Poker Tournament Tips for New Players

In anticipation of SIG’s annual firm-wide No Limit Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament, we asked some of our experienced poker players what advice they would give to new players. Here are their answers:

Blinds

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of picking up the blinds. When it is folded to you in late position you can raise some marginal hands with the goal of “stealing” the blinds. Tournaments progress quickly and if you wait around for only premium hands you may be left in the dust! —Alex
  • When blinds get big relative to stack sizes, hand values change. Low, connected cards like five-six suited go down in value while hands with big cards in them like ace-ten off-suit go up in value. While five-six suited can make some deceptively strong hands—this is not as important when your opponent only has 10 big blinds. —Rob
  • When the blinds get large compared to your stack size, be more willing to go all-in with a decent hand before the flop. It’s often a mistake to just call/bet most of your chips. If you like your hand now, avoid a tough decision on the flop by committing pre-flop. —Jon

The strength of your hand

  • On many boards, a flush is a great hand. But if the community cards are Jc7c2cQc and you have the 3c, then anyone holding one of the other eight clubs has you beat. Versus two opponents with random cards, you’re probably losing. —Jon
  • Don’t get married to the strength of your hand pre-flop. Starting with 99 in the hole is pretty strong pre-flop, but pretty trashy if the flop is KQJ and there are a couple of other people who see the flop with you. —Todd
  • Remember the power of position. Always take into consideration the number of players left to act behind you. This is one of the most important factors of your decision making other than the strength of your hand. For each additional opponent left to act behind you, the strength of your hand needs to increase incrementally in order for you to continue to play profitably. —Scott

Final tips for new tournament players

  • Pay attention whenever a hand gets to a showdown and cards are tabled. There is a lot of information to be gained from seeing the cards your opponents are playing and the way they decided to play them. —Bariscan
  • The less experienced you are as a player, the more volatile you want the outcome to be. The temptation to avoid being embarrassed is to play meekly (calling a lot more than raising), but this is a mistake. —Todd
  • If you have only played live (cash) poker before, you may wonder about how to adjust your play in a tournament. Generally speaking, you should just play your regular game and try to accumulate chips. All the minutiae of tournament adjustments are interesting and a fun puzzle to think about, but don’t really add up to much value compared to just playing your best. —Jerrod
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