How to Win Poker Tournaments – Early Rounds

If you’re going to profit and build your free poker bankroll from multi-table tournaments and Sit ‘N Goes, you’ll have to learn how to navigate the rising blind structure. You have to know how to play each level and when to switch gears. If you can do that well, your no-deposit bonus will quickly grow into a substantial amount of money.

Thankfully, the early stages of both Sit ‘N Goes and Multi-table tournaments are easy. Here’s how you should play it.

Strategy Overview
In the early stages of a tournament, tight is right. You don’t want to get involved in a lot of hands, so you’ll only play super-premium holdings and occasionally limping into multi-way pots when you’re in late position with a high quality speculative hand. If you ever find yourself in a tough situation when the blinds are low, tend to fold rather than risk all your chips. It’s early in the game and the price of poker is cheap. Avoid risking all your chips unless you’re holding a monster.

What Hands To Play
Obviously you’ll want to play the monsters: AA, KK, QQ and AK can be raised from any position. These are the hands that you want to see during the low blind levels. Your less experienced opponents will be splashing around with almost any two cards. Selecting superior starting hands will give you an edge. If you’re ever re-raised preflop when holding these hands, you can confidently put all your money in the center with AA or KK. I’d be much more careful with QQ and AK.

Hands like AQ and AJ suited can be played in late position if no one is showing a lot of aggression preflop. Just be careful with these hands. Use them to win small pots, but take care if you start getting a lot of action. These hands are easily dominated. Hands like JJ and TT are slightly stronger. These hands can be played for a raise in mid to late position, but be careful if you get a bad flop with a lot of overcards.

High suited connectors and low pocket pairs are more speculative hands. These hands can be played from late position if there are a lot of other players in the pot as well. You generally want to just call with these hands an see a large multi-way pot. If you hit a good flop you could win big and if the flop is bad, you can fold easily.

How To Play Post-Flop
Of course the way you play after the flop will depend on how well your hand connected. Here’s how you should proceed under different circumstances:

Dream Flops
A dream flop is any flop that gives you top pair/top kicker or better. When you hit a dream flop, bet whatever you think your opponent will call. Bet more when you’re facing more opponents or when there are potential draws on the board. You want to extract as much value as you can from your hand.

Powerful Draws
Sometimes you’ll fail to pair the flop, but you’ll make a solid draw to the highest possible flush or an open-ended straight (6-7-8-9, for example, is an open-ended straight because you make a straight with either a 5 or a 10). When you have a good draw like this, you want to keep the pot small. Check if you’re last to act and can see another card for free, but if you’re first to act with many players behind you, you should consider betting around 2/3 the pot since you’d have to call a reasonable bet anyway. You might win the pot right there or you could get a couple callers which will improve your pot odds. If someone raises, however, you’ll have to fold.

Hands Where You Where You Raised Preflop But Missed
Let’s say you have AK and raise from middle position, you get two callers and the flop comes 8-4-2. You missed completely, but chances are that your opponents missed too. Go ahead and bet around 2/3 the pot. It will be hard for your opponents to call unless they have something. If you get called or raised, you’re done. Fold your hand.

When You Flop A Marginal Hand
If you flop a weak top pair or maybe a strong second pair, you should play it the same way you play hands where you raised preflop but miss the flop. Go ahead and make a ½ to 2/3 pot bet and hope to take it down immediately. If someone calls or raises, give up the hand. It’s unlikely to hold up to a showdown.

You want to play solid hands when the blinds are low and not get mixed up in marginal situations. Playing marginal hands will make that no deposit poker bonus disappear as fast as it was awarded! When in doubt, play tighter. As you gain experience and confidence you can open up your starting range to include some of the speculative hands I recommended. This strategy should easily get you to the mid-blind level where the blinds will be between 50/100 and 100/200.