Early Game Strategy In Online Poker Tournaments

Play To Chip-Up Or Should Caution Prevail? The Dilemma Of Early Game Online Tournament Strategy.

There will never be more fish at your table than right at the start of online poker tournaments. The ‘dead money’ of inexperienced opponents exists at all levels. As someone with knowledge of online poker tournament strategy you are faced with a dilemma… Do you play lots of hands in an attempt to get the weak player’s chips before someone else does? Or wait until you get premium hands and opponents are less likely to suck out on you?

We will start with a hypothetical situation. You have a pair of eights and have raised pre-flop only to be put all-in by an inexperienced opponent. You know that his range is any ace above Ace-7, pairs 66+, and any 2 picture cards. This gives you just over 50% equity in the pot if you call.

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Early Game Tournament Strategy - Giving Your Skill Advantage Time To Prevail

Poker literature is full of advice along the lines of ‘do not take marginal edges early if you feel you have a skill advantage over your opponents’. The idea being that you are declining a small positive expectation today in order to be in a position to have larger positive expectation situations tomorrow.

This advice may be applicable to experienced tournament professionals on the WPT circuit, but does it make so much sense in small buy-in online poker tournaments?

Early Game Tournament Strategy - Declining Any Edge Costs Real Money

The counter argument is that any time you decline a positive expectation situation (bubble dynamics aside for the moment) then you cost yourself money. While you may have a skill edge against the fish in the early levels, as the tournament progresses you will find yourself up against stronger players. In order to succeed later on you are going to need those chips!

A different, but equally important, consideration is your online poker bankroll. If you are correctly bankrolled for the level of tournament at which you play then there is no reason not to take a positive expectation bet early in the tournament. If you bust out of this tourney then there are always others available to join – usually within a few minutes.

Applying Early Game Logic To Lower Buy-In Online Tournaments

Weak players at the start of online poker tournaments play too many hands, call too often and go too far with medium strength holdings. There will never be a better opportunity to see cheap flops and to add to your stack if you make a strong hand.

Finally, the prize structure of all online poker MTTs is heavily skewed to the final table. For each time you reach this goal you could win more than several low payout cashes. Give yourself a chance to reach that final table by taking as many chips as possible from the weaker players while they are still in the game… sure they will get lucky sometimes – but your long-term results will improve.

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