MCU poker tip: Whom to attack in tournaments

The most common types of poker tournaments are the “proportional payoff” variety. That’s where, as players are eliminated, tables are consolidated until the survivors meet at a final table and first place wins all the chips. But first place doesn’t get to keep all the money, so there’s — in effect — a penalty for winning. This means survival is worth more than using many sophisticated tactics that would earn extra profit in non-tournament games. So, you should avoid high-risk, seemingly profitable finesses and play more conservatively in order to survive and win more of the prize pool. Fine.

But, correct strategy for these tournaments also requires that you attack mostly players with fewer chips than you have. This provides two advantages:

(1) You can’t be eliminated by those players, so you’ll survive even if you lose the pot;
(2) If you win the pot, you’ll eliminate the short-stacked opponent and automatically move up in the money.

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

2 thoughts on “MCU poker tip: Whom to attack in tournaments”

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  1. Mr. Caro,
    I make most of my profits playing 9 player sit and goes, and I’ve run into a problem related to this article. With a 9 player tournament, at least one player almost always goes all in within 5 hands and gets a call. Suddenly, we’re closer to the money, but there’s a big stack. No problem, I’m pretty good at picking away at weaker players while avoiding the big stack. But sometimes, that big stack becomes an enormous stack as three or four players go all in and all lose to this one player. Now suddenly there’s 4 of us and one player has thrice as many chips as anyone else! Sometimes in this situation, the big stack will simply move all in with any two cards. My problem in this situation is that the normal solution for a poker bully is to call him down every time, with minimal value bets or raises. But in a tournament, I can’t make “long term” plays like this. The top three get paid, so I can’t justify becoming a calling station for my tournament life this close to the money, can I? I don’t blame the big stack for this strategy, and not all of them use it. I just don’t have a counter to it, and I’m tired of busting out in 4th because I try to pad my stack and play for 1st… Ideas?

  2. I have come in the money on a few tournaments (live and online) and this same thought has crossed my mind: The winner is penalized! Sure, the winner makes more money, but he’s splitting his win with a number of losers behind him. Of course tournaments do this to entice more people to enter … more chances to win!

    Mike, this is a great tournament survival tip and one I have used before, attack the players with fewer chips!

    Alex

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