Home > Poker Strategy Section > NL Texas Holdem Tournaments

How to Qualify for the EPT: Avoid Bad Risks and Count Stacks


This is the fourth article in a seven-part series from EPT Serial Qualifier Pierre Neuville. Check back every Thursday for the next in the series.

Check the list below the article for links to the rest of the series.

I like to say I’m “at the helm” of my own qualification chances and I navigate by eye.

I stay focused on two parameters: avoiding unnecessary risks and taking every pot I can to keep myself above the average stack and in qualifying position.

I decrease my risk-taking when I have a cushion compared to the average stack and I increase it if I lose ground.

But more than anything, my game is not primarily guided by “maps” or formulas for the moment.

It’s guided by the overall qualifying situation in the tournament. 

Get Comfortable With Throwing Away Pretty Cards

This kind of constant self-coaching will help you throw away bullets like AK, QQ, and JJ preflop with greater ease.

It will also help you make the right folds on dangerous flops with top pair or AA.

Never forget that you need to resist and not fall in love with big hands that can throw you off course from your goal - to earn that EPT seat..

By focusing your attention on the general objective in these tournaments, you will develop your art of qualifying to the highest level.

When I’m in good position to qualify for my seat and have a “pretty” hand pre flop – 99-QQ, AQ and even AK depending on my position - my first reflex is not to worship my nice-looking cards but to assess my opponents’ stacks or openers.

If their stacks are more than half of mine, a call will probably help me avoid getting in a coin-flip situation. 

If their stacks are smaller than that, that will probably give me some fold equity.

Of course many factors can come into play, but basically I will look for maximum gain while reducing the chances of having “an accident” too big to recover from.

Calculate Your Stack Size for All Possible Scenarios

Before I make my decision, I won’t just admire my nice cards.

Stack sizes are always key.

I’ll calculate my future stack scenarios in case of a call, a fold, if I’ll need to rebuild and even in the case of a coin flip won or lost.

I think about all of the different future stack situations to determine my correct decision. 

The framework hasn’t changed though. It’s always the general strategy which dominates and which makes me ask this question:

To what extent will the choice I make affect my chances of winning a seat?

I repeat this because too few players calculate and re-calculate the exact amount their chip stack will be after choosing one move or the other.

Key Takeaway:

“Thinking” in poker is not just hesitating – it’s calculating.

Understanding the implications of all the various outcomes will often tell you the best choice to make.

I don’t gamble on a coin toss, I don’t play the cards according to a formula.

I only strive to increase my chances to qualify!

More in the How to Qualify for the EPT Series:

To open a new account at PokerStars and take advantage of our exclusive sign-up bonus and monthly freerolls, click through to our PokerStars review page.