Mixed Max tournament strategy by Team PKR Pro Simon ‘Rhymenocerous’ Hemsworth

Learn how to take down the innovative new Mixed Max tournament format, which tests all areas of your game

Most tournaments nowadays are played as full ring with usually nine or sometimes ten (ugh) players at the table. Anyone that’s ever played a live tournament before will have experience with full ring live play. You will have to play significantly tighter when playing full ring compared to six handed or heads up play. This is because the more players at the table, the more chances there are that someone will wake up with a genuine hand and therefore playing all sorts of trash from all different positions won’t work out very well. In full ring you have to carefully pick your spots, such as opening or 3-betting lighter in later positions where ranges are wider or playing more pots against a player you have identified as weak. 

If you are lucky enough to make it to day two then you will have the pleasure of playing 6-max poker. This is my preferred format of the game because I play six handed cash games on PKR all the time so feel I have a lot more experience than other people. When you convert to 6-max from full ring you must be prepared to play a much wider range of hands. Much of full ring play will involve folding weak hands in early and middle positions but with 6-max you are never too far from the button and therefore much weaker hands can be playable. In 6-max, with the blinds coming round more often and a quicker turnaround of hands you can lose a large portion of your stack if you sit back and fold too much. Moreover with everyone at the table playing a wider range of hands, you should be bluffing more often as it’s less likely your opponents will have a big hand. 

Abuse the bubble

At some point during this day the bubble is also likely to burst so it’s another reason to play loose and open lots of hands (depending on your stack size) as opponents will probably be feeling pressure to make the money. Of course it’s also important to not go overboard and be raising and bluffing from all different positions at any opportunity. 6-max gives you a license to play more hands but there is still a lot of discipline required and the best spots to show aggression should be identified. Position is always important in poker but it is arguably even more important at this stage compared to full ring because the wider range of hands means that who wins a hand will be less related to who has the best cards, but who can play the hand better and obviously positions provides a huge advantage. 

The final day will be heads-up where the eventual winner will need to defeat four opponents to go from 16 left to the champion. Not many people will have played heads-up before unless they have played a rare heads up tournament or managed to make the last two of an MTT. As a result there is a big lack of experience in this format so any useful strategy you can take into this stage will be helpful. In the heads-up phase position is the most important of any stage in the tournament so far. Because both players are forced to play such wide ranges of hands, being on the button will help you win lots of pots when you have nothing simply because there’s not much your opponent can do to counteract this when out of position. Because of this you should look to play most of your hands on the button, whether by raising or limping. When playing out of position you should look to be calling with playable hands such as suited connectors or broadway hands while 3-betting your stronger hands and some weaker hands. All of this is obviously dependent on both players’ stack sizes, and it’s imperative to be aware of both stack sizes at all times. 

Play the player

Another factor to consider in heads-up play is how you view your opponent’s ability. Typically poker players think they are better than everyone else but it’s important to consider how you think you match up against the villain. If you think you are much better then you should try to play as low variance as possible, keep pots small and grind down your weaker opponent without taking a big risk with a small equity advantage. However if you think your opponent is better than you (realising and admitting things like this bode well for your future in poker) then you should look to make pots big when you think you have good equity, forcing your opponent to gamble. 

Of course in any poker tournament your success depends on playing the best you can and getting lucky at the right times. Although the format changes from day to day it’s still a case of making the most +EV decisions and hoping the cards go your way. 

Simon Hemsworth is a Team Pro at PKR.com and tweets @simonhemsworth.

Photo courtesy of PKR.com.  

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