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How do you approach a tournament after cutting your teeth in cash games?
Sure, this is a topic that could cover an entire book, but we just don’t have the space for it. Instead, let’s talk about some quick tips cash grinders can use before their next poker tournament.
Attack the Big Blind
It’s always surprising how patient you can be in most cash games. It doesn’t matter how tight you played all day. Apparently nobody wants to fold at most cash game tables! This is especially true for the lower bets.
You can make a living sitting on your ass and playing game shows. Such are the luxuries afforded to a player when the blinds never go up.
Occasionally, a loose raiser will open and a loose player will call. This is your chance to make a big squeeze, even with hands like a suited-gapper. If both players fold, you can show the 7-4 suited and say “this is my favorite hand.” This will keep you going for weeks.
But in tournaments we don’t have the luxury of time. We have to attack. How do we do it?
You’ve probably heard the old trope about trying to steal the blinds. But that advice is no longer as applicable as it once was, because nobody wants to fold their big blind!
Does that mean we should fire them? No. We want them to call from the big blind.
If you use a database management tool in online poker, you will see that absolutely nobody is making any money when they call from the big blind. Instead, they are only trying to save fractions of their big blind. They’re still losing a quarter big blind at a time, half a blind at a time, or more. That money has to go to someone and that someone should be you.
Who is going to three-bet with you?
So, now we know that we are picking up half the big blind every time the big blind hits us. It’s not an exact number, but let’s use that estimate for today’s purposes
The question then becomes how do we set that situation up as much as possible?
We can raise in late position. This is an obvious strategy to set up this head-to-head situation consistently.
However, sometimes we don’t get folded in late position as often as we want. This means that we will have to try to raise from previous position to get to the big blind.
This is the time when we will have to study the players on our left. How often do they three-bet? If they just cold call us, they give us a free flop, so we still have a great chance to make money.
If the opponents to our left have short stacks, they are much more likely to 3-bet us with an all-in. If they are more conservative players, they are unlikely to reassert themselves and resume their position. We should open more.
Let’s say you have a hand like K-3 suited. It’s not a hand you should play often in cash games. He makes a lot of second best flushes which can get extremely expensive when pots reach more than 200 big blinds.
However, in tournament poker, if nobody wants to three-bet and the big blind keeps calling you, then you can open and play this hand. You still don’t like playing this hand, but due to the increasing blinds and the advantageous table you will end up going off the line.
Small continuation episodes
It’s also important that we realize that when someone calls us from the big blind they are calling us with seemingly any hand. They could have more than 50% of their preflop hands in the deck!
This means that most flops will miss completely. This is what happens when you play so many hands with little post-flop potential. Irregular high cards and off-suited center cards cannot easily create flush and straight draws.
Your opponent will miss most of the time and will be out of position. This puts you in an advantageous position. You can bet small and make most of these players fold. They just wanted to see if they hit the flop. They aren’t much more interested after that.
If you bet 25% of the pot, your full bluff bet only needs to work 20% of the time. This means that your opponent has to defend against your bet 80% of the time. It will be terribly difficult when half time is missing and I am out of position.
This game plan will see you attack and go further in tournaments with controlled aggression. There is only one thing that can stop you, and that is if there is someone else at the table trying to use the same strategy.
If someone else at the table keeps raising preflop and tries to attack the blinds, then you’ll be forced to re-raise. You cannot allow them to take away every single theft location.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need a premium hand in these situations. You just need a hand that is better than the crap the frequent opener is raising with.
If you want to learn more about open-ended relaunch, you can do so by checking out the free masterclass I’ve put on my site. You can get the three-bet package for free when you join the PokerHeadRush.com mailing list.
When we first play tournament poker, it feels much faster than cash games. The blinds go up frequently and the players seem to think that Monopoly chips can be tossed around carelessly.
To start opening our game we simply raise more to get the big blind heads up. The more big pots we can get people to play out of position with us, the better things will get.
Opening more when people don’t raise us is a good first step in opening up our play in tournaments. Re-raising players who are opening too much is a great second step. If we can use both strategies at the same time, we will go deeper into many more tournaments. ♠
Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He’s a WPT And EPT final tablist and has WCOP extension And NEWS IN ADVANCE win online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on America’s Cardroom. Currently he enjoys blasting bums in Ignition tournaments while listening to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at PokerHeadRush.com