The 20 biggest MTT mistakes: Part 1

Deep stack tournaments give you the chance to scoop a huge prize for a small outlay, and provide a real test of your poker skills. Looking for help? We can’t guarantee you’ll win every big tournament you play in, but we can ensure you don’t bust out through a silly mistake…

Deep-stack MTTs are great fun. You get lots of chips, which means you can try out all the moves you’ve learned over the years against your peers and – depending on the level of event you’re playing – some of the world’s top pros. They also give you the chance to win life-changing money, with millions up for grabs in the biggest events.

They can be brutal though. Depending on the structure, deep-stack MTTs can go on for a long, long time. And the volatility of NLHE means you can play perfectly for hours on end and then bust from a single mistake. Believe us, there’s nothing worse than making the walk of shame knowing you messed up.

The good news is that you never have to experience that feeling again. We’ve compiled a list of the biggest mistakes you can make in deep-stack MTTs so you never have to make them again. If it helps propel you to a massive win our cut is a measly 5%.

1. Not preparing

Deep-stack MTTs are a marathon. You might not think you need to do anything to prepare, but wait until you’ve been sat at the same table for ten hours. You need to keep your focus and concentration levels up all the time and if you start the day off tired, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Have a good night’s sleep the night before. Don’t drink. Try and wake up at a reasonable time, but if you’re an early riser then try to have a lie-in. You might be playing until 2am so you don’t want to be up at 6am. If you can t in some light exercise, great. Eat something healthy a couple of hours before the tournament – a salad and some grilled chicken is ideal.

Then, make sure you get to the tourney on time. The last thing you want to do is to run late and create any unnecessary stress for yourself before you sit down. Get to the table early and you can get the lie of the land and possibly pick up some crucial information on your opponents before they don their sunglasses.

2. Fear of losing

Poker is a gambling game. It’s a mix of skill and chance, and for that reason anyone can win a tournament. Actually, that’s not true. If you’re scared of losing, you won’t win. If it’s your first big live tournament it’s tough to play in a way that’s optimal for winning, but you have to try.

All the money is at the top end of a tournament. Only 10% of the eld will get paid, which means that your chances of cashing are slim. Even the best players know this and embrace the possibility of losing while targeting the real money on the final table.

We’re not saying you should be reckless – far from it. You don’t even have to play loose and aggressively. Play solid, good poker, but when the big decisions come, don’t be scared of putting all your chips in the middle. And don’t freeze as you approach the money.

3. Following the crowd

You’ve paid your money and that gives you the right to play how you want. There’s been a lot of talk about the new breed of poker players being unsociable – taking everything too seriously, not talking, and wearing sunglasses and earphones at the table. We agree poker should be fun, but you shouldn’t feel under any pressure to act in a way that makes you uncomfortable or that’s not a natural t for your personality.

If you’re a chatty person, great. If you’re feeling stressed and finding it tough to deal with the dynamics of live poker, then stick your sunglasses and earphones on if it makes you feel better. Be warned though, you need to be extra vigilant if you do. It’s easy to miss raises if you’re can’t hear the action round the table.

4. Talking too much

That brings us neatly to the next point. Poker is a game of information. You should give as little to your opponents as possible. The jocular chap next to you might actually be a skilled pro who’s using the art of conversation to build up a highly accurate profile of the way you play. Don’t tell him that you just want to cash and that you’re going to fold any hand around the bubble.

Don’t be paranoid though. This is all part of the rich tapestry of live poker. Why not try to be that person yourself? Be friendly and try to pump your opponents for information. Treat it as part of the game.

Be very careful about talking during and about a hand though. It’s very easy to give away how con dent or nervous you are. A response to a seemingly innocent question could be enough to convince your opponent you’re on a stone-cold bluff. One of the most common questions at the table is, ‘Will you show if I fold?’ How would you answer that? If you say ‘Yes’, did you know you’re more likely to elicit a call?

If you’re not an experienced player, the best thing to do is stay quiet. Do this every time and you won’t give away the strength of your hand. It might seem rude to ignore someone, but they’re not necessarily expecting an answer.

