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Starting Hands Revealed
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Playing the button/cutoff in tournaments
Note that this is different if you are in a ring game (check our article about playing the button in cash games).
Being able to assess the table and how strong each player's hand is, is the first step to take when playing a pot from the button. Most players will limp in late position with weaker hands trying to see a flop cheaply. You can pick up a lot of dead money from the button by making a pot sized raise before the flop.
A good portion of the time the last person to limp in front of you will make the call of your raise. The reason is because the size of the pot is now big enough where they are getting the right odds to make the call with their QJ or small pair.
Most of the time they will check and then fold to your flop bet, but sometimes you will have to fire two shells to win a hand or maybe even check and lay down your hand.
It all depends on your read on your opponent. From the button you should have the view of wanting to win the hand either before the flop or on the flop if your hand is weak.
One bullet a lot of the time will get the job done in tournaments, but more often players will float flops with middle pair or hands that you can run over from the button.
If you sense that players are starting to pick up on your aggression then you should tone down your play from position. Not to a point where you are folding until you get big pairs, but just cutting down your range slightly.
If it is late in a tournament and players are just moving all-in to your raises then maybe you should be the player who is moving all-in instead of letting your opponent put you to tough decisions.
If you feel that you haven’t had to make a tough decision or win a race to stay alive in a tournament then you are doing a great job of playing your button. The players who never have to make big decisions are the players who will not go broke in a tournament.
In the later stages of a tournament you will see more players just shoving to pre-flop raises.
To counter this play, if you are the one raising it up, you should simply wait for a big hand and make the same raise as you previously did. If you can keep consistent raises pre-flop that are roughly the same number of blinds, it becomes infinitely harder for your opponent to see when you have a hand versus when you don’t have a hand.
If you continue patterns that are untraceable from the button or cutoff position as what your hand is you will have more success, and be able to make a deeper run in a tournament.
If you like to play online poker tournaments, PokerStars has the largest selection on the Web where you can practice your button raises.