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Texas Holdem Tournament Strategies #1

It's important to use the right Texas Holdem tournament strategy in order to hold up and make it to the final table, then go on to win the tournament. This article discusses one way to approach tournament play that has proven effective time and time again, both in online and offline tournaments.

Today we'll discuss how Texas Holdem tournament play differs significantly from regular "ring game" play. There are many different aspects of tournaments to consider. Tournaments are quite a lot different than regular ring game play.

In tournaments, each player's primary objectives are:

1. Survival - survive to play at the final table and be the last surviving player (winner).

2. Chip Arsenal - to survive increasingly large blinds and tougher competition at the final tables, a player must build up a "chip arsenal", a substantial stack of chips, early enough in the competition to be able to survive taking calculated risks from time to time without risking the entire stack in the process

3. Sustained Focus - remaining focused on winning and not making mistakes for an extended period of time is difficult and requires constant attention on the game and focus on the current situation.

Since Texas Holdem tournament events are designed to progressively eliminate players, the foremost objective must be to survive and protect that stack of chips. Taking unnecessary risks is a formula for disaster, since someone can always get lucky against you. Learning to survive and attack at the right moments, with the right bet amount, is critical to tournament success. Since the blinds go up and at some point there are often also antes involved, you can't afford to just sit back and wait for the best hands, either. So picking out those choice opportunities to acquire the most chips, while taking appropriate, measured risks along the way, is one winning strategy. However, there's a lot more to winning tournaments...

First, everyone eventually gets a "table image". Be aware of your table image, and be careful to mix your game up along the way so that you can't easily be "typed". Once someone can predict your behavior and your likely reaction to a given situation, they'll use it against you. For example, if you just play premium hands and fold at the first sign of trouble, other players will likely steal you blind (by taking advantage of that knowledge and representing better hands than they actually have to get you to fold quickly).

You must be prepared to mix it up enough so that players aren't sure what to expect from you. It's helpful to "shift gears" from one mode of operation to another from time to time. It's also recommended to play the opposite from however most of the table is playing; e.g., if most everyone is playing very tight overall, loosen up your play as a result.

So, here are some Texas Holdem tournament tips that I've learned to be helpful:

* Early in a tournament when the blinds are lower, play more hands than usual and take a few more calculated risks than usual. Be careful, though, since it's likely there are still some maniacs around who will gamble and risk everything on a draw.

* When your table is full of players (8 players or more), play fewer, higher-quality hands, and occasionally mix things up by overplaying a few questionable hands (without risking too much).

* Don't show your cards to the other players. It's a rare circumstance where showing cards is helpful against good players and it's generally just giving people information instead of making them guess about your play, which is a better strategy.

* When the field narrows to 5 or 6 players, tighten up your play and play far fewer hands, playing only the best hands from the best positions, and avoiding "drawing hands". Drawing hands are hands that by themselves are of no real value (e.g., suited connectors like 67, A9-suited, etc.). You don't want to waste your chips chasing a straight or flush at this time.

* At this stage, the idea is to protect your chip stack, while allowing some other, weaker players to knock one another out of the Texas Holdem tournament, thereby raising your status and winnings. When you do get a good hand, you can't be afraid to take a risk and engage, though, or the other players will steal your blinds and take advantage of you along the way. When you get a decent starting hand, be careful not to risk all of your chips.

* If you do find yourself short-stacked, then you're going to have to pick an opportune moment to put all of your chips at risk, probably several times, in order to rebuild a viable position; otherwise, the blinds will just eat your stack up. If you find yourself in this situation, try to put all of your chips in with a starting hand that's at least a pair, or contains an Ace or King, or a suited hand - in order to give yourself the most outs.

* With 3 to 4 players, it's time to play hands that you would not normally play (e.g., K6, A9, low pairs, etc.). This is required as the blinds are typically higher and you must protect your blinds. Whenever you're not in a blind, however, it's advisable to hang back and only play really good starting hands that you're confident in. This is not a time to go "fishing" for a draw if you can avoid it.

* When you're finally heads-up, it's time to become extraordinarily aggressive. It's important to raise whenever you have any hand with an Ace in it, play big hands very aggressively (e.g., KQ), and play any pair aggressively. When you're the small blind and you have a bad starting hand (e.g., 26), it's best to just throw it away. This causes the opponent to respect you more when you act like you have a good hand later.

Sometimes you must bluff, too, since it's likely the opponent will also pull a lot of weak hands. Noone wins a Texas Holdem tournament today without bluffing, but it must be used appropriately and at the right time. If you bluff and get re-raised, be careful as the opponent may have drawn a good hand. Also, don't call an all-in bet heads-up unless you have a real hand, since it's likely that your opponent also has a very strong hand and is deliberately trying to pull you in. It's best to have a good hand and to be the one calling the other player all-in, if possible.

So, there are no absolute rules in Texas Holdem tournament strategy, but those are a few tips that should help you get started and far enough along to do reasonably well against some good players.

Winning Texas Holdem tournaments requires discipline - the discipline to sit back, study your prey, understand how they operate, then when the time is right, attack or trap appropriately. There is software that's now available which helps develop this kind of discipline. It's called POKER SIDEKICK, and it's proven time and time again that players who couldn't win a Texas Holdem tournament before using POKER SIDEKICK are able to not only make the final table now, but also win first place in many cases. If you haven't looked at POKER SIDEKICK closely, and you're serious about winning in a Texas Holdem tournament, I'd highly recommend you do so.

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