When to Change Gears in a Poker Tournament
Approaching the Money Bubble
At the later stage of a poker tournament is a time when you should look to start mixing up your play and taking shots at weaker players at the table. Early on in the tournament, it doesn’t make as much sense to play overly aggressive towards weaker players because you can bleed chips from your stack if your opponent happens to wake up with a good hand. The weak players at the table should always be in your direct line of site as for whom to attack at a poker table throughout a poker tournament, but you will see it as more evident at the money bubble stage.
When you approach the money bubble, your goal should be to build up a monster stack. The reason this should be your goal rather than just cashing in the tournament is because your ultimate goal is to win the tournament. If you have been playing passive throughout the tournament, the blinds are now big enough where it makes sense to steal pots. Stealing pots is how good players become great players when relating to poker tournaments. The more pots you steal, the easier it will be to maintain a healthy stack size and also maintain an effective stack size to allow you to progress through a poker tournament.
The way to go about stealing pots at the money bubble and changing gears is to play more hands in position. You will steal more pots without having to show your hand when you put in late position raises before the flop. Even if you don’t succeed in winning the hand by collecting the blinds you still have the upper hand when playing a pot because you get to act last during a hand. Playing the button is one of the most overlooked spots in a poker tournament, but if you approach it wisely you can have more success and build a bigger stack.
Seated at a Passive Table
When you have sat down and played a decent amount of time, whether it is a couple of hours in a live tournament or as little as a half hour or so online, you should realize how your table views your play. Also, you should be able to determine what players will fold marginal hands like top pair. If you can categorize players as passive during a poker tournament it will make every decision simple. If a passive player comes over the top of you, you can just muck your hand without losing a ton of chips. The players you really want to pick on when changing gears at a passive table are the players who will just call before the flop. These are the players that you can put to really tough decisions for their tournament life.
If you are consistently putting other players to tough decisions as opposed to your opponents putting you to tough decisions, you will see how easy poker tournaments can be sometimes. You will be able to minimize the stress level you have and play on a different level at times than other players. Out thinking passive players isn’t tough because all you have to do is pick the right spots to apply pressure. If you are paying any attention at all as to how these players are approaching the poker tournament, you will know what to do, and when to do it.
Final Table Bubble
The best time in a poker tournament to accumulate chips is right before the final table. This is the best time because you ideally want a massive stack of chips so you can steamroll your way to a victory. Playing shorthanded poker at this stage which will most likely only have 5 or 6 players at the table is a time you are forced to gamble and take some shots. If you sit back and wait, then you will be blinded down to have very few chips left. If you don’t have many chips then you will have a way tougher time when attempting to win the tournament. Shorthanded tables come about randomly throughout poker tournaments whether it is players busting out or winding down to the final table.
Whenever you see that your table is dropping players fast you should look to play more pots with more marginal hands. The reason for this is pretty simple, but it is overlooked by some players. You will win a lot of hands uncontested and then the players at your table should recognize that you are playing more hands and becoming loose with your chips. Hopefully, you will wake up with a big hand at this point and you can snatch up a big pot. Then you will be feared by all of your table mates and you have put yourself in great shape to make a run in the tournament.