Online Poker Tournament Strategies That Don’t Work

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A commemorative poker chip. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images for Rock 'n' Roll Running Series /AFP

Below we’ll break down online poker tournament strategies that don’t work. Before that I need to start with some gambling advice:

  • Only play online poker tournament buy-ins you can afford to lose – expendable income. Never buy-in an online poker tournament that’s too expensive.
  • Prudent online poker tournament selection means starting with freerolls and micro/small stakes tournaments.
  • Take your time to become comfortable with the online poker software.

Winning an online poker tournament means optimum thinking and playing above your buy-in level is undoubtedly something that does not work.

Last week, I looked at online poker tournament strategies that work. This week we will be discussing strategies that don’t work.

If a Starting Hand is Good Enough to Call, Is it Often Good Enough to Raise With?

Last week, I covered how playing with position using the Dealer Button helps controlled aggression. Controlled aggression is the key to going deep while building chip stacks and a plethora of consistent form in online poker tournaments.

  • Therefore, if a hand is good enough to call, it is often, good enough to raise with. 
  •  Remember your opponent doesn’t know your hand strength, and in their mind, you’re likely representing a stronger hand than you often have.

Do We Open-Limp (Call) or Raise a Starting Hand?

Many players say to me, “all I wanted to do was see a flop with my two cards”.  That is easier said than done if you’re handing the initiative to more aggressive opponents who have a position on you and the option to make seeing a flop, expensive.  

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As a rule of thumb never flat call unless your last to act in the big blind, Dealer Button or indeed last to act on a Dealer button raise from any position.

On those occasions, you can flat call having suited connectors, small pocket pairs and connecting cards, which are perfect starting hands otherwise rarely, if ever Flat Call (open-limp).

It’s Fine to Fold!

Controlled aggression means there often comes a point in the betting when we have to have an inkling, that it’s time to give up on a pot.  This means regardless of position and if we’ve dictated the pot to our opponents, there are occasions when we’ve been trapped by those players.  They may have been calling with hands such as suited connectors or pocket pairs as discussed above which have hit the board harder than our hand.  It’s important to recognize these occasions and give up on the pot but if we have position and are last to act this can be achieved easier, sometimes even controlling the pot by checking and even getting to showdown cheaply.  Be savvy, especially if your opponent had been quite previously in the online poker tournament, you can give him respect for the time being.

Yes, it’s okay to let a pot go. Don’t Fall in Love with a Pot and keep betting blindly. It’s fine to fold!

Don’t Over-Bet

When you believe you have the winning hand never over bet a pot in the early stages of an online poker tournament, it’s too easier, a tell for proficient players to pick up on and we are losing value for our hand.  And, don’t forget unless you have the “nuts” it’s possible that your opponent indeed has the winning hand.

Try and be consistent with your chip stakes pre-flop and post-flop, as this gives your opponents’ harder decisions.

This gives you greater flexibility with an opponent deeper in an online poker tournament and then, there are occasions you can over-bet a pot to appear desperate to take it down!

Equally, Never, Under Bet a Pot

Many players new to poker can under bet or sometimes min bet a pot.  Like over-betting, this too is an exploitable and poor practice.  To get a happy medium, a good rule of thumb is to bet 50% to 66% of the pot on most occasions.  Mathematically, it protects the value of made hands while balancing the value for bluffing or semi-bluffing a drawing hand. 

Don’t Overplay Those Big Pairs

Last week we discussed the importance of the big pocket pairs amongst your tight starting range of an online poker tournament. With Pocket Aces and Pocket Kings, it’s fine to get all your money in pre-flop as long as it’s a raising game and especially if you can get someone to set you all-in pre-flop.  

Post-flop those hands become a little bit more precarious to play so be careful not to overplay them on a dangerous looking board that could be potentially full of straights, flushes or even trips.  After all your pre-flop hand of Pocket Aces or Pocket Kings might never improve for the five community cards in the middle.

Be careful not to go broke post-flop with your pocket Kings or pocket Aces.