Building a Stack Without Spewing Chips Early in a Tournament

min read
A large stack of modern gold and black casino chips.
BetMGM Jul 17, 2023, 8:19 PM

Poker tournaments have gained immense popularity, becoming one of the most favored formats of poker gameplay. In fact, they’ve played a significant role in the emergence and widespread adoption of online poker games across the globe. The thrilling nature and competitive spirit of poker tournaments have captivated players, fueling the growth and popularity of the online poker community. 

Have you recently joined the ranks of passionate poker enthusiasts? You may already be testing your mettle in intense poker online games that showcase strategic gameplay, nerve-wracking bluffs and heart-pounding showdowns. If this is you (or who you want to be,) you’ll probably want to know more about how to win poker tournaments. Winning in poker tournaments starts with not spewing your chips early in the tournament and building a formidable stack.

The key to a successful run lies in your ability to accumulate chips and maintain a deep stack, giving you the advantage to make strategic moves and seize opportunities. This article provides you with valuable insights and expert advice to propel your game to the next level.

Consider Your Position

One essential aspect you must consider is your position in the betting order. The difference between being the first player to act and having the advantage of observing others’ actions can significantly impact your strategy. In early positions, it’s crucial to have strong hands to justify aggressive raises since weaker hands are vulnerable to the stronger hands of opponents.

Being in later positions allows you to exploit players who’ve folded early or checked. This presents an excellent opportunity to analyze their actions and search for signs of vulnerability. Seizing this moment, you can confidently raise or attempt to steal the blinds if the opportunity presents itself. Utilizing your advantageous position can help build a substantial chip stack, making it daunting for opponents to call with weak cards. Remember, the power of your position can greatly influence your decisions and the overall outcome of the game.

Play Tight Early

When you find yourself in the early stages of a tournament, it’s crucial to recognize that the stacks are deeper compared to the later stages or cash games. This means that every hand you play carries a higher risk, potentially costing you a significant number of big blinds.

To justify putting a substantial number of big blinds into the pot, it’s essential to have strong hands or big drawing hands. Consequently, it’s advisable to steer clear of playing marginal starting hands and rather focus on playing hands that have the potential to create substantial opportunities and allow you to accumulate a significant number of chips.

During this stage of the tournament, gameplay resembles that of deep stack poker strategy. Suited hands that have the possibility of forming strong made hands or big combination draws hold more value than off-suit hands which may, at best, only result in two pairs. By prioritizing hands with greater potential, you increase your chances of making substantial gains in the early stages of the tournament.

Always Adjust Bet Sizing

It’s essential to adjust your bet sizes strategically during poker tournaments; the early stages are no exception. Typically, the effective stacks in the early stages of tournaments are more substantial compared to later stages, necessitating an increase in both preflop and postflop betting sizes.

However, it’s important to remain attentive to the stack sizes of other players involved in the hand rather than simply defaulting to larger bets. For instance, when facing an opponent with a stack of 100 big blinds (BB,) employing smaller bet sizes would be more appropriate than when competing against opponents with stacks of 300 BB.

Mastering the art of using appropriate bet sizes is often underestimated in poker, yet it holds immense value. It allows you to extract maximum value from strong hands when necessary and helps to limit your losses when holding the second-best hand.

Tight Financial Management

It’s crucial to treat your bankroll with the utmost respect, ensuring responsible management and avoiding reckless risks that could lead to substantial losses. Striking a balance between winning and mitigating losses is key.

When it comes to effective bankroll management, a prudent strategy is to join a table only if you have enough funds to cover 100 big blinds, which should equate to a single buy-in. At this stage, the goal is to accumulate 25 buy-ins before moving up to the next stake level. Conversely, if your bankroll drops to only 25 buy-ins for the level below, it’s advisable to take a step down and play at that lower level for a while.

By adhering to this approach, you maintain the solid foundations of your bankroll, allowing for sustainable growth while minimizing the potential impact of losing streaks.

Be Selective With Bluffing

In tournaments, it’s important to recognize that recreational players make up a significant portion of the player pool, particularly over weekends. These players are often known for their reluctance to fold their hands. 

During the early stages of tournaments, you’ll often come across recreational players who are participating in just a few events and are eager to get involved in every pot, even if it means calling multiple bets with a mediocre hand.

Given this dynamic, your focus should be on aiming for strong hands and extracting value from them rather than relying heavily on bluffing to win pots. Your ultimate goal is to succeed in poker tournaments — one of the most reliable paths to victory is by accumulating a big poker stack. Having a big stack provides a significant advantage; it can intimidate your opponents, leading them to make costly mistakes.

Don’t Go Stealing Blinds…Yet

While stealing blinds becomes a crucial strategy in the middle and late stages of tournaments, it’s less significant during the early stages. The primary reason for this is the risk-reward ratio. 

In the early stages, the blinds are relatively small in comparison to your stack. Engaging in attempts to steal blinds can potentially expose you to unnecessary risks and potential losses that far outweigh the mere few big blinds at stake.

During this phase of the tournament, it’s important to prioritize the preservation of your stack and capitalize on opportunities to extract value with strong hands. There’s no need to feel a sense of urgency to steal blinds from other players. Instead, focus on building a solid foundation by accumulating chips through legitimate means and making the most of favorable situations with premium holdings.

Don’t Waste Chips Without Reason

When you have a healthy stack in a tournament, it’s crucial to exercise wisdom in your chip management. It’s important to make calculated moves in opportune situations where you have a high probability of winning pots without significant resistance and, if possible, without reaching a showdown.

Engaging in risky plays by calling off short stacks with marginal hands in an attempt to eliminate them is not a recommended strategy. Even if you have a sizable chip stack, it’s not your responsibility to relentlessly send players to the sidelines against all odds. Instead, prioritize the growth of your own stack by capitalizing on favorable opportunities.

Good Game Plan Equals Good Winnings at BetMGM

If you choose to participate in poker tournaments from the very beginning, the following strategies will assist you in minimizing chip losses during the early stages. By implementing these tips, you can focus on constructing a substantial chip stack that sets the stage for a deep tournament run.

Seek Maximum Value

Take advantage of weaker players who are less inclined to fold their hands. Look for opportunities to extract the maximum value from your strong hands, as these opponents are more likely to call your bets.

Play the Right Hands

Be selective in the types of hands you play, aiming to be on the favorable end of coolers (high-value hands.) Choose starting hands with strong potential that will put you in advantageous positions throughout the hand.

Identify Bluffing Abilities

Develop an understanding of which players at the table are capable of bluffing and which opponents are more straightforward in their gameplay. By recognizing these traits, you can make informed decisions and avoid falling victim to bluffs.

By following these steps, you can increase your chances of experiencing positive outcomes early in tournaments, putting you on the right side of variance. Equip yourself with adequate knowledge that can turn you into a pro poker strategist

Start your journey into the exhilarating world of poker games and register with BetMGM. As a new poker player, don’t trust your instincts completely. Read the blog to learn when to stick with your strategy or improvise.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.