Online Poker Tournament Strategies That Work

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A view of the chips and dealer button used during the World Series of Poker. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Below we’ll break down in detail the following online poker tournament strategies that actually work. As a perfect grounding before trying them, consider the following gambling advice:

  • Only play with money you can afford to lose (Expendable income).   
  • Be prudent with your online poker tournament selection until you become comfortable with the game and software. Start with freerolls and micro/small stakes tournaments.

How to Win an Online Poker Tournament? 

In the early stages of the tournament, the blinds are small. So, it gives the player an easy opportunity to build their image while there’s not the same pressure to build their chip stack.

Check out the best premium starting hands and only use them for the first few levels unless you have the position of the dealer button or cut off. Keep your range of starting hands tightly, this is a good place to start when trying to win the occasional big pot and only lose small ones. 

All the players will get dealt the same cards so it comes down to what you do with them. A player who wins a high percentage of hands without showing their cards down while constantly building their chip stack will always be at an advantage. 

To achieve this goal, along with the strategies we’ll break down below, you need to implement the following:

  • Time to read on your opponents.
  • An overall understanding of timing and the optimum moments to make your moves.
  • Consider you cannot win in the early stages of an online poker tournament, but you can always lose.

What Are Premium Starting Hands? 

  • Pocket pairs
  • Aces down to two
  • Ace-King
  • Ace-Queen

For more information on poker hand ranking, we recommend checking BetOnline, one of BMR’s top-rated books and betting sites.

Why Is Building an Image Important? 

Building an image can be the most important aspect of winning poker hands without going to a showdown. It’s a huge reason why there’s no downside to playing a tight range of hands in the early stages of an online poker tournament. 

This immediately brings an image of a tight player to your opponents, something you can exploit in the middle and later stages. 

Why Is the Dealer Button So Pivotal? 

  • The dealer button is the best position on the poker table because you’re last to act and have the benefit of the knowledge from all your opponents’ actions to dictate yours. 
  • You’re in the best position to create pressure on your opponents in all stages of the tournament.
  • In the early stages, it wides your range of starting hands on the dealer button. This is because you have the benefit of knowledge that hands like suited connectors are likely winning a big pot against premium starting hands or you get out of the action cheaply in comparison to the blind levels.  
  • Once into the medium and late stages, the dealer button gives you the perfect opportunity to use your position twinned with aggression. Lean on your opponents by raising the stakes. 

Understand Your Opponent Type When Raising in Position

If you raise the dealer button on a tight player, he will likely only raise back with a premium hand which means it’s an easy fold if he does unless you too have a premium hand. 

If you raise the dealer button on a loose player, you know he will likely call and want to play the pot, in which case you need to keep the pressure on after the flop with more aggression. This means two options, we either raise with a premium hand or decide to keep the aggression up post-flop. 

Why Is It Pivotal to Grasp the ICM?

Understanding the Independent Chip Model (ICM) is pivotal to your survival through the later stages of an online poker tournament when the blind levels increase. Once the blinds become bigger with the antes added into the pots, it becomes more important to keep the chip stack level fluid. 

The ICM explains your calling ranges in these circumstances and there often comes a point deep in every online poker tournament when a player will be asked to call their whole stack against an aggressive opponent. 

Players with twenty big blind stacks and below are shoving their whole chip stack into the middle of the pot in an attempt to steal the pot, sometimes on a pre-flop raise with 20 big blinds or the small stacks in the blinds (big and small blind).