Basic MTT Poker Strategy
If you’re new to the game of poker, good luck finding anything more exciting than a multi-table tournament. From complimentary new depositor freerolls all the way up to the multi-million dollar World Series Of Poker, nothing beats a multi-table tournament. While it’s easy to find MTTs at an assortment of buy-ins for any number of players imaginable, your success won’t be entirely random.
While there’s no magic bullet that will guarantee your success, take advantage of our strategy guide to get started on a winning path. Thanks to their big prize pools and affordable entry fees, MTTs are one of the fastest ways to potentially build a bankroll. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll make the WSOP’s November Nine.
Timing Is Everything
When you play MTTs, you’re in it for the long haul. While some single table Sit and Go tournaments can seem like a marathon at times, MTTs can seriously amplify that feeling. Before you begin, make sure you have the time to play. We’re not just talking about room in your schedule. You’ll need stamina and the discipline to stay in the game. If you aren’t in it for the long haul, you stand to gain nothing.
You’ve probably seen those huge guaranteed prize pools offered on top poker sites. Those $250,000 guaranteed prize pools look enticing but you won’t get it all if you win. MTTs are rarely winner take all but if you finish first you can expect the lion’s share. Players who make the final table are usually awarded for their standing, but you’ll have to refer to the payout schedule for whatever tournaments you play. The payout schedule will affect how you play at later stages of the game.
MTT Strategy At A Glance
- Make sure you have the time and discipline for a lengthy game.
- Prey on the fish early in the game before someone else does.
- Play tight early on but don’t be timid with a decent starting hand.
- Be aware of your position and play the right hands.
- Don’t be afraid to fold even if you have a stake in the pot.
- Expand your playable hands as you approach the bubble.
- Get aggressive at the final table.
- Target players with sizable stacks.
- Final table success is highly situational.
The buy-in or cost of entry will obviously affect how your play throughout the game. You often see players go all-in on their first freeroll hand since they have nothing to lose and want to get a leg up before committing to the game. That would never happen in a tournament with a $10,000 buy-in.
Prepare To Go Fishing
While it’s safe to play conservatively and fly under the radar in single table tournaments, you can’t treat MTTs like a string of single tables. Your chip count matters and you’ll need to build your chip stack from the beginning. Given the relatively small size of the blinds early on, especially compared to your chip count, everyone can afford to bet for a little while. Early play is similar to cash games in that respect. If you’ve ever played cash games, you know how well fish can satisfy your hunger. The only problem is there are dozens of other fishermen preying on the same fish. That’s why it’s critical to go after the weak players as soon as possible and take their chips before stronger opponents beat you to it. Success early on will pay dividends down the line.
Early And Middle Game Strategy
Don’t be afraid to fold your weak hands, especially since you can afford it. As the fish cash in their chips for good, you can start playing more speculative hands. How much you are willing to speculate depends on your cards and how much it’s going to cost you. Obviously they are inversely proportional. Just don’t spend too much before the flop. More importantly, don’t chase that big pot if your hand doesn’t pan out after the flop.
Playing good hands is also critical at every stage of the game. That means huge raises when you think you’ve got the nuts. Treat those pots like they have your name etched on every chip.
What Qualifies As A Good Hand By Position
- In early position: A pair of jacks or better, AQ or AK of the same suit, and AK of different suits
- In middle position: All the early position cards and pair of tens, and AJ or better of any suit
- In late Position: All of the early and middle position cards and a pair of eights or better, A10 or better of any suit, and connector cards
Approaching The Bubble
You probably won’t reach the bubble with a respectable stack by playing tight. You’ll need to adapt your style of play depending on your opponents, aiming to participate in enough decent hands. You can’t be afraid to get involved in pots when you might stand a chance. As the blinds increase you’ll want to play more cards. That means playing a pair of tens, AJ and A10 from early position; a pair of nines, A9 and A10 from the middle position; and a pair of fives and A8 from late position.
Don’t be surprised when your opponents start playing more cautiously as you approach the bubble. No one wants to put in all that time and miss getting paid by a hair due to a couple bad hands at the wrong time.
Late Game Strategy
Once the bubble pops and your opponents are guaranteed a payday, you get expect the aggression to escalate fast. Be prepared for an all-in fest. Players with very few chips are just a couple of hands away from becoming railbirds. You should play aggressively and set your sights on players with larger stacks, though not necessarily the leader from the outset. If your chip count is low but you can still handle a few blinds make sure you choose which hands to play carefully.
Your success at the final table can be a bit of a crapshoot and highly situational. Take a look at the Aussie Millions or WSOP final tables and you’ll see that the best player doesn’t always win. That’s equally true in all kinds of MTTs, which is why some players prefer cash games. Still that shouldn’t deter you from playing, especially given the often decent payout schedules.