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Early Stage Tournament Strategy

Paris Hilton playing Texas Holdem poker Even Paris knows that. When you join a poker tournament, you do not want to get eliminated at the beginning. Ring Games are a matter of maximizing expected value. Tournaments are a matter of maximizing your chance of survival, especially at the early stage.

When you play tournament poker, your action and strategy depend on many factors, in particular the stage of the tournament you are at. If you want to maximize your chances of success, you need to learn the early stage tournament strategy.

This article covers deep stack structures, for instance with blinds starting at 5/10 with initial stack size of 1500. This is the typical situation in most tournaments, where the blinds are very small compared to the chip stacks, with a huge M ratio greater than 50.

Early Stage Tournament Tactics

An example of the standard blind structure in online Texas Hold'em tournaments is taken from the $50k monthly freeroll at Carbon Poker. The chip stacks start at 2000 with blinds 5/10 which increase every 15 minutes to 10/20, 15/30 & 25/50 (no ante) in the first hour.

So a player who is able to maintain his chip stack at the original level of 2000 will have M=26.7 at the beginning of the second hour. The early stage can be said to correspond to the first 60-90 minutes in the case of this online tournament, and this is generally the norm.

It means that your safety will not be too vulnerable for quite some time before the blinds and antes start to dent into your stack. At the early stage, you are free to play your favorite strategy and style as you have a lot of room to maneuver. Just avoid allin situations like the plague, unless you are almost certain to prevail.

Based on Harrington on Hold'em Volume 1, there are three playing styles suitable for Texas Hold'em tournament in the early stage.

The "Conservative Play" is the style of a rock who only enters pots with strong hands, raising {AK,JJ+} from early position, {AJ+,KQ,88+} from middle position and {Ax,KQ,JTs+,77+} from late position.

The "Aggressive Approach" enters the pot with a much wider range of hands which may include any pair, any ace and any two face cards & low suited connectors. This poker style will involve bigger stack swings and necessitates more skill to be played well, especially postflop.

Finally poker stars such as Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen personify the "Super-Aggressive Approach". They can play any two cards from any position, but this requires high energy and tremendous hand and table reading skills.

It goes without saying that nearly opposite styles can be played successfully in tournaments at the early stage. Therefore it is not surprising to hear poker tournament players with widespread, if not opposite opinions about certain fundamental strategy aspects of the big game.

Should you try to aggressively increase your stack and seek doubling up opportunities at the early stage, or should you stay on the sideline until a monster hand comes along?

Is it better to maintain your chip stack stable at the beginning, because with each player getting eliminated your chance of winning increase?

Or is building a large chip stack early a necessary condition for reaching the final table?

These are opened questions and the answers depend on your personality. It is not enough to just survive, as the rising blinds and antes will eat overly conservative players alive. And it is very unwise to make large gambles early. The good tournament players have found the right balance between taking risk early and protecting their survival.

For beginners, it is highly recommended to use the Conservative Play strategy in early stage poker Tournament. Play conservatively and avoid big risks. This enables you to stay longer in the tournament so you can learn more and gain experience. This also gives you a chance to reach "the money".

Start to add aggression progressively once you feel comfortable with the Conservative Play. Practice your early stage strategy at our selection of the best poker rooms. These poker sites offer tons of online poker tournaments at all hours of the day, with many opportunities to make large profits.

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