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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