Maria Ho's Top 5 Tips for Low-Stakes, Big-Field Poker Tournaments

Published on 21 April 2015 by Pokerlistings 5224

Maria Ho has been playing poker professionally for the last ten years and today she's giving you the benefit of her vast experience by sharing her top five tips for low buy-in, big-field poker tournaments. Maria has made the top 100 of the WSOP Main Event twice, and won $1.7 million playing live poker tournaments. The tips Maria covers in this video will help you go deep in any big-field, low buy-in live poker tournament. We suggest you put them to use at the 2015 Battle of Malta, which Maria Ho just happens to be hosting. These tournaments are quickly becoming the most popular kind of poker event. Being able to make a huge score from a relatively small investment is really appealing to recreational players, which in turn has attracted more experienced players and pros who see an opportunity to compete against less skilled opponents. These events need special strategies and Maria Ho covers five of the most important in this free poker strategy video on

Hi, I'm Maria Ho, I've been playing poker professionally for the last ten years and these are my top five tips for low buy-in, big field poker tournaments.

Number five: capitalize on other players' mistakes. I think early on, especially with these big fields and the structure of the tournament a lot of people get a little frenzied and they think "Okay, I have to get my hands on a lot of chips quick" or they start playing the same tempo as their opponents of this wanting to re-enter, re-buy in, gambling a lot and I think that you're putting yourself in a much better position. When you are sitting back a little bit more and capitalizing on all these players that are making these mistakes than being the one to rush in head first and get too involved and then make all the mistakes yourself.

Number four: play in position and target the weak opponents. I think there's still a lot of great spots to be active, so just because you might be playing a tighter style doesn't mean you can't get involved in pots that are easy to win, especially when it comes to situations like raising in late position against several people. A lot of times you're going to be able to pick up the pot before the flop and you're not even really going to have to do much. Nobody likes to play out of position, that's just plain and simple, people feel like they're on the defense, and it's really great in poker when you're on the offense and everyone else is on the defense and playing in position helps you do that.

And you should also be targeting the weaker opponents at your table. When a weak opponent opens the pot and another weak player calls behind them, and you're in position, these are the pots you should be much more willing to get involved in. Especially because not only do you have position but also because of the players you're going to be up against, because these weaker opponents are the type, where they're going to overplay their hand and if you have a really good flop, you're going to be able to stack them or if they don't hit the board, they're very likely to give up because they're weak and more passive and you can take down a pot without even having a big hand. So, playing marginal holdings in these spots in position is actually really beneficial because of who your opponents are.

Number three: look for good spots to three bet shove when you have 20 big blinds. Typically in these tournaments there's a point, several levels in, where most of the stacks get very shallow. Meaning you have anywhere from 15 to 20 big blind stacks and at this point you don't really want to be calling many hands off of that stack and there'll be aggressive players at your table that will recognize that most of the stacks at their table is in this 15 to 20 big blinds stack zone, where they'll just be pounding the blinds and raising every hand because of it, because they know you're kind of handcuffed into going all in or folding. And I think the best way to combat these kinds of aggressive players that are raising a lot is to find spots where you should three bet shove your stack against their opens.

The reason why a 15 to 20 big blind stack is a really good stack to do that with is because you still have fold equity. Meaning you still have enough chips that they can't just call you with any two cards or any hand that they raise with, but it's also a really effective way to pick up 10 to 15 to 20 percent of your stack, essentially depending on where the antes are and how big the blinds are without even having to go to showdown and you're not really risking your tournament life.

Well obviously the first part is recognizing which one of your opponents are the ones that are opening very, very wide, but then the second part is figuring out what is also a hand with decent equity that, if called, would play well against what they're opening with. I would say a really good example of that is, I'm much more weighted when I three bet shove with 20 big blind stacks towards hands like Jack-10 suited or King-Queen suited than Ace-X because if you three bet shove with Ace-X and you get called by any Ace that's going to have you crushed, then you're in a horrible spot, but if you three bet shove with Jack-10 suited and you get called by Ace-King you're actually not that far behind. So you just have to know which hands are going to play well, against the hands that are opening, that are willing to call your stack but oftentimes you can expect that they'll probably just fold to your stack.

Number two: don't be afraid of the bubble. It's extremely important when you're on the bubble to recognize that this is an opportunity for you to get a lot of chips and to amass a big stack without having to risk a lot of chips because at this point most of the opponents at your table are kind of trying to just squeeze into the money so they're not really willing to play a lot of hands. They're definitely not calling in marginal situations. They're just fearful of having to put their tournament life at stake at some point in the hand, and then they just end up not playing any hands at all.

And I think a lot of people have that common fear of getting that close to finally being on the bubble and then just wanting to make it past that hump of actually being in the money and I think whether you have a huge stack or just an average stack, I think you should really hone in on the opportunities where you can easily take down pots with very little resistance.

Because a lot of times you get people that are defending their blinds but during the bubble people stop defending their blinds. So if you have weak opponents that are trying to squeeze into the money or they have short stacks in the blinds, then you should always be trying to raise and target those specific people in the blinds at that time.

I also think that during bubble play, there's a lot of players that will raise because they think it's easy but then they won't really call three bets. So I think that's also a good situation to take note of, when you see that someone's starting to abuse the bubble in their mind, which is raising a lot of pots maybe, but you also know that they're somewhat afraid to play a big pot, especially out of position, then you can take that opportunity to start three betting those players light in position.

Number one: start building reads for the final table before you get there. So I think most people think of the tournament as two separate tournaments: the tournament all the way up the the final table and then when the final table begins, it's a completely different tournament. And to me, I think it's really important to know that they are not two separate tournaments and you're not waiting to get to the final table.

Before you even get there you should be building reads on your opponents and recognizing patterns in the way that they play and I think that the best time to do that is when you're down to about five tables in the tournament. Because at that point with there always being a redraw at three tables and sometimes even at two tables, you're going to have played with all of your opponents that you will be playing if you were to make the final table before you even make the final table.

And that's why it's also really important to pay attention even if you yourself are not involved in the hand. I think a lot of players, they start zoning out when they're not in the hand and they'll be on the phone or whatever, but you're missing out on so much valuable information because they're still going to end up turning their hands over a lot of the times against these opponents and then you'll be able to pick up on what kind of hands they're playing and what kind of hands they're willing to go all in with.