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Multi-Table Tournament Poker Strategy

Early, Middle, and Late MTT Strategy

Multi table tournaments are different from single tables in many different ways. There is a larger field to fight through, game play can often last several hours if not days, and the prize pool is much more attractive often paying out hundreds or thousands of dollars if not millions. They are also much more difficult to play, as players need to know how to switch gears often as they move through the different stages in the tournament.

Early Tournament Strategy

In the early stages of a tournament, it is really important for players to focus on playing 'ABC' poker so that they can try to start accumulating chips to get themselves in a good position for later stages of the tournament. The first step in to accomplishing this is by playing the right starting hands. Now, while 'starting hands' may seem like a broken record that you have heard numerous times, it really should be the center point of your strategy. The reason being is that everyone has the same goal which is to make it into the money. So, by playing hands that are huge underdogs pre-flop in hopes to flop something huge and stack someone is not only highly unlikely, it is very risky and just a waste of money, chips, and your time. And time is a huge factor since many times it is common to play for hours on end, if not days, to make it to the money much less the final table. The starting hands that would be suggested to play would include:

Early Position: AA-JJ, AK-AQ suited AK off suit
Middle Position: AA-1010, AK-AJ suited/off suit
Late Position: AA-88, AK-A10 suited/off suit, connectors (suited or not) situational

This may seem fairly tight but again, the goal here is to outlast the players who are taking more risks and busting out. At the same time, this does not take the GAP concept into affect either. So if you are in late position and see a raise in early position, it is crucial to only call with hands that are better than what you would raise in your position.

Other things to try to avoid or use sparingly is huge bluffs, stealing the blinds, or slow playing hands. At these stages of most tournaments, the blinds are 20/40, 30/60, 50/100, 75/150 and so forth. That really is not enough money to risk your chips for.

Middle Stage - Bubble Play

At this point in the tournament, the blinds have gone up and a good portion of the field is gone. But this does not mean that it is time to get super aggressive and reckless. In most cases, players who make it to this point have average stacks with a select few that have been able to build a huge lead due to good cards, luck, and/or gambling.

Since the blinds have gone up, it is time to loosen the hand range a bit and start choosing spots to try to pick up the blinds to add to your stack. It would be suggested to add maybe a hand or two to each range, so for early position you may add 1010 and AJ-A10, middle position 99 and A10-A9, and late position 55-77 and A9-A8. It is important to add a few hands to your range as you do not want to be consumed by the blinds and by this time, you should have a feel for your opponents and their tendencies. 

Opening your hand range will especially help when getting near the bubble. Now, it will depend on how big the tournament is before people start switching gears for bubble play, but what you will be able to notice is most everyone tightening up as they do not want to risk busting out so close to being in the money. Depending on your chip stack, image, and opponents, you may elect to do the same thing. On the other hand, if everyone here is tightening up, why not raise and steal more of the blinds? Stealing the blinds here can definitely keep you around long enough to make it inside the bubble and most people will fold to the slightest bit of pressure regardless of the hand they have.

Once players make it inside the bubble, they tend to loosen up a bit and play more aggressively. From here, it will be important to pick good spots to play and get your money in while you are ahead and hope the cards fall your way. If everything seems to be going your way, then it is possible to make it to the final table.

Final Table Play

The bigger the tournament, the harder it is to cash much less make it to the final table. And while it would be nice to provide advice on how to beat the final table, it really is situational. If you happen to make it in as a large stack, then it may be in your best interest to do one of a couple things depending on your opponents.

Be Relentless - Apply relentless pressure on your opponents picking up blinds and easy pots and just adding to your chip lead. This should be easier to do against players who are average stacks or higher, as any short stacks are looking to push and double up through you.

Pick and Choose Your Spots Carefully - Sit back and watch the action unfold and wait for several others to bust out. The only thing to keep in mind is that by now, the blinds are huge and you will want to try to pick up the occasional blinds as not to lose your stack.

As an average stack, you cannot sit back and do nothing. It may be in your best interest to avoid the larger stacks unless you have a very good hand. Another thing that may work in your advantage is put pressure on the short stacks when you have a high enough hand that you are willing to go all the way with. Many times short stacks will put their chips in the middle with any 2 face cards or Ace. Short stack players should push with just about any pair and two face cards. Sure, this may be a gamble, but if you are a coin flip then it is a very reasonable gamble to make and as a short stack, your choices are limited anyway.

MTT Strategy Conclusion

While none of these suggestions is set in stone, many of them such as starting hands, bluffing less, and picking up the blinds are strategies that many players employ to ensure that they do well in multi table tournaments. And although everyone may play MTT's a little bit different, the goal is the same; make it inside the bubble and then aim for the final table. By utilizing even one of these strategies, players should find themselves much deeper in the multi table tournaments they play in.