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Understand what hands to play in a tournament
Posted at 06/29/2007 12 AM in Articles
A crucial part of any poker game is to know which hands to play. In multi-table tournaments, this is particularly important as any bad moves can get you out of the game in one foul swoop. Therefore, to successfully reach the money a number of factors need to be taken into consideration. These include your chip stack, the number of players remaining and the game play of your opponents. A reliable and workable strategy is also required.

There are many strategies around and what works is a matter of personal choice and playing style. However, one of the most popular used in tournament play is Harrington and Robertie´s M Factor concept. This is a simple mathematical strategy which uses a points system based on your stack and the blinds to decide which hands to play. The concept is simple; the amount in your stack is divided by the total of the blinds. So if you have $1000 in chips, and the blinds are 30/60, you divide 1000 by 90.

The amount that remains indicates whether you can afford to wait for a premium hand or whether you need to take action sooner. If you have a large number times the blind, then you can wait for a premium hand without detriment. However, if you have around 6 to 10 times the blind, you need to act with less than premium hands. Harrington and Robertie state that if your stack is only 6 times the total of the blinds or less then this is a crisis point. Any semi decent hand should be pushed all in to try and regain some chips.

Of course, this is only a basic strategy but it is a good starting point as it is quick to figure out. But other factors also need to be taken into consideration. Your current strength in the game and choice of game is also a factor; as this approach would not be viable in a turbo tournament where aggressive play is the norm. Any multi table tournament player needs to acknowledge the number of players remaining and the number of players paid by the prize pool. In a multi table tournament, any raise is a big gamble if you have an averaged sized chip stack, even if the M Factor works out ok.

For instance, if you raise and re-raise, without hitting the cards you need, then to lay your cards down could incur a massive 25% loss! So the raise and re-raise scenario would only work if you had a premium hand. If you continue with the bet and become short stacked then you become a target for other players. They will be very aware of your need to play less than premium hands and so are more likely to call you and push you all in with the hope of stealing your stack.

Therefore, another way to look at it is if your stack drops to below 60% and you have survived 3 levels of blinds; it is a good idea to push all in. you may go out, but even if you cling on in there, the likelihood is that you still wont make the money. So in this scenario aggressive play is your best bet. And if you have a big stack, it is not such a good idea to become too complacent and await only premium hands. Players with big stacks should challenge other players to risk their pot on a single hand whilst only risking a small percentage of their own. An excellent example of this is Jamie Gold; there is no room for complacency when you want to win.





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