How To Win Multi-Table Tournaments

Multi-table tournaments have the potential to be the most profitable form of poker for someone who is comfortable with the large amount of variance involved. I'm here to help you get comfortable. Read on to find out more.


Preparation is Everything

Multi table tournaments are the most exciting form of poker. They also have the potential to be the most profitable form of poker for someone who is comfortable with the large amount of variance involved. While they may seem intimidating at first, MTT’s at their core are actually not that complicated. Here are the most important elements to being a successful tournament poker player:

1. Preparation and Focus
2. Knowledge and Understanding of Tournament Poker
3. Realistic Expectation
4. Fearlessness and Killer Instinct

This article will focus on preparation, as I feel it is the most undervalued element by both amateur and professional tournament poker players.

1. Preparation and Focus

In my opinion preparation is by far the most important element to having a successful day in tournament poker. If you look at the game’s greats they are all in good physical shape, they eat well, get enough sleep, and treat poker like a job, in short they act like professionals. It’s not as easy to recognize this in the world of online MTTs, but those who are adequately prepared have a much higher chance of success than those who are giving less than 100%. If you think about the junk that most player’s are putting in their bodies while trying to grind out an 8 hour session it should be easy to see how big of an edge preparation is. Think about running a marathon on a diet of purely Doritos and Mountain Dew vs. someone fueling up with healthy foods and water.

So what do I mean by proper preparation? Well, not all of us can afford personal trainers, nor do we have 5-10 hours a week to dedicate to working out but that doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself an edge through some simple means. Understanding that winning a multi-table tournament takes anywhere from 4-8 hours, maintaining a high level of energy is a must for maintaining your focus. When your body begins to tire and breakdown the mind is quick to follow, it has been proven over and over again in studies. But this isn’t a fitness article, so let’s keep it simple: here’s a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts that will give you a leg up on 80-90% of your competition.

DO

♠ Make sure you get a good night’s rest before registering for tournaments.

♠ Eliminate clutter from your workspace before you start playing

♠ Eat a large meal 1-2 hours before starting your session (think of filling up your car engine before a long road trip)

♠ Play music or watch a favorite show/movie to keep you entertained during spells of low action (boredom is the enemy when grinding tournaments)

♠ Stay hydrated (this means water or tea, NOT sugary drinks that will lead you to crash)

♠ Move around on your breaks to keep the blood flowing, walking or doing some stretching for 3 to 5 minutes does wonders.

♠ Eat small meals or snacks every couple of hours to keep your energy level up

DON’T

♠ Roll out of bed and immediately start registering, your brain doesn’t perform at it’s best in a semi awake state

♠ Eat junk food and drink pop/soda during your session (save this for after the job is done and you’ve earned a reward)

♠ Play more tables than you can handle or buy-ins that make you uncomfortable. Playing MTTs should be fun NOT stressful

♠ Clutter your screen with other windows, or start multi-tabling instant messenger programs - it’s important to pay attention to the action and develop reads throughout the tournament

♠ Use drugs or alcohol during your session, as much as you may want to believe they enhance your abilities, they don’t

♠ Get distracted by phone calls or friends, this is your work time, play time comes after

Following these steps will give you the best chance of doing well in tournament poker. Tournament’s are a contest of endurance and by following my advice your body will be ready to perform and therefore your brain will be too! (healthy body healthy mind). Preparation however is just the beginning: Learning, study and review away from the table’s are essential to maximizing your odds of winning.

Think of yourself as a formula 1 race car: you want the best parts, and the finest tune up before race day, but if there isn’t fuel in the engine or you forget to refuel during the race, you’re guaranteed to fall behind the pack.

2. Knowledge and Understanding of Tournament Poker

For a quick summary of winning strategies for tournament poker, the videos in my Multi-Table Tournament Strategy Guide cover these topics in depth.

If you prefer to learn from books, my top recommendations are:

♠ My MTT Strategy Guide

♠ Harrington on Hold’em: Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments

♠ Tournament Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklansky

♠ Kill Elky by Lee Nelson, Tysen Streib, Kim Lee

This last book contains all sorts of charts for shoving ranges, re-shoving ranges and correct calling ranges at various stages of tournaments. It is a must have resource for any aspiring tournament poker player.

3. Realistic Expectation

Before you start your session, be aware of the fact that you should expect to not make the money in 80% of the tournaments you play (in events where 15% of the field is paid, this number can be adjusted to 70%). Being at peace with this idea will make it much easier to accept busting out before the money (remember this is to be expected a majority of the time!). It will also make you less likely to tilt or make poor decisions in your other tournaments (known as the spillover effect), because you can know you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. Even when you make the right play in poker you’re going to get unlucky or run into the top of someone’s range a high percentage of the time.

Remember, it’s not important how many tournaments you cash. What’s important is how often you make the final table and ultimately how often you make the top 3 payout spots. The correct style of going for the win is going to see you falling short of the money very often, but the times you do make the money you will often have a big enough stack to maneuver your way to the final table where the big money is!

4. Fearlessness and Killer instinct

This is a concept that can’t be taught and only comes with experience. Recognize that while you may be afraid of busting a tournament (especially after committing a lot of time to it) so is everyone else! Use this to your advantage and apply maximum pressure in spots where your opponents will be very fearful of calling off or taking a close spot with you.

Being able to pick up pots without showdown, especially big pots that you’ve built by firing multiple barrels is what separates the true greats from the average players in the tournament world. Get to know your opponents, take notes, and figure out who are your prime targets for picking up chips, you’ll thank yourself when they’re still grinding out their short stack and you’ve amassed a large pile of chips to give you full flexibility and maneuverability.

We can't guarantee you'll win a tournament your first try, a lot of luck is required to win these things. But by consistently implementing these behaviours you'll give yourself the best chance at sealing the deal when the stars are aligned and luck is on your side.

Photo Credit: World Poker Tour | Flickr