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How to Succeed in Poker Tournaments

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Perhaps your first big poker tournament is coming up, or you’ve been gathering skills ready to enter – no matter which, you need to be as prepared as possible. 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how you can succeed in your poker tournaments, but some guidelines can help – no matter how far along you are in the process. 

  • Poker tournaments are quickly rising in popularity. By 2027, Grand Review Research found that online is likely to be worth a colossal $127.3 USD. 
  • There are currently over 23 million regular online poker players, and of that number, 15 million play for real money. 
  • In March 2020, an online poker tournament record was set with a prize pool of $18.6 million, with a total of 61,000 players and 93,016 entries. 

A tournament will likely be on your to-do list if you have played poker for a while. After all, they have the biggest prize pools, a more comprehensive range of players, and test your skills. 

So let’s take a look at how you can make your poker tournament a success. 

Rest and replenish

It might sound like you are going to a spa, but poker tournaments are a lot of work for your body and mind. 

Although the adrenaline before a big tournament will keep you on edge, you should employ methods to help you stay cool, calm, and collected. 

Players who have the stamina to last for hours are doing the most to ensure they are rested and well-nourished outside the poker room. 

Often you think about poker players playing late into the night – and that can be very close to the truth – certainly with tournaments in different timezones. 

Eat a balanced diet as often as possible to get your energy from fruits, veggies, and whatever you choose in terms of protein. 

The night before a tournament, skip the coffee and other caffeinated drinks. 

Your performance can also be impacted by your sleeping style. Altering your body’s natural tendency to sleep at certain timescan help you maximize your rest potential. 

While the movies are quick to show heavy drinking and poker as a team, avoid anything that may change your judgment when you are at a tournament. 

Since alcohol changes how we perceive and react to certain things, it is best to avoid it the night before and during your big poker tournament. 

Be selective

You can take the time to choose the poker tournament that is best for you. For example, if you are a cash player, deepstack poker tournaments are for you. 

When it comes to choosing, here is where you can increase your odds just by choosing wisely. 

Things to consider: 

The field size you feel comfortable with – do you want to play against hundreds or thousands of people? Smaller fields have less variation in players, but the larger ones often hold a larger prize pool. 

Think about your ideal buy-in in terms of what you can lose. You will face many players with a higher skill level than yourself, and while you stand every chance of winning, losing comfortably is essential. 

The more significant the buy-in, the more skilled the players. One or two tournaments are the opposite, and the big buy-ins are from players looking for prestige. Do your research before throwing your money into the pot. Look for highly skilled players, not just players with plenty of cash.  

Understand how much the house is going to take in terms of a cut. Based on the buy-in, the rake will make a difference, so be well-versed in how much a rake should be. 

Choose a blind structure that matches what you are used to – at least for a little while. In most cases, ring game players will be used to deepstack tournaments. After a few matches, you might choose to try some shallow stack tournaments. 

Goal setting

Fail to plan, then plan to fail. You can carefully layout what you want to achieve within the poker tournament. 

Of course, everyone will note that they want to win the tournament – that’s a give, but what else? 

Consider that tournaments are usually highly ambitious and have thousands and thousands of entries and a large number of players too. 

There is only one winner, and while that is a great pursuit, consider the alternatives. 

Would you be happy to leave with a cash prize of any amount? Would you be comfortable in a top-ten position?

If it’s your first tournament, getting the chance to play is a big deal. 

Work out what you want to get from the tournament apart from the winning pot. 

Strategy matters

Before you have taken a seat at the tournament table, you should have put in the groundwork. 

The groundwork includes playing for a while, honing your skills, reading plenty on things like tells, the mathematical probabilities behind card games, theory of poker, and watching old matches. 

Find a few of the highest winning or most prolific winners and read through their careers – watch their matches when possible. 

All the while increasing your knowledge and play style. 

There is not a single strategy or system that will guarantee you win every time, but you will have a personal strategy that you use often. 

Sitting at a tournament table without a strategy is a mistake that you won’t get over for a while. 

Like with anything in poker, you should be flexible enough and knowledgeable enough to bend and break your strategy based on the players you are faced with. 

Emotionless 

You may have mastered keeping your emotions under control when playing online or smaller games in a casino, but tournaments bring a hefty dose of excitement and worry. 

Using controlled breathing, you can keep bringing yourself to a safe, no expression zone. 

A breathing technique will enable players to deal with high-stress and pressure-filled moments with ease. 

Taking a moment to breathe will help you stay composed and ready to take home the prize pot. 

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