1. Early Position Raise : One of the biggest mistakes I see players make is not respecting someone who raises in early position. Remember he has another 8 people after him at the table who he has to fade, so chances are that he is holding a big hand.
2. When you have the nuts and someone betting into you : I was watching a friend of mine play a poker tournament online, and although he made several mistakes that I corrected him on, the biggest mistake he made was pushing someone out of the pot by reraising him on the turn when he should have slow-played the hand. Let me give you the scenario. My friend Mike was dealt 10-hearts and K-hearts. Someone raises preflop and there are 4 callers including Mike. On the flop came K-diamonds, 10-diamonds, K-spades. Yes, he flopped the dead nuts. The first player checks, the second player who was the original preflop raiser bets $100. Next player reraises $100, the third and fourth players fold, lastley its up to Mike. He just called the bet which was the proper play. Next card on the turn was 3-spades, no help to anyone. Original player in first position bets $200, second player calls, and what does Mike do, raises the pot $600 and the other 2 players drop out. You need to ask yourself “What am I trying to accomplish with this bet.” What was Mike trying to do, make everyone fold. Number one he already has the dead nuts and he has position. So it is imperative to give the other players an opportunity to catch their card. The proper play was to continue letting the player bet into you, then take him off on the river. He might be holding 2 diamonds and hit his 3rd diamond on the river and you could have taken all his chips. You want those players to get so committed to the pot that they simply cant lay down their 2 pair or their flush or their set. Remember in no limit poker you can always raise the pot or even go all in on the river so its really quite simple. If your playing NL Holdem and someone is betting into you when you have the dead nuts and are in position, let him continue betting into you and do the raise on the river as to maximize any chance you have at getting most or all of his chips.
3. Protect Your Hand: Dont give players an opportunity to draw out on you, make them pay for it. If your holding top pair and there is flush or straight potential, don’t let them get any free cards to draw out on you with. Make a good size bet and you should thin the herd.
4. Thin The Herd: If your holding an average hand, say pocket 10s and there have been no preflop bets yet,, go ahead and make a bet, I prefer to triple the pot. You certainly dont want the guy next to you who has King Duece to hit his King on the flop and beat you. Your bet should thin the heard down and will lesson your chances of getting out drawn.
5. Chip Lead: Listen people, if you have the chip lead tighten up a little. There is no sense in getting involved in too many pots. I see it all too often. A player has the chip lead and starts getting involved in every pot. . Then he catches one of his cards and gets committed to the pot and ends up losing 20% of his chip stack to the pocket rockets. You want to hold on to the chip lead folks, so try to avoid getting involved in too many pots unless your in position and you can see the flop for cheap. Simply let the other players on short stack weed themselves out and you will find yourself at the final table. I am not saying play scared, just play smart and don’t risk a large amount of chips unless you have the pot odds to do so or you have a pat hand.
6. Common Sense: Common sense supercedes all the advice given to me over the years. Use your head for crying out loud. My friend Mike was on the big blind and there were no raises preflop, so he got to see the flop for free. There were 7 people in the hand and the flop comes A-hearts, K-diamonds, -10-diamonds, now Mike was holding crap, 6-7 off suit. Well nobody bets and it comes around to Mike and he triples the pot. It goes around the table and one guy calls, another raises, then another goes all in. Of course Mike folds but common sense tells me with a flop like that everyone got a piece of it, wether its a gut shot straight or 4 to a flush or just top or second pair. My experience has been that usually players discard their low cards and stay in with their big cards or pocket pairs. When a big flop like that comes up common sense tells me when there are 7 other people in the pot that a few if not all of them caught some part of that flop. What a horrible time to try to buy one. Chalk another mullet move up to Mike.
7. Play like a champion: Try to imagine yourself at the WSOP final table playing for 1.5 million. Then ask yourself how would Doyle Brunson play the hand. Take your time and you will probably make the right call. Remember skill will only get you so far, you also have to be lucky and not get too many bad beats to snap a big tournament off so dont get discouraged if you made the right play and lost the hand. If you played the hand