How To Play the Early Levels of Multi-Table Tournaments

min read
Chip on a roulette in a casino
BetMGM Jun 19, 2024, 5:48 PM

If you’re still learning how to play poker, you’ll soon reach a point where you move from video poker and cash games to dabbling in poker tournaments.

Multi-table tournaments are undoubtedly some of the most popular online poker tournaments out there, and they’re enjoyed by amateurs and seasoned players alike. Of course, you’ll want to get as far into the tournament as possible (and potentially win a piece of the pot). So, what’s the best way to go about playing the earlier levels to secure your spot in the later stages? Read on for some helpful tips.

What Are Multi-Table Tournaments?

Multi-table tournaments (MTTs) are large-scale tournaments that involve multiple tables of players. As the tournament progresses, players are eliminated, and tables are consolidated until one final table remains. The last player standing is crowned the winner and (usually) handsomely rewarded.

Generally, there are two types of MTTs, namely fast and slow MTTs.

  • Fast Tournaments: These have shorter blind levels, meaning the blinds increase rapidly. This format requires a more aggressive style of play.
  • Slow Tournaments: These feature longer blind levels, allowing for more strategic and thoughtful play.

Stages of a Multi-Table Tournament

Multi-table tournaments occur in 5 stages, detailed below.

1. Early Stage

Here, the blinds are low, relative to stack sizes. Play conservatively, observe your opponents and avoid big risks (more insightful tips below).

2. Middle Stage

During the middle stage of the MTT, blinds increase, putting more pressure on players. Start playing more hands, especially if your stack is average or above.

3. Bubble Stage

As described above, the bubble stage is a delicate balancing act between risk and reward.

4. In the Money (ITM)

After the bubble bursts, play loosens as the pressure is off. Adjust your strategy based on your stack size and opponents.

5. Final Table

The game gets serious here, where every decision counts. Focus on stack sizes and position and adapt to the changing dynamics.

20 Quick Tips for Acing the Early Stages of MTTs

  1. Play Tight but Alert: Initially, play fewer hands but stay alert to opportunities where others are playing too loose.
  2. Observe Your Opponents: Watch your opponents’ tendencies. Are they aggressive, passive, tight, or loose?
  3. Manage Your Bankroll: Only play tournaments that fit your bankroll. Overextending can lead to unnecessary stress.
  4. Avoid Unnecessary Risks: During the early stages, avoid risky moves like bluffing against multiple opponents.
  5. Understand Position Play: Being “in position” (acting after most of your opponents) gives you more information and control over the pot.
  6. Adapt to Table Dynamics: Adjust your strategy based on the playing style at your table.
  7. Mind Your Stack Size: Keep an eye on your chip stack relative to the blinds and average tournament stack.
  8. Steal Blinds Judiciously: If you’re in a late position and it seems like others are playing tight, consider raising to steal the blinds.
  9. Don’t Get Attached to Hands: Don’t overvalue hands like AQ or TT, especially if faced with significant resistance.
  10. Take Note of Stack Sizes: Adjust your play based on the stack sizes of your opponents. Bigger stacks can afford to take more risks.
  11. Stay Patient: It’s a long game. Don’t feel pressured to make big moves early on. Early stages aren’t about winning the tournament but about surviving and gathering information.
  12. Don’t Fear Rebuys: In rebuy tournaments, don’t be afraid to rebuy if you think you have an edge.
  13. Control Your Emotions: Tilt can be your worst enemy. Stay calm and think logically.
  14. Plan for Each Stage: Have a strategy for different stages of the tournament.
  15. Avoid Coin Flips: Early on, avoid getting into situations where you’re flipping a coin for your tournament life. Look for situations where you have a clear edge.
  16. Adjust to Blind Increases: As blinds increase, adjust your hand range. Be ready to loosen up a bit as the tournament progresses.
  17. Table Image: Establish a table image. How you play early can influence how opponents perceive and play against you later.
  18. Value Bet: Extract value when you have a strong hand. Don’t scare off opponents with overly aggressive betting.
  19. Bluff Sparingly: Bluffing is an art. Do it sparingly and intelligently, especially in the early stages.
  20. Picking Spots: Look for profitable spots to collect chips without significant risk. This might mean taking advantage of weaker players or capitalizing on others’ mistakes.
  21. Understand Tournament Structure: Know if it’s a turbo, regular, or deep-stack event. This knowledge will impact your overall strategy.

Approaching the Bubble in Multi-Table Poker Tournaments

The bubble is a crucial phase just before the remaining players get into the money. This is a tense moment, as players close to getting paid are often more cautious, while others might take advantage of this to play more aggressively.

Here are a few bonus tips for surviving the bubble.

1. Assess Your Stack Size

Your strategy greatly depends on how many chips you have. If you have a big stack, you can pressure those with fewer chips. As a short stack, you need to decide whether to play conservatively to sneak into the money or take a risk to build your stack.

2. Understand Opponents’ Motivations

Some players will tighten up to ensure a payout, while others will get aggressive. Observe and adapt to their strategies.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Risks

Unless you have a strong hand or a clear edge, avoid going head-to-head with big stacks that can easily eliminate you.

4. Stay Focused

The bubble can often be the most mentally taxing part of an MTT. Stay calm and focused, and don’t let emotions dictate your decisions.

Other Ways To Play Poker Outside Multi-Table Tournaments

If you enjoyed your first MTT, you might be keen to explore the other types of poker tournaments on offer. Here are a few to get you started.

  1. Single-Table Tournaments (Sit and Gos): These are quicker and involve fewer players, usually one table of six to 10.
  2. Cash Games: Here, chips represent real money, and players can join or leave at any time.
  3. Heads-Up Tournaments: These are one-on-one matches that test your skills directly against another player.
  4. Satellite Tournaments: These offer a chance to win entry into larger, more expensive tournaments.

Play Poker Online at BetMGM

Ready to try your luck? Choose BetMGM to play online poker tournaments for real money. Along with playing poker online, you can also play various other popular casino table games, as well as online slots, live dealer casino games, variety games, and more.

Register to dive head-first into this ever-expanding online community.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
About the Author


Read More

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.