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Becoming A Better Tournament Player in 21 Days Part 2

Article By: RuffPoker.com

Now that you’ve learned how to spot and play the different stages of a tournament, it’s time to earn your way into the money. To do this you need to focus and watch the other players, but most of all you need to protect your chips.

Congratulations, you’ve been playing online no-limit Texas hold ‘em tournaments for a week and have changed your playing style to take advantage of the 3 different stages of the game. Now you're ready to start making more money.

When you are in a no-limit tournament, you can loose all your chips at any moment. You can go all-in and be out of the game in a flash. But the smart players realize that this isn’t really true. Yes, you can always go all-in, but you can only be knocked out of the tournament if you are up against a player who has enough chips to knock you out. If you’re only playing against players with smaller chip-stacks, you are at least 2 hands away from being out of the tournament. Wise players not only recognize the difference, but they know how to use this to their advantage.


In the early stages of a multi-table online tournament, you’ve no doubt seen players go all-in when the blinds are at $10 – $20, the pot is at $50, and they have $1,500 chips in their stack. These players aren’t good. Even if they have AA, they are risking their tournament life at the chance to win a $50 pot. Please, oh please, don’t EVER do this.

Having said that, if you see a player go all-in in this situation and you are sitting on AA, you would be foolish not to call. But there is a massive difference in initiating an all-in and calling an all-in. Risking everything you have in this situation by moving all-in before anyone else is silly. But calling that all-in is worthwhile if you know or believe your hand is tops.

The key lesson here is knowing the right time to go all-in. Every time you think you should move in your entire chip-stack, you should at least take time to ask yourself: “Do I need to do this?” If you can’t come up with an absolutely unqualified “Yes”, you should probably fold.


In addition to being disciplined about going all-in, you need to protect your stack as well. Though these concepts are related, they aren’t the same. A no-limit tournament player should always, Always, ALWAYS be conscious of the size of their own chip stacks, the size their opponents’ stacks, the size of the blinds, the size of the pot and the relative size of the pot and blinds versus everyone’s stack. These are vital factors, and they will not only determine a big part of your play, but also that of your opponents.

To protect your stack, you need to adjust your play based on the factors we mentioned above. If the blinds are a large percentage of your stack, you will soon find yourself blinded to insignificance if you play overly tight, so you’ll have to become more aggressive. But, if the blinds are nominal and you have a big chip advantage, you can afford to sit back and let other players take the risks. Everything depends on where you are in relation to the factors we mentioned. Here are two examples you can work on:

Going Up Against the Big Dogs:

When someone at the table has a massive chip lead, you should always be prepared to fold against that player. If they move in on a hand, you need to be sure of your strength just to even think of playing against that player. If they manage to suck-out a hand, you’re dead. The key thing to remember is to play very tightly against the big dogs. Let the loser players knock themselves out against these guys while you get out of the way and watch the carnage.

Picking on the Weaker Player:

A small chip stack presents both an opportunity and a risk. Depending on their chip stack and the size of the blinds, you can often steal many pots from these players by betting enough to put them close to all-in. They’ll either have to make the decision to risk it all or fold. But be careful, a small chip stack is looking for a chance to double up. If they get a decent hand, they may bet all-in, so be ready for it.