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Changing Gears in Tournament Play

Tournament poker games can be a very different sort of animal than cash poker games. There are chip stacks to manage, people dropping in and out of the game, getting reseated multiple times, and the finality of it all; unless you are in a re-buy event, when your chips are gone, so are you. As it is, playing tournament poker requires different strategies than playing ring games, one of which is learning how to change gears while you play.

Many players think of this as switching playing styles, and technically it is, but changing gears might seem more appropriate. You have to play with different short term goals during a tournament event, and those goals will change back and forth from time to time. For example, in the beginning you might be interested in building a big stack of chips quickly; then once you have a mid to large stack, sitting back and letting other players bust each other out, thereby moving you up the ladder towards a paying position.

That play can work, but only if you actually do sit back when the time comes. If you are speculating on marginal (or even bad) hands in the beginning, looking for a sneaky flop to help you win an extra pot here and there, remember to back off if you don't catch a good flop. Your mind tells you it is okay to call the big blind with 2 9 off suit because you are speculating, but when there are two raises after you called, is it still okay? Not with that hand. Or if you make it to the flop and you see A, A, 7, is it okay to do anything other than check or fold? Not really, but if your mind is still set on "Speculate" then you may find yourself calling by reflex.

Remember: you need to vary your strategy from time to time to do well in a poker tournament, just be sure you don't get stuck in gear when it comes time to shift.

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