When it comes to Multi-Table Tournament (MTT) play, the most important role that you must play if you want to win is to play the extreme opposite of how the other players are playing. When your opponents are playing tight and doing alot of folding, you should be raising, raising, rasing! When they are playing fast and loose and throwing chips all over the place with weak hands, you should play tight, wait for strong hands and favorable pot odds, and preserve your chips. This is the mindstate you should maintain throughout the entire tournament.
In a typical tournament, you will notice far looser play in the early levels of the game than in most other stages. Many pots in the early stages will frequently be contested by 3, 4, 5 or more players. It is much harder to get reads on multiple opponents than it is to get a read on a single opponent. Also, more players in a hand increases your likelihood of coming up on the short end of the stick at the showdown. For these reasons, multi-way pots should typically be avoided. The low blinds in the early stages tempt many players to enter into pots with mediocre holdings in the hopes of nailing a miracle flop and taking down a “big” pot. But if you put it in perspective, “big” pots in the early stages of a tournament aren’t all that big. If you’ve ever spent a few hours sitting in an online tournament, you surely understand that once those blinds hit heights like 6,000/12,000, that “big” 3,000 pot seems pretty paltry. It’s now only a fraction of a blind. Still, this isn’t enough to keep boatloads of players from risking their tournament lives for the measly $20, $30, or $60 blinds. The lower the buy-in for the tournament, the more prominent the loose play in the early stages will be. In a freeroll tournament, wildly loose play will dominate the early stages of the game. The opening stages are the best times to stay tight and avoid the big multi-way pots without a monster of a hand.
By the middle stages, most of the wildest players have either busted out or accumulated enough chips to feel satisfied in switching to a more conservative game. This is also the stage where many of the less experienced tournament players will begin to lose their patience and occassionally make random, senseless moves. When you spot these players, you’ll want to tighten up against them. For the most part however, players will be playing a somewhat more predictable game and fewer players will be entering pots. Raises will be more respected at this point in the game. At this stage, you’ve entered a point in the game where the tight table image you’ve established will work to your advantage. Raising from position will be far more effective in stealing pots than in the earlier stages.
Once you reach the money bubble, which is the point where only one to a few more players need to bust out before the rest of the players make it into the money, you will typically see play tighten up dramatically. Unless you are sitting on one of the largest stacks in the tournament, you will want to use the opportunity that the bubble brings to raise frequently and steal as many uncontested blinds and antes as you can before the bubble bursts. Of course, if your goal is simply to cash, you probably ought to just wait it out. But if you want to win, you are going to need to accumulate a large stack of chips to help carry you to the endgame.
Final table play is a whole different ball game. Often, it’s almost of if the tourney is just beginning once the final table is reached. Many players will loosen up, and quite often, half the field will bust out rather quickly. Again, you’ll want to switch to a tight game. Use this time to analyze the action at the table and identify the tight players and the loose ones. Many times you’ll move up 4 or 5 places just by waiting for a short while and watching your opponents bust eachother out. The best lessons you’ll ever learn from a final table will be those you learn at the final table. While you can’t always guarantee yourself a seat at the final, you can join a single-table SNG at any time. These games are excellent practice for final table play. Learn to win STT SNGs, and you’ll greatly increase your chances of a big MTT win.
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