Some of the best professional poker players can consistently win Texas Holdem ring games and tournaments. However, most players concentrate on one another in order to maximize their skills and chances of overall profit.
While the basic game and rules are the same, the strategy and skill set for the two types of play differ slightly.
Before you try to use the advanced tournament tactics on this page, you should first learn how to be a winning Texas Holdem player by studying the rules, learning starting hand strengths, and learning about pot odds and other basics.
But once you’re ready, the tips and tricks listed below can help you go from an average player to a consistent winner, so keep reading and get ready to beat your opponents!
What Does ICM Stand For in Poker?
ICM, or Independent Chip Model, represents the monetary value of a decision rather than its chip value. Its function is to differentiate the value of each chip as the tournament progresses, and it becomes increasingly important as the money bubble approaches.
If your goal is to maximize long-term profits, ICM is critical to your success at this stage of an event. It’s also important when you’re at the final table, and large increases in prize money have a significant impact on your decisions. If winning the tournament is your only goal, you will maximize your value at every opportunity; however, this is not the most profitable strategy.
#1 Poker Tip – Begin your poker game slowly
We recommend that you play cautiously in the early stages of a tournament before the antes are introduced, because survival is more important than value at this stage. Winning early in the tournament is impossible, but losing all of your chips is possible. Due to ICM, which reduces the value of each chip as the tournament progresses, doubling your chip stack early on is less advantageous. If all of your opponents are playing extremely tight, opening up your game and stealing their chips makes sense as a counter strategy. Keep in mind that this is a marathon, not a race.
#2 Poker Tip – Consider the Potential Value of Your Poker Hand
Hands with the most post-flop potential are those that perform best early on with larger stacks. Suited connectors and pocket pairs like 7h 6h and 3s 3c are excellent hands with little risk and a big payoff. A hand like Ah 9s, on the other hand, has more equity but much less potential. Offsuit aces can play well as shoves from late position with shallow stacks in the later stages, when your only realistic preflop options are all-in or fold, but they can be problematic in the early stages.
#3 Poker Tip – Playing poker requires patience
In the early stages, your level of aggression should be determined by the rate at which the blinds increase. In a turbo tournament with rapidly increasing blinds, value is more important than survival. One of the most common mistakes that new poker players make is amassing a large chip stack and then squandering it by attempting to win the tournament too early. Patience and discipline are essential for winning large field events.
The middle stages are the most enjoyable. The chip stacks of the players at your table will vary, which will limit your strategy in some ways. When there are many short-stacked opponents left to act, for example, you must narrow your opening range because they will three-bet a wide range in an attempt to double up. You must now fold a large number of hands from each position that you would normally open, or you will be forced to fold too frequently when faced with a shove.
Because you can’t call a shove, speculative hands like 8s and 6s, which would have been a fine open from the middle position before, are now a clear fold when you have short-stacked opponents to your left. High-card hands, such as AT, gain value because they are better suited to calling an all-in three-bet from a short stack.
#4 Poker Tip – Keep your poker stack safe
If you have a large stack in the middle of a poker game, protect it rather than becoming a table bully. When you reach the bubble, the value of your large stack will increase because you will be able to put a lot of pressure on your opponents who are short-stacked. If another player at your table has a large stack, you must play against them more strategically.
#5 Poker Tip – Ride your way out of the “Danger Zone”
The “danger zone” enters play during the middle stages. If you find yourself in the middle stages with less than 20 big blinds, you must drastically alter your strategy. You no longer have the advantage of observing the flop by playing speculative hands. Instead, limit your range to stronger hands and look for all-in opportunities to build your stack.
Throughout the bubble phase, keep expectations in check. The bubble stage of a tournament is one of the most exciting stages. When the majority of the remaining players receive a prize, those with short stacks are under the most pressure to make it to the money round. When this bubble finally bursts, there will be a frenzy of activity unlike any other time in the tournament, because everyone will now receive at least their entry fee back.
#6 Poker Tip – Recognize Your Own Role
You must recognize when you are in a favorable or unfavorable position and adjust your play accordingly. For example, if your stack is extremely small, you must play cautiously. Assume, however, that you have a large stack. In that case, you are in a great position to use this against your opponents, knowing that they will be unable to respond without making critical mathematical errors. Avoiding unnecessary confrontations with other big stacks is critical during this time, as doing so can lead to disaster in tournament poker.
#7 Poker Tip – Avoid Making Improper Poker Calls
Short stacks will go all in against big stacks with strong hands at this point, avoid making unnecessary loose calls. The optimal strategy around the bubble is determined by how short your stack is in comparison to other players’ stacks. For example, if you have seven big blinds under the gun and hold AQ at a table with 15-20 big blinds, this is a clear shove.
To regain control of the game, you must attack here. If you see other players at your table with three or fewer big blinds, the same shove becomes a mistake. This attitude can be taken to extremes, such as folding pocket aces to ensure a prize. This “nitty” attitude is just as bad for your bankroll as sloppy play.
Tight is appropriate, but only to a certain extent. If you have a middle stack at the bubble stage, you must typically play extremely tight. You don’t want to face large stacks, but you also don’t want to put your chips at risk. There is also the possibility that if you do not acquire chips, you will soon have a short stack. Middle stacks are difficult to play, but as with short stacks, avoid making too many adjustments.
You should also make certain that you are not committing ICM suicide. You can also see players fold pocket aces in a bubble situation to ensure that they will cash. Although the adage “tight is right” is correct, it is important not to overdo it. The same is true for excessive pushing. Remember that ICM is a factor that you use to fine-tune your decisions near the bubble and final table. When you have a strong hand, it does not mean you stop looking for value.