5. Too much caffeine

Yes, you want to be alert during a poker tournament. There’s nothing worse than sitting there on autopilot with a fuzzy head, desperately trying to stay awake. If it helps, a coffee or a Red Bull could be a good idea, but don’t get carried away.

If you can, you should avoid caffeine early on. If you’ve prepared you should be rested and your light brunch should have given you all the energy you need to get you through the first half of the day. If you start on coffees or Red Bulls early and you’re playing for 12 hours, you might be tempted to keep drinking them and that’s a recipe for disaster. Drink too much caffeine and your thought process will be messed up.

Sammy Farha partly blames caffeine for his loss to Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Farha says he should have called Moneymaker’s infamous bluff heads-up – a call that could have changed the entire poker landscape. His excuse? ‘I had drunk 20 cans of Red Bull and 20 cups of coffee; you can imagine what that does to your brain.’

Look at a coffee or a Red Bull as a last resort. If you can avoid them, great. If you’re really struggling, try to keep your consumption to the minimum.

6. Not paying attention

This goes for the entire course of the tournament, but there are key moments when you should be on full alert. You might think Level 1 is dull, but this is your chance to tag your opponents quickly and easily. Start with the players that you’re more likely to get into confrontations with – the two players to your right and the two to your left.

Note how they play, what hands they showdown, whether they three-bet, call too much, or defend their blinds too wide. Now open your focus out to the rest of the table. It might seem like a lot but it’s actually fairly easy to tag a whole table after the first level of play and this information could be invaluable later on. Remember – depending on your table number – you might be playing with these players for a long time.

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7. Over-valuing hands early on

You might have heard the saying that you can’t win a tournament on Day 1, but you can lose it. Well that’s even more true for Level 1. With super-deep stacks the value of big pairs is diminished and the value of speculative hands like small pocket pairs and suited connectors is raised.

You might look down at Aces and get excited. You raise and pick up two callers. The J-6-5 op seems harmless so you c-bet and get check-raised. You go with the adrenaline rush and before you know it you’re all-in and your opponent has ipped over pocket Sixes, leaving you dead to two outs that don’t come.

On the way out of the room you tell your mate you got unlucky and some donkey cracked your Aces. You didn’t get unlucky. You made a big, big mistake.

8. Stack syndrome

Always think about your stack in terms of big blinds. If your starting stack is 10k and the blinds are 25/50 then you have 200 big blinds. That’s massive. If you lose a decent pot early on and go down to 7,500 chips you might feel a bit discouraged but you shouldn’t – you’ve still got 150 big blinds! It’s really common for inexperienced players to think they’ve got to win their chips back by forcing the play, but you’re more likely to lose even more doing this.

Even if you don’t lose chips, it’s all too easy to look at the biggest stack on your table and get envious. Don’t. Your stack is all that matters. Sticking around the tournament average is great, but above all else play to your stack size. You’re not short stacked and imperilled until you’re down to less than 15 big blinds.

9. Drinking

After the rst few levels a lot of players – especially British ones – decide it’s time for their rst alcoholic beverage. That’s a big mistake, unless you’re just in the tournament for a laugh. Alcohol might loosen you up, and if you nd tournaments stressful you might think that’s a good thing, but it won’t really help. Are you planning on drinking until the end of the night? Good luck with that. And if you start and then stop, you’re going to feel even worse. Try and stay off the alcohol completely, although we’re not going to begrudge you a beer in the nal level if you’re coasting through with a big stack.

10. Getting personal

Grudges can form at the poker table really easily. Lots of players take losing a hand badly. If they get sucked out on it’s even worse, and if anyone has the gall to bluff them and show… Leave your ego behind Poker’s a game. Getting lucky is part of that game, as is bluffing. If you start making it personal it’s likely to end badly for you. If there’s an idiot at your table, work out if he has any flaws in his game and tackle him that way. Look out for other players who might be playing badly against him because they don’t like him. These are all dynamics that can play into your hands.

To read the 2nd part of this enthralling feature click here

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