your hands to the maximum but it is fine to turn down situations where you have a small edge so that you can take advantage of a spot where you have a larger edge later on; i.e. avoid coinflips early on!

Middle Stages

A large number of the weak players will have been eliminated by now and antes should be in play. The addition of antes makes stealing the pot more profitable and means you can open more pots. You will probably see the stronger players raising between 2-2.3x the big blind now and you should do the same. While it does give others the odds to call you lightly (which is still a great situation), raising smaller means you can open more pots and folding to three-bets isn't going to hurt as much. Also, with players opening smaller, you can three-bet with a higher frequency too.

Stack sizes are vitally important during the middle stages; make sure you watch stack sizes like a hawk and are aware of the stacks around you. Plenty of players will be sat with 15-20 big blind stacks and when these guys raise they are unlikely to be folding to three-bets, so try not to three-bet them light. Likewise, if you have a competent player waiting to act with 12-15 big blinds in his stack don't be raising into him lightly because he is likely to three-bet shove on you and you will just be bleeding chips.

Late Stages

We are now near the money places and your table will have a mixture of short, medium and large stacks. Try to figure out which players are look to be trying to scrape into the money places -they'll be playing passively and very tight - and try to lock horns with the players you can do the most damage to, that is players who have a similar stack to yours.

Do not be afraid to burst the bubble. While it can be frustrating to finish outside of the money after a long grind, doing so is inevitable from time to time. Staying aggressive as the bubble approaches is crucial to becoming a winning player and the times you finish outside of the money by being aggressive will be massively outnumbered by the times you manage to add chips to your stack and make a run towards the final table where all of the money really is.

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