3,000 Player MTTs Part 2


Part one of this series focused on knowing your goal and on using the lucksack strategy.

In part two, we'll explain the concepts of a conservative start and "push and pray."

Losing players are always quick to call large-field tournaments "bingo" or "crapshoots," while winning players consistently do well.

Conservative Starts

Just because you can and will need to gamble in a tourney, doesn't always mean you should.

When you have an M of 20+ (your M being the ratio of your chip stack to the sum of the blinds and antes) there's no need to go looking for a gamble.

With an M of over 20 you're able to play "real poker," as some would call it.

In other words, you can play, raise, call and fold in almost all situations. But just because you aren't forced to go looking for a gamble doesn't mean you shouldn't take one if the right opportunity presents itself.

It is at this point in a tournament where you can afford to play conservative poker, and avoid having to take a coin flip.

Allen Kessler
Allen Kessler: Proponent of the conservative start, middle and end.

There are even some pros who will argue against moving all-in with an M over 100, regardless of the strength of your hand.

They argue that even being an 80% favorite is not worth your tournament life, when you can afford to fold and wait for a spot with less risk. This is why some pros will fold AA in a main event against an all-in in the first round.

I both agree and disagree with this philosophy. After all, your chips are your tournament life - you need to protect them at all costs. Without chips you have no tourney.

If you are the best player at your table by a wide margin, it makes sense to fold in such a situation.

Being massively deep-stacked against nine other players less skillful than you will allow you to grow your stack steadily, risk free.

If you're not in such a situation, you'll want to get yourself into the largest pots you can when you have the best of it.

The best advice for a conservative start is to stay away from any large pots where you may find yourself a coin flip or worse.

Once you start getting to a low M the standard call, raise and fold options are no longer available to you.

When you have an M of 6, any hand you play will pot-commit you - meaning you're playing for your stack.

Push and Pray

Especially in online tourneys, the later stages of a tournament are frequently reduced to an all-in fest.

Don't be fooled by the fireworks: the best players do have a method to their madness.

Dan Harrington
Harrington: Better to give than receive.

First off, as Dan Harrington says in his books, it's better to take a risk to keep your M above 20 than to have to take a risk to get it back.

Timing is almost always more important than the hands you're dealt.

Since you have no way of knowing if any hands you will be dealt after the current one will be better or worse, the only things you can count on are timing and blinds.

Being the first one into the pot is always better than calling the first one in.

For example:

If you're down to an M of 6, you're looking for a hand to move all-in with. You're dealt K Q. Let's put your opponent, with an M of 5, on A 6.

If you move all-in before the opponent, chances are they're folding. But if he acts before you open the pot, there's a good chance he'll move all-in with this.

Calling with K-Q will be behind many of the hands a player will push with, while the same players may fold the same hands if you get your money in first.

First in vigor, as Harrington calls it, is always more important than the hand at this point in a tournament.

If you're in a situation to do so, try to pick the best time and player to put your chips in against. It's better to get it all-in with a player who has you covered rather than with a player a little shy.

If you lose against the smaller-stack player, it will leave you crippled with one or two M - almost the same fate as busting out.

If the negatives are similar to equal, it makes sense to get into the situation which maximizes your profit.

Winning an extra two M in a pot may seem insignificant, but with raising blinds and antes, not to mention future pots, it can be a lifesaver.

An extra three M won turns into an extra six M the next time you win with it all-in.

Bubble Play

First off, if you're playing to win the bubble should be meaningless to you. Your play should be based on making the best moves possible to aid your run at the final table.

Tom Dwan
Durrrr: Laughs in the face of the bubble.

That being said, almost all players in a big tournament are affected by the bubble. If it affects the way they play their hands, it will indirectly affect the way you have to play yours.

Since most players are playing to make the money, they will be unwilling to get into any hand or situation around bubble time that can put their tournament at risk.

This will allow you to pick up more blinds and force people to fold more hands than usual.

Closely observe your opponents to see who's unwilling to play at bubble time. Target them and build your stack.

If another player is playing the same game as you, you want to avoid him at this moment in a tournament.

If you're both upping your aggression, you can get yourself into a pot larger than you had planned on.

More importantly, if there are seven players on your table willing to give away blinds with little to no resistance, it doesn't make sense to play large variance-filled hands against other aggressors.

One thing to be wary of: many very short-stacked players who are in push or fold mode will be willing to push over the top of any raise you make if they have a decent hand.

They'd rather get it in with a hopeful coin flip or a resteal than to get blinded out. Players in push or fold mode should always be handled with care.


You may have noticed that we've said nothing of final-table play. The problem with giving final-table advice is it's so heavily reliant on the situation.

Blinds, stacks, players, timing and many other factors - such as if it's televised or not - all come into play. There are too many variables to make it worth giving any general final-table counsel.

The goal of this article was to help you better understand how to mold your game in an effort at making it to more final tables. I hope I'll see you there.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »