Multi-Table Tournament Strategy: Early Blind Levels


This is the easiest blind level to play.

You really want to fold most hands in this blind level until the fishy players are weeded out.

The key is to stay calm, collected and in the zone until the middle rounds.

Just AA or KK? Probably Too Tight

Some strategy guides claim that you should only play AA and KK in the early rounds.

This is a little too tight. If you're in late position with a pair or A-x suited, there's no reason why you would want to fold, especially if you can get in cheap.

While you want to double up in the early rounds, it's not absolutely necessary to do so.

Generally you should stick with the basic strong, premium hands for the first blind level.

A Simple Strategy to Stick To

How to play each of these hands regarding the blinds will come below but first you should take a couple of things into account:

  1. This is basic tournament strategy. This strategy alone will win tournaments for as long as you use it. You also may want to incorporate other elements that you find beneficial to your overall play. Although most people stick straight to the formula, there'll be times when you need to change it up.
  2. You may want to play more hands. This strategy is stone cold tight. I've found that if you possess this kind of patience, you'll win your fair share of MTTs. A lot of people say this strategy is too tight. You can choose to play suited connectors if you please, but let me warn you, your bankroll will take big swings when you're in a lot of hands.

Starting Hands

  1. The Big Three - AA, KK, and QQ
  2. Ace-King
  3. Pairs - 22 through JJ
  4. A-x suited

Let's talk about how to play each hand.

The Big Three

Try your best to wait on one of the big three hands.

When you're in late position, you want to limp in with pairs and A-x suited. When playing one of the big three hands, take into account the average raise at the table.

If you're seeing huge raises on your table you may want to throw out a huge raise pre-flop. On an average table, raise four or five times the big blind.

On the flop, bet no matter what as long as there are two people or fewer in the pot. With more than two people in the pot, the flop must be optimal and you must have what you think is the best hand.

Bet huge with these hands and take it to the river. In most cases you'll win because you were a favorite pre-flop.


Ace-King is a hand that can make or break your tournament. Usually you'd raise this hand from any position, but if re-raised pre-flop it's a good idea to become defensive.

You must hit your ace or king on the flop, or don't bet. The players in the early rounds are usually fishy and will call bets on the flop with drawing hands or even low pair.

If you have to, give up ace-king. It can be beaten consistently by a pair of 2s heads-up. The reason to play it hard is because it has the possibility of becoming the best hand when you hit the flop.

Raise ace-king three times the big blind to play it cautiously.

Pairs and A-x Suited

Pairs and A-x suited are played in a straightforward manner. These hands are good for busting big pots with a lot of players in them.

You want to limp in with them from late position. If there are a ton of people in the pot pre-flop on a small raise, you might call in hopes of trips or a flush/flush draw.

These hands become worthless when the blinds become high because you will usually miss them on the flop. Also, as the tournament progresses and the blinds go up, short stacks push all-in way too much for you to be limping in with these hands.


That essentially covers the early rounds. Stay tight and if someone puts you all-in with ace-king, just fold it.

There will be plenty of opportunities to go all-in as the tournament progresses. You are looking to put your money in when you know it'll come back to you.

If you want to learn how to play the middle rounds successfully, check the next article titled Multi-Table Tournament Strategy: Middle Blind Levels.

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Kyle Andrew Poggenpoel 2016-02-06 10:00:46

What about those instances when it seems that you are folding hands like J4 or 98s and hitting trips or full-houses? It usually happens if my 1st hands are premium & I'm in position.

lee 2009-08-05 01:52:00

I play differently and it pays the early blind levels i limp with almost every hand like 9-5 9-7 8-7 10-8 6-4..stuff like that i love in the early levels, you WILL hit. but fold to a big raise pre flop with these hands.then when i double up i play only strong hands so i dont lose my chip advantage. in online poker the chip leader has an advantage, he/she will win with bad hands just so people get knocked out. it happens unfortunatley

mozartiano 2009-07-29 18:12:00

the AA guy in your tourney played the hand passivelly. You would not have calleda a 200 bet, would you?

In my first live tournament, I set trembling in the table and was dealt AK UTG. just did 4 bb raise and nobody called :D. Felt relieved.

Well, I agree with this theory, but fell bothered by ALWAYS reaching the middle tourney shortstacked. I see guys with huge stacks though. How do they get it?

Getting in the hands cheaply is important, but if the table is made of good players, they will never allow it to happen.

So I think I should be like a rock, but sometimes play very aggressivelly poor hands, only to grab some chips.

After trying this strategy I hope to get a big stack till the middle.

J-Rok 2009-07-20 13:56:00

This guy is nuttso , I just won my regionals tournament here in Scotland , the first hand dealt i was in SB with 10-8 suited d , UTG limps in for 50 ( blinds 25-50 ) 6 other callers so i decide ill see a flop . Flop comes 10-8-2 rainbow , i check my 2 pairs , BB checks and UTG bets 1000 ?? everybody else folds around to me , After nthinking i push all in with my 2 pairs , he calls and shows AA , Cutting the story short , he is the first one out of tournament and i double up and i also won the tournament ... TY

Deks 2009-02-26 00:02:00

you say if someone puts you all in with AK you fold? you must distinguish whether the tourney is freezeout or rebuy as this has a significant difference. In a rebuy tourney you need to be willing to race with AK in the hopes of building a stack early on which makes life easier as the blinds increase and you dont need to resort to a push fold strategy

John 2008-10-27 16:37:00

Yeah good theory but in reality, cant tell you the number of times been all in with KK and got hammered with 777, JJJ and even 5555.
I prefer not to go all in and build a stack which can absorb any bad beats.

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