Delaware Valley Poker Club/Tips
Here's a little 3-minute reading on hold'em tournament play:
Start by playing only very good starting hands and play them aggressively (your initial bet should be about 3 to 5 times the big blind). When you make a strong hand, such as top pair with a good kicker, be prepared to make a pot-sized bet or more on the flop and go the distance.
In early position (when you are one of the first players to act to the left of the blinds), play only premium starting hands, such as: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK suited; TT, AQ suited, AK, AJ suited, and KQ suited.
In late position (when you are one of the last players to act, and especially if everyone has folded before you or has only limped in with minimum calls), add a few more solid hands, such as: 99, AQ, AT suited, KJ suited, QJ suited, JT suited, and perhaps AJ, KQ. Play small pocket pairs (like 33, 44, 55, etc.) only if it's very cheap to see the flop and you expect to win a large pot if you hit a set (three of a kind), and only if you hit a set.
The idea is to play very few hands (10%-15%), but to almost always raise with those you do play. It's a helpful mental guide to know that 50% of starting hands are better than Q7 offsuit, and 50% are worse. You only want to be playing those 10% of all hands that are the most powerful pre-flop. You see pros playing (and winning with) hands like 74 suited, but that's because the cameras tune in on those improbably lucky hands that hit. They don't show you all the times that player has had to fold the 74 when the flop comes KQ2 and their opponent makes a big bet.
When you do play a hand, use your best judgment and be decisive -- either make large bets and raises, or fold if you think you're beat. Do not be afraid to bluff when a good opportunity presents itself -- but I limit bluffs to no more than 20% of soundly-played hands.
As the blinds increase in size, add more strong hands (pairs and big cards) and fight for the blinds. Avoid large confrontations when possible but seize opportunities when they arise. Play to survive, but do not play passively.
When I get short-stacked, I don't panic. I merely ask myself if a given hand presents a better-than-average chance of doubling me up, given the number of other players in the hand already. Optimistically speaking, a short stack is just a double-up waiting to happen, when the time is ripe. If you get to the point where your stack represents only 8x or 10x the big blind, you are on "push or fold" mode -- where about your only two decisions are to push all-in pre-flop, or fold. When down to your last few chips, especially if you are only a few players away from making the "money cut" in the tournament, wait for a strong hand before committing your chips. If necessary (you're getting only garbage cards), continue waiting until the big blind finally forces you to play all-in. Learn as much as you can about your opponents and the special nature of tournament play, and above all, have fun!