Hey, it’s Ron from the Poker Academy.com.
I going to assume that the vast majority of you are similar to me in this regard:
I work a day job, and my typical poker tournament is between $50-$100 and has 15-30 minute levels.
Sometimes I get the chance to play bigger, but my bread and butter tournament is small stakes, and it’s fast.
Usually, you will start out with 100 big blinds or so, and it’s off to the races.
I’ve been playing quite a few tournaments in this range, and wanted to point our a few mistakes that I see over and over.
You can exploit these post haste, or stop doing them if you recognize yourself.
1) Limp/Call preflop.
There is an absolute epidemic of limp/callers in the small stakes tournaments. Think about what this says to your opponents.
“I want to see a flop with this hand, but I don’t love it. So I’m going to limp, and hope that nobody raises me.”
The Poker Academy recommends ALWAYS coming in for a raise with your entire range. It gives you a chance to win the pot right now, and you keep the strength of your hand hidden.
In tournaments with fast levels, I will even open Kx suited and Qx suited depending on the specific players when I’m in position. So for instance, if I’m on the button with K8s and it goes limp, limp in front of me, I will make it 3x the big blind, and then add 1 BB for each limper – making my bet 5x the big blind. I realize this is a little loose if you are a “by the book” type of person. I’m purposefully widening my range to compensate for how fast the blind levels are. If the levels were an hour, I would tighten up.
Against better players, this should cause a lot of folds (and my Qx hand would be in the muck), but in many small stakes games, you will get a cascade of calls. When no-one puts in a raise, chances are slim that there is a monster out there. I’m prepared to bet half pot to almost any flop when checked to me. Sometimes I’ll slow down on an Ace / rag / rag flop. You’d be surprised how often you will take it down with your C-bet.
When you do a caller or two, sometimes you’ll hit your top card, sometimes you’ll have a flush draw and you can comfortably bet again on the turn.
If YOU limp a lot preflop, stop it.
2) Over shoving to protect a medium strength hand.
I see this move a lot in small games as well. Especially in the middle to late stages of the tourney. A player gets a hand like pocket 10s or Jacks and makes a giant open. When they get called they immediately get nervous. Then on the flop, they will shove like 5-8x the pot to “protect their hand.” In actuality, the only thing they’ve done is made is so only hands that can beat one pair will call.
If you take the tournament course on TPA.com you’ll learn that your line should look pretty similar up until the turn with almost your entire range. Remember one pair is just one pair, no matter how big it is.
3) Look for tell-boxes.
When the board is J-8-9 and you keep looking at your cards over and over, you might be on a draw? Same goes for when two hearts come on the flop and you keep looking at your hole cards. You checking to see if that’s a heart or a diamond? I’m not saying you can never double check your cards, but be subtle about it. When you see someone obviously on a draw, put some pressure on them.
Also, preflop – see if the players to your direct left have the “I’m going to fold” tell. Some players will pick up their cards differently when they are going to fold. Many times when you are in the cut-off or hijack seat, you can become the effective button if you have players that reliably fold when they hold their cards a certain way. You can steal a lot more when you spot these players to your left.
Fast tournaments play a different than slow ones. Make adjustments. Try things out and see if they will work. And remember, don’t try this stuff against really good players at higher stakes. They will eat your lunch.
See you on the felt. Hope you run good.