Early Stages of Poker Tournaments

Early Stages of Poker Tournaments

In this short blog, I’m going to cover some strategy about the early stages of poker tournaments using a hand sent to me by one of my readers, Nicholas.

It’s the very first hand of a $1,650 deep stack event with starting stacks of $30,000.

After an early position opener to $250 and 2 callers, Nicholas calls in the Big Blind with 5s3s.

My Analysis: I’m fine with a call here. You close the action and are getting an excellent price.

Flop: Js 8s 3c. Nicholas checks, the original raiser bets 650 and it folds back to Nicholas. He check raises to 2,200 and gets called.

My Analysis: You could go either way here (raising or calling). Check raising allows you to take control of the hand and put your opponent in a very tough spot, even with a strong over pair. The downside of raising is if you get 3-bet. Your hand is too good to fold, but in a tough spot if you call out of position.

I’d mix it up here, but I’m fine with the raise. Good choice on sizing though, you want to apply max pressure and put your opponent on the defense.

Turn: 3d.

Nicholas bets $4,700 and gets called.

My Analysis: A bet is totally standard here. I like the large sizing, as Nicholas is only representing a boat or trips for value. The rest of his range is flush or straight draws. Because so much of your range is weak, it’s good to bet big to get max value when you actually have something. Furthermore your opponent is never going to fold a big pair so you may as well build the pot.

River: Qc.

Nicholas bets $12,700, his opponent jams and Nicholas folds.

My Analysis: Betting here is definitely standard. Although the queen completes the straight, there are still plenty of flush draws which could have missed and it’s a very difficult spot for your opponent to fold an overpair. That said I’d choose a much smaller sizing here, something which your opponent can convince himself to call with. I’d go with 6,000 or so.

As played, I would fold. It’s very unlikely your opponent is bluffing and there are no hands which are worse than yours which he is shoving with.

In general in the early stages of poker tournaments you don’t want to be getting all the money in. You also have to consider that your opponents are feeling the same way and are likely playing very tight. Nobody wants to bust, especially on the first hand.

A good way to adjust to the early stages of poker tournaments is to think about how you would act if the situation were reversed. In other words, what hands would you shove with in your opponents shoes?

Can you think of one that is worse than 53 on this final board of J833Q?

I doubt it. Even if I had a straight, I would probably just call. I wouldn’t want to risk busting if my opponent somehow had a full house or quads.

For my entire analysis, check out the video below!

I hope you enjoyed this video and my quick blog on how to play in the early stages of poker tournaments.

If you liked it, please share it with someone who would benefit.

See you next time!
Alec

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  • Blake

    Great Content Alec,

    I’m just curious, do you think that calling on the flop is a better decision then raising? My thoughts are if the opponent is betting with a better hand then calling to maintain pot control is a great choice, especially deep stacked. It’s the first hand of the tournament, most likely players aren’t getting out of line, so why not just call and play the turn. Also just calling keeps all of his bluffs in. I could see this play making more sense in a cash game, but in a tournament I don’t think it’s a great idea to inflate the pot so early in the tournament. The problem is once he raises the flop future bets on turn and river are increase proportionally. Which again, I believe to be great in a cash game or even when short stacked in a tourney.

    What are your thoughts?

    • TimmyD

      Hard to fault your reasoning here,