With so many of the crucial pay-jumps happening in the latter stages, much of our poker advice will help you crush those late stages, dominate that final table and walk away with the biggest prizes after owning the MTT field. But unless you make it into the money, run deep and final table, you can’t put any of it into practice. In this article, we’ll help you make your way through the often perilous early stages of an MTT (Multi-Table Tournament) with more confidence, raising your hopes of being one of the big stacks once the bubbles start popping!
Sit Down Early
With late registration being generous on partypoker, the temptation can be to sit down late and save yourself an hour or two of early levels play. But as we’ll explain, if you do that, then you could be missing out on a lot of value. The early levels of a poker tournament start with blinds that are lower than a rattlesnake’s bum-bag, and with a big starting stack, you have plenty of room for maneuver. In lower buy-in tournaments, this might not strike you as important, but imagine if you were to step up to playing one of the $109-entry tournament for the first time. That blind level allows you room to make mistakes, learn from them, get unlucky and still just be one winning hand away from an above-average stack. If there’s a time in poker tournaments to make errors, it’s in the early stages, not on the money bubble!
Take Advantage of the Field
While there are many advantages to sitting down to play a tournament from the off, one of the biggest ones is that you’re far likelier to be playing the tougher players towards the end of the tournament. The natural extension of this thought is that there must be less experienced players taking part at the beginning of tournaments. Think about it – would you rather be sitting down to play a tournament after an hour, late registering with starting stack, or would you rather have doubled up by then? The best way of winning tournaments is by chipping up and putting yourself in the position where less players can damage your stack. Being chipped up depends on your growing your stack early so often.
One of the biggest weaknesses of early play in MTTs is the lack of awareness of how to play with a big stack of, say, 200 big blinds and above. It’s why the WSOP Main Event has had so many players reach the final table in recent years that are cash grinders – they know how to handle the situation of having plenty of chips. If you can master that craft then sit down with players who are not used to dealing with it, then you’re putting yourself in the best possible position to take advantage of that weakness. A good idea at developing this side of your game is to open up other tables in a tournament you’re playing with the chip leaders. Watch how they’re attacking opponents and the positions in which they see flops as well as the ones they don’t.
Go Big or Go Home
There’s a common saying in poker and life sometimes, which is ‘Don’t be a hero’. To say it applies to early level tournament poker is an understatement. While you want to be getting a double-up, you don’t need to be risking your stack like you might do often in the latter stages when the average stack is 25 big blinds. Early doors, as a football pundit might say, can lead to plenty of chances to chip up, and calling off your stack is not the best of them very often. Monitoring which players are happy to call off their stacks, however, is a great idea. If you can force yourself into a position where you can get yourself a big lead, then acting aggressively can really pay off. Apply pressure and plenty of players in the early levels will be more than happy to pay your strength off.
Steady as She Goes
One aspect of early level poker is just how many players’ behavior will spike up and down as they come out of the traps. Approaching early play with too much excitement or heightened passivity can lead to damage to your stack. If you can keep a level head and approach the early stages with the same methodical mindset that might characterize the more crucial levels, then you will only benefit. Think about how much you concentrate on table position, situational elements and your own hand’s relative strength when you have fifteen big blinds. Applying that same focus when you have just kicked off a tournament can have far-reaching rewards.
One piece of advice which can often be ignored is to concentrate on your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses early in a tournament. Establishing patterns of certain opponents can be crucial, and taking notes, either in a Player Note in your online partypoker window or live by memory is never not going to be important. Having a raft of analysis on opponents later in a tournament is going to pay off very often, especially if you’re used to seeing the same faces. Getting parts of their play nailed down can make your own responses so much more successful in gameplay, and that has the happy knock-on effect of improving your results. Add in note-taking time gradually and you’ll soon be able to integrate naturally into your play as something you do as a matter of course.
Good luck at the tables!