The great particularity of tournaments is the continuous increase in the size of blinds throughout the entire tournament. This keeps the players under pressure and avoids the possibility that the tournament go on for days between players who are simply waiting for the best hands. This means that it is necessary to adapt one’s game according to these continuous increases.
1. First step: a few mental calculations
I promise you, nothing too complicated. Add all the required bets that the players must pay: the small blind the big blind and the possible antes, and divide your stack by the resulting number.
Example 1 :
The small blind is 200 and the big blind is 400. Your stack is 20000.
200+400=600. 20.000/600= About 33 (no need to be too precise, a rough estimate is fine)
Example 2 :
The SB is 2500, the BB is 5000, and the antes are 200 (there are ten players at the table). Your stack is 35000. 5000+2500+10*200=9500. 35000/9500= about 3,5.
The resulting number is known as your M. This M will help you to decide what strategy to adopt during a tournament. In fact, this number indicates the number of rounds you can survive before being eliminated due to lack of chips. There are three M zones:
- M greater than or equal to 20 is the Green Zone.
- M greater than or equal to 10 and less than 20 is the Orange Zone.
- M less than 10 is the Red Zone.
Sometimes we add a fourth zone, when M is less than 2. This is called the dead zone – by now you’re the only one who thinks you have any chance in this tournament.
2. Act according to your zone.
If you’re in the green zone, you needn’t feel intimidated by the size of the blinds. Actually, you can easily survive 20 rounds.
You can attempt any strategy; try to see flops for a small cost, bluff… In short, your arsenal is still full and all the weapons are in your hand.
The orange zone: It’s not time to panic yet, but you should think about becoming more aggressive, the blinds are hurting you and drastically decreasing your stack. You simply must be aggressive to steal the blinds for players who seem to you to be the weakest. This is also the time to broaden your selection of hands. This is undoubtedly the most difficult zone to play, since you can be eliminated quite quickly if you lack experience.
The red zone: This is the moment where heart and courage are more important than technique. To cite Doyle Brunson, “it’s better to leave a tournament with a resounding boom than to disappear noiselessly little by little.” That means that you must choose the right moments to put your chips in the middle and hope for the best. Don’t forget that the first player to go all-in always has the advantage. It’s harder pay than to bet first.
Identify the weak players in order to steal their blinds, choose a wide range of hands and leave the rest to destiny.
In any case, your M should not go lower than 5 if you want to preserve some small chance of making it to the final table (with the exception of certain turbo and satellite tournaments). Don’t forget that money is rewarded to all first-place finishers, and that should remain your objective.
3. Constantly observe the other players who go all-in
You should also observe the size of other all-in bets. If you are playing with people who already have a good knowledge of poker, they’ll adapt their style of play according to their M. As a result, a player with an M of 4 can be systematically followed with a pair higher than 8 or two face cards given the choice of hands he has to make in order to survive. A player with an M of 50 who raises should make you think.
Don’t forget that in all tournaments, the more you advance, the more the general M is weak because of the rapidly growing blinds and the elimination of players.
4. The average all-in
In certain speed tournaments, all players will be subject to a rapid increase in blinds. In this case, you’ll see whole tables of players with Ms less than 10 and a chip leader whose M barely goes above 20. In order to adapt your style of play, you should calculate your all-in according to the average of your opponents’ all-ins. In all on line tournaments, you will have access to this information at the click of a mouse by clicking on “view lobby”: there you can find the statistics necessary (the average all-in, the biggest all-in, and the smallest all-in). We’ll call this number “Q”.
Example 1 :
You have an all-in of 5000 . The average is 21000.
5000/21000 = About 0,25.
Example 2 :
You have an all-in of 15000. The average is 10000
The higher your Q, the greater your advantage compared to your opponents. A Q of 5 means that you have 5 times more chips than the average number of players. That means that many of them will be forced to act quickly and will disappear from the tournament before you will. With a large Q you are free to play however you like according to your natural style.
By contrast, a Q less than 0.5 means you have only half of the average all-in. This means that the majority of your opponents buries you in terms of chips and is a direct threat to you. You should thus be aggressive if you hope to continue playing in the tournament.
5. A wise combination of M and Q
- With a weak M and Q, there is no more to say – find two good cards and go for it!
- With a high M and Q, you’re free to play your strategy from super tight to constant assault on the table.
- With a weak M and a high Q, you are probably in a turbo tournament. If it is a satellite tournament where the goal is to qualify, a tight strategy is undoubtedly the best. For a classic tournament you will need to attack the short stacks often.
- With a big M and a weak Q, you are probably in a slow structure that leaves you time to develop your game. As long as your M is high, you have the time to act. The only rule to keep in mind is that you risk your tournament at each hand because all the players can beat your all-in.