MTTs (multi-table tournaments) are probably the ultimate test of a competitive poker player’s skills: deep pockets make no difference, which is why typically, only the very best players make it all the way. The MTT format is specifically designed to ensure that all competitors have an equal opportunity to reach the final table, but making it through the bubble stage and into the money demands a high level of strategy and skill. Luckily, you can gain that edge if you put in the hours by playing multi-table online poker tournaments. Start your journey towards MTT success by reading our comprehensive guide.
What are MTT poker tournaments?
MTTs are live or online poker tournaments that attract enough entrants to fill multiple tables. The world’s biggest MTT is the WSOP (World Series of Poker) Main Event, which attracted 8663 Texas Hold’em poker players in 2022 (the second-largest field in WSOP history.) The biggest online poker MTT to date is a Pokerstars event in 2013, which had a field of 225,000!
How do MTTs work? Players pay a fee to enter and compete for a slice of the tournament prize pool. Each player receives a set amount of chips, after which play proceeds according to standard rules. Observing poker etiquette throughout the tournament is, of course, a must. Players who lose all their chips are eliminated from the tournament.
MTTs will typically move through stages: from the early stage, where the blinds are low compared to the size of players’ starting stacks, to a middle stage where the blinds increase and antes are introduced, and finally through to the bubble stage, where players start competing for actual money. Typically, 10-15% of players will end up “in the money” in an MTT. Tables merge as players are eliminated until the last nine survivors meet at the final table. The ultimate victor is the player who collects all the chips and receives the largest portion of the prize money.
Poker tournament tips for MTTs
There are two main approaches to MTT strategy. The first strategy relates to which period of the tournament you are currently in. In the early stages, for example, most players are still competing, meaning blinds are low and stacks are big. As a result, many inexperienced players will adopt a loose-passive style of play, playing a lot of hands because it doesn’t cost much to call and see the flop. More experienced players will do the exact opposite and play tight pre-flop ranges to take chips from loose-passive players. It’s not worth stealing the blinds at this stage as they are too small.
The middle period of a live poker tournament is when the blinds go up and antes come in. Antes are additional forced bets required before cards are dealt; they increase the size of the pot and pressure players to open up their range and play more hands. Tight play at this stage means folding hand after hand as the blinds and antes bleed your stack. You’ll want to steal the blinds from late position, fight back against late position open raises with 3-bets and defend your blinds more frequently, all the while taking chips from weaker players.
It’s absolutely vital to grow your stack as much as possible during the middle period so you can get past the bubble. This is when players fight to make the money. Stack size is all-important here. A big stack enables you to play wide and lean heavily on short-stacked opponents who will be eliminated if they go all-in and lose. A short stack means you’ll need to play tight to make it into the money. Needless to say, a big stack helps in the final stages too.
Size up your stack size
The second MTT strategy relates to the size of your stack. If your chip stack is 100bb (100 times the big blind), then you’re comfortably deep stacked. Blinds and antes are not much of a concern, so you don’t have to try to steal them before the flop. Instead, you can wreak havoc on loose players with a tight aggressive play style until you’re on the bubble. At this point, your deep stack will allow you to steal chips with loose-aggressive play.
If you have a medium stack (50bb,) you must be more selective with your spots. You’ll want to play less tight than when you’re deep-stacked and raise a reasonably wide range of hands. Don’t go head-to-head with deep-stacked players; try to take chips from short-stacked players as you approach the bubble.
When your stack is 25bb or less, you’re in dangerous waters. With blinds and antes biting into your short stack, you don’t have the luxury of playing tight. A conventional poker tournament tip is to go all-in or fold. Stealing blinds and antes is a great way to grow your stack back, so be prepared to raise aggressively from a late position.
Is playing MTTs worth it?
Some poker players love MTTs, while others avoid them. Where you stand will depend on how you balance the pros and cons. The biggest pro is that MTTs offer huge rewards for successful players, with large cash prizes for players who make the money. Even low-stakes live poker online tournaments can see you winning 100-500 times your buy-in, which is an excellent return on investment. This winning potential attracts a lot of inexperienced players, which means that more skilled players can take advantage. MTT play is also very diverse, with different stack sizes, increasing blinds and antes to mix things up and keep players on their toes.
On the flip side, MTTs take a long time to complete, averaging 5-8 hours and often longer, depending on the number of players. Also, only 10-15% of players will make the money, so you’ll often compete for no reward. As a result, MTT players have to be tough-minded and resilient. If you’re really determined to succeed, you may want to consider hiring a poker coach.
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