Our legal poker guide offers

  • Poker Reviews
  • State Laws
  • Comparison Guide

Beginners Poker Tournament Strategy

Improve Your Chances of Reaching the Final Table with this Beginners Strategy Guide

Poker tournaments offer up some dream opportunities for big wins – though playing in a tournament as a beginner can be a tricky proposition. Entering a tournament with no real idea of strategy can make for a tough time at the tables, where the hope of a big pay out can seem a faraway prospect.

Fortunately, some basic tournament strategy can go a long way. In many cases, especially at lower stakes, even a basic strategy can make you one of the better players in the event immediately.  In this strategy guide, each stage of a tournament is broken down – to help you chip-up as you go. At the end of this page you’ll find an extra piece of advice that will stand you in good stead in any poker tournament.

Beginners Strategy – Early Stages of an Online Poker Tournament

In the early stages of a poker tournament, the adage ‘tight is right’ will go a long way. A tournament might start with blind levels of 10/20 chips and you will usually have a starting stack of around 1,500 / 2,000 chips.

At this point, there is no real reason to get involved unless you have a solid hand. Yes, you can get involved in a large multi-way pot with hands like suited connectors, but generally you’ll want to keep to those premium hands such as Ace-Queen or better and high pairs. One of the mistakes you see from many beginners is to limp in with a hand such as A8 off, then call a raise behind them. This is just asking for trouble as even if an Ace appears on the flop, you are crushed by the likes of AK and AQ. Even if you find a fold after calling the raise, you’ve still lost in the region of 100 chips, chips might come in useful later in the tournament.

At low stakes tournaments, you’ll find many players splashing their chips around in these early stages. Playing tight and hitting them hard with large raises when you have the goods might easily see you double your chip stack, but if you don’t find that opportunity, you’re still in the tournament with a decent chip stack.

In terms of bet sizing, you should raise to around 2.5x to 3x the big blind every time you are the first to enter a hand and any continuation bets you make should be in the range of 50%-70% of the pot size.

Beginners Strategy – Middle Stages of a Poker Tournament

As you move into the middle stages of tournaments, the blinds will start to become larger in relation to your chip stack. This means that regularly hitting that fold button can start to really eat in to your stack. At this point you’ll want to start opening your starting hand ranges. There’ll be no need to go crazy, though you should certainly be looking at stealing blinds with any semi decent holding.

Keep an eye on the average chip stack of the field, so you’ll know where you are in relation to the rest of the players. If you’re behind the field, you’ll have to loosen up even more, while if ahead of the game you use your chips to keep pressure on those who are playing tight. You should be aware that the smaller stacks will be pushing with a wide range of hands at this point, so you can call them down a little lighter with your large stack (if you have one).

Beginners Strategy – Later Stages of a Poker Tournament

When you reach the later stages of a tournament your play should loosen up even more. One of the biggest mistakes you see from beginners is that they tighten up when the bubble is approaching. While this might give players more chance of making the prize in a tournament, it virtually guarantees that the BIG cash won’t be heading their way. On occasion, you’ll miss out on a min-cash using this strategy, though you’ll find many occasions when you quickly move from a short stack to a real contender for the top prizes. If you enter the later stages of a tournament with a big stack, you can take advantage of those players who have tightened up by simply shoving over them and watching them fold.

Beginners Strategy – A Final but Vital Tournament Rule

This final rule will stand you in good stead in any multi table tournament.

You should always aim to have at least 10 big blinds in your stack. If you do find yourself with around 10 big blinds in your stack, your only options are to push or fold. You don’t have any room at this point to play any real poker, so making a raise and then folding at this point is a disaster. If you shove with ten big blinds, there is a good chance that you’ll simply take the blinds and give yourself a bit of leeway, while even if you are called, you’ll still have the opportunity of doubling your stack.