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Making The Money In Tournament Hold'em

24 May 2005, By:
I wrote this article for players of both on-line & brick and mortar poker tournaments that find themselves frustrated as they find themselves finishing often so close to the money but just not quite making it. More specifically NO LIMIT HOLD EM' but much of this article should apply to any type of poker tournament.

Here are some tips & advice that should help sharpen your game & get you into the money. The following will apply whether you play in brick and mortar tourneys lasting several days or online tourneys lasting a few hours. The only major difference being live play where the blinds increase much slower. Much of what I will say has been said before but needs repeating and understand that these tips/advice are not in order of importance as that can vary from player to player. I also want to say upfront that none will be specific advice on hands played although a hand will be used to demonstrate a point. Each of us has our own style & hands we choose to play come to us one by one.

#1 - NO DRINKING ALLOWED. Any impedence of your judgement can be deadly to your play. Even one badly played hand can really cripple you for a tournament or at the very least have you playing scared or catch up poker.

#2 - DRINK PLENTY OF NON-ALCOHOLIC FLUID. Water is preferred and this is ESPECIALLY important in brick and mortar tournaments lasting for several days of 12+hrs of poker. The human body is much more refreshed and alert when well hydrated and you will feel & play much better.

#3 - BE PATIENT, BE PATIENT, BE PATIENT. On average the experienced pro's will expect to play only one or two big hands per hour. Pro's DO NOT CHASE or waste chips when the flops put them & their hand at a disadvantage. YOU DON'T EITHER!

#4 - FIGHT THE BOREDOM!!!!! The #1 reason stacks dwindle putting you at a serious disadvantage is not the blinds. Its playing TOO MANY HANDS!! When you become bored you are itching to play and your brain will send you signals like "Hey, J 9 offsuit not too shabby lets play it!" DO NOT LISTEN. JUST MUCK IT!!! Wait for good hands worth pushing chips into the pot.

#5 - COMFORT ZONE. Find ways to stay comfortable & relaxed. If you are playing in a big tournament like WSOP or WPT events you may be playing more than 12 hours per day with a few breaks. You MUST find a way to stay comfortable both for your backside & your state of mind. It can be very taxing on your nerves when your chips & tournament life are on the line. When you are not in a hand just try to find a happy place & stay there (yes stolen from Happy Gilmore). Anything comforting can help. Pictures of the family, a lucky charm, a walkman or iPod (if allowed). Anything that will keep you focused & relaxed.

#6 - DONT BE LATE!!! I hear that several pro's regularly sleep in & are late for the start of the morning's games. They are blinded off til they come to the table. DONT LET THIS BE YOU!!! Every single solitary chip counts and will help pay the blinds while you wait on your bread & butter hands. This applies to on-line tourneys too. Don't forget you entered a tourney & remember an hour into it. Blinding off is death especially in on-line tournaments.

#7 - MOM SAYS GO TO BED EARLY! Be well rested. If your an on-line player that means play when you are refreshed & wide awake. Being tired is almost as dangerous to your game as being drunk. If you are playing a live tournament that means going to bed relatively early each night & getting up ready to go the next morning.

#8 - NICEGUYS DONT FINISH LAST. Be courteous to your fellow players. Both live and on-line there are many players that are just plain nasty to be around & play with. They are mouthy & always trying to put you on TILT. You have to be the bigger man (or girl) and ignore all of that. Keep your composure and always politely say things like "Nice hand, Bob" and "Boy, you sure got me there! I had you on Jacks!". Other players remember how you react & how you play. They will soon learn if you can be "put on TILT" and you would be pleasantly surprised to learn what advantages you gain by being "Mr. Niceguy".

#9 - NO DISTRACTIONS! If your playing on-line it simply means what it says. Play when you WILL NOT be distracted AT ALL. If your dog needs walking ... DO IT FIRST. If your wife needs you ... PUT THAT FIRST. If your kids need daddy ... DO THAT FIRST. Distractions keep you from your "A" game. If you are playing "live" poker it works the same way. If you are playing far from home or right up the street it doesnt matter. It is important that your family &/or friends STAY HOME. At the very least until you make the final table. Also...CELLPHONES OFF (many tournaments don't allow them anyways) at least until the days poker is done and then if you need to call home & get your "I love you's" in ... go ahead.

#10 - FIGHT THE ALL-IN ITCH!!!!! I know seeing AA pop into your hands gets your blood pumping and your nerves jumping but try to refrain from ALL-IN JUMPING. I know its tempting to do so but here is why. YOU ARE HERE TO MAKE THE $$$ FIRST AND FOREMOST. Do not risk your tournament life on a blind ALL-IN call no matter how short stacked. Go ahead & raise up the blinds as you wish to get the drawing hands out but beware callers and pay close attention to the flop. AA is a great starting hand but a VERY limiting one. Many flops are DISASTER for AA. Say the flop is: A 5 3 (2 spades & you have zero spades). You hit your set! ALLIN!!!! ...NO WAY! This could be a dangerous flop for you. Play it with caution especially if 2, 4, or a spade drop. If you know your opponent well and you know he would never call with a sub par hand feel free if you wish to drop the ALL IN bomb. But beware if the player still in the hand was "in the blind" as they may have called you with K2/K4/22/44 etc.

#11 - LUCK. You can never script luck but if you can keep #1 thru #10 true to form then you just have to have faith that a little luck will come your way. Everyone gets the "horse shoe" now & again. Just take advantage when you do & hopefully you will make that final table!!!

I hope you have enjoyed my article. Much of it is from my own experience and my own preparation to enter the WSOP. If I dont make it this year I definitely will next. I hope to keep doing proud and I love it here! I always push the site when playing in MTT's & meeting other good players.

Good Luck and may all your hands be aces!

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