If you want to build a big stack early on you’re going to have to play lots of pots…
Early stages of tournaments are where the stacks are the deepest and the players are at their most generous. I’m sure you will have noticed that most pots go multi-way in the first few levels and people are quite happy to show up on any street with a complete bag of spanners. Poker players seem to be much less afraid of making a mistake in the first few hours than they are once the blinds have gotten a little bigger and they’ve invested some time. The reason behind this is simple; there is no pressure at this stage, thus presenting us with a very lucrative opportunity that we should always be taking advantage of.
If your opponents are determined to see too many flops and turn cards then they allow us to employ a very simple but very effective strategy against them. That is to absolutely ramp up your sizing and play mostly for value. Now, by no means should that sentence suggest that we have to wait for premium hands to beat these opponents, quite the contrary. You should be getting involved in as many pots as you can, just as long as you stick to Sykes’s super simple rules:
Try and play in position as much as possible
Since we are relying on our opponents not to fold, we need to make sure that we have as much manoeuvrability as possible down the streets. We achieve that by making sure that we are in position as much as we can be. It is very important that they give us the information that we need to decide whether we can extract value or blow them out of the water – being in position affords us that luxury.
Choose hands which dominate the kind of hands that they will peel your raises with
This is a really important point. One of the most common mistakes I see is people trying to take advantage of loose-passive players by isolating them with hands that play poorly versus the type of hands that our villain is going to show up
with. Yes, we want punish the guys who are calling too much, but the majority of us can’t do that by isolating with hands like 9-6 offsuit. Wait until you have a hand like J-T offsuit which flops much stronger, dominating draws, more dominating top pairs and just generally plays better down those pesky streets.
Remember, no matter how much better you are than the person you are trying to take money off, the hand you have does matter. It is not, I repeat not illegal to let your villain get away with a few limps or weak raises if we are waking up with bad hands to combat them with. Forcing the action will only lead to disaster.
Ramp up that sizing!
Since the rise in training videos it feels more and more natural to stick to a pre-set bet sizing guide, especially preflop. Min-raise pre always, but if someone limps then you are allowed to make it 3xBB. Oh thanks, unwritten poker rulebook in the digital sky! Nonsense. If you think a person will call ten times the big blind, then you go ahead and make it ten times! Ignore that voice in your head telling you that you’re not allowed. If the lemons on your table are calling too much then you want to try and find that sweet spot where your bet size is the most that they will call before just tutting and letting you have the pot.
Read the other articles in this series now:
- How to build a monster stack quickly in tournaments: #1 Assess your table
- How to build a monster stack quickly in tournaments: #3 Play for stacks!
- How to build a monster stack quickly in tournaments: #4 Don’t over-value hands preflop
- How to build a monster stack quickly in tournaments: #5 Get your three-bet on!
Jamie Sykes is a UK tournament pro – get more strategy from him and other big winners in PokerPlayer magazine every month – subscribe today for just £12.99 for 12 issues!