Are you new to poker tournaments, or just poker in general? Either way, check out this article for all the info you might need to take down that big first poker tournament win. Poker tournaments have been popular online for a number of years. They remain a great way to win big without risking too much money up-front. You might have a good cash game record, but winning a poker tournament requires a totally different set of skills and mindset.

In this article, we’ll assume you understand the basics of Texas Holdem poker along with having a general grasp of the main terms involved with the game. The main aim of this article is to get you from a novice poker player to someone with a good idea of the main tactics and strategies needed to be good at tournament poker. So let’s get started—how do you win an online poker tournament?

  1. Choose the right poker site
  2. Pick the right tournaments
  3. Look after your bankroll
  4. Use bonuses if you can
  5. Keep tight and careful early on
  6. Learn who you’re sitting with
  7. Consider using software
  8. You need a better hand to call an all-in than to go all-in first
  9. Be aware of the blinds and ante compared to your stack
  10. Loosen up as you approach the bubble
  11. Don’t go on tilt
  12. Be careful as every place means money in the later stages

Choose the right poker site

Before we look at actual strategy in a poker tournament, a lot of your success as a tournament poker player will depend on the site you’re playing at. It can be good to find a site with a lot of “fish”, or low-quality players—rather than one with only experienced poker experts. Another key consideration is the size of tournaments and the prizes on offer, as the bonuses you might be able to play with. You might also want to have a look at other factors including withdrawal options and side games.

Pick the right tournaments

When you’ve found the poker site for you, the next step is to pick the right tournament. This is another factor that plays a role in choosing the site in the first place, but also in picking tournament to enter once you’ve registered and deposited. Find tournaments with the right number of players for you. A big tournament with thousands of players will last longer, so be aware that they might take many hours to complete. However, the prizes can be much higher. Smaller tournaments can be quicker, but tournament play generally isn’t for people who are in a rush. Another thing you need to look for is tournaments with an overlay.

Overlay is when a tournament has positive value because the site is guaranteeing a certain prize fund and the tournament doesn’t have enough players. For example, a $10,000 prize fund at a $10 buy-in (not including rake) would need 1,000 players to have equal value. Any less than this means you’ve actually got positive value for this tournament. Remember that this figure can be skewed somewhat by rebuys.

Look after your bankroll

Many players simply deposit a certain amount and then enter a tournament to that value. That’s not the best way to manage your bankroll. Try only entering a tournament with a maximum value of 5% of your entire bankroll.

Use bonuses if you can

If you picked a site with bonus offers, make sure you can use these for tournament entries. You might also have got some tournament tickets when you signed up, so use these beforehand to get some free practice in and to try and boost your bankroll before you risk any real money.

Keep tight and careful early on

One key piece of strategic advice to remember in the early stages of a tournament is that if you lose your seat, you can’t win. That means you need to stay tight, and don’t be calling bets with inferior hands. Position is extremely important, and many players are far too loose in tournaments and get involved with hands they should just be folding pre-flop. Tighten up your starting hand requirements considerably in the early stages of a tournament, especially in early position on the table.

Learn who you’re sitting with

Be aware of which players are calling everything and which are tight. This can help give you a better indication of who you should and shouldn’t be getting involved with.

Consider using software

If you aren’t good at analysing and remembering players, you can get software like Pokertracker to give you a statistical view of them.

You need a better hand to call an all-in than to go all-in first

Remember, there are two ways to win from pushing all-in first (or raising). You either win the showdown or the other player folds. When you call an all-in, you better be sure you’ve got the best hand.

Be aware of the blinds and ante compared to your stack

This is an important thing to keep an eye on as the tournament progresses. That’s because the blind increases. Make sure you’ve got at least ten times the big blind or you might approach all-in mode. That’s when you have to start simply shoving all-in to try and pick up some blinds or double up. This is more effective as the tournament progresses as people get scared of losing their seat near the money places (or “bubble”).

Loosen up as you approach the bubble

As people become much tighter near the bubble, you can really make moves at this stage by picking up the ever-increasing blinds with careful late-position raises of 3 or 4 big blinds. If you’re desperate and only have less than ten times the big blind in your stack, you might need to shove all-in instead. Only make these raises if nobody else has called or raised before you, unless you have a great starting hand.

Don’t go on tilt

Keep your mindset in check and keep making a good decision, even if the cards have gone against you. Keeping a steady mindset is an important factor in becoming a good poker player at any level, especially during tournament play and in the latter stages of a tournament which can be stressful.

Be careful as every place means money in the later stages

Once you get to the final table, every time someone gets eliminated means you win more. So you might want to stay quiet and be careful. However, everyone will be doing this so it’s actually a time where you can make more money by being aggressive, especially as the blinds are so valuable at this point. It’s a fine balancing act that you might need to practice to get right.

Hopefully, these tips are enough to get you started towards tournament poker success.