Debunking Poker Tournament Myths


Poker is a game of skill and the strategies involved are infinite. With each player trying to master the strategy and be ahead of the pack, there are a lot of opinions, hard and fast rules being voiced around the table. Opinions can be strong and presented as the absolute truth. It’s tough to spend time at a live poker table without hearing all kinds of myths and waiting to be proven wrong.

Here’s a look at Poker Tournament Myths that need to be busted!

Aggressive Play Requires a Big Stack

Players are often under the assumption that one needs a big stack to put pressure on their opponents. As the game went on the biggest stack at the table is often assumed to be the ‘table captain’ (more like a bully) and the lesser stacks are expected to let him/her take charge (bully more we mean)!

Here’s the intervention:

  • Poker is a game of multiple probabilities, each hand is an individual challenge, its not a team sport where you come in with a strategy ahead of the game and try executing it!
  • You play your hand to the best ability keeping in mind the other factors.
  • Yes, stack size is important, but this is where most players get it wrong, big stack=aggressive, short stack=tight.

Here’s an example to illustrate the same:

Situation 1: A tournament is nearing the bubble. The big stack ‘table captain’ is perched to your right and is going at it for every hand! Lets say we have 15-20 blinds. Should your strategy be to:

1) Fold and let the chip lead do his thing
2) Attack his careless opens and take the dead money

Situation 2: You have a monster stack and get moved to a new table. In the table, the players to your left all have less chips but more experience. Which approach should you take?

1) Be the not so wise table captain and go for the blinds with any two cards
2) Play solid poker and avoid putting yourself in a spot against experienced players

Solution: Option 2 in both cases!

Here’s the deal – Your game plan must always depend on the opposition you’re facing and the situation you’re presented.

Don’t force it, and don’t let others force it.

My Short Stack Forced Me to Commit

Final table. Short stacked. Need to play tight and let others bust first. Instead you decide to shove any pair!

There’s no rule forcing you to do anything at all just because you’re short.

Yes, there are situations when its right to go all-in holding 7-2o with 10 big blinds, but there are other that require you to fold a hand as strong as pocket sevens too!

When you’re short (say, less than 15BB) and aren’t holding a monster, you’re looking for one of two things before you shovel your chips into the pot: Fold equity

Or lots of dead money in the pot

Playing for the Win Every Hand

This ones been doing the rounds and if you are a player living by it, its time to go home and refresh your skills! Players with this strategy build huge stacks and then give it all away in a ridiculous hand that they decided they “had to play for the win”!

No one is every going to expect you to win the very first tournament you take part in or wipe everyone off the table! In fact you lose!

Once you’ve got this engraved in your brain, focus on the objective, playing sold and fundamentally strong poker! Make exploitative adjustments and moves depending on the information presented to you in that situation.

There is certainly a fine line between calculated risks and kamikaze moves! And the truth is sometimes it is your job to get 2nd or 3rd in a tournament! As a tournament player, you need to learn to embrace pay jumps as much as you embrace those rare wins. You can’t win them all, and it’s how you handle the big picture that determines how successful you’ll eventually become.

Stay relevant, get your facts right and don’t stay foolish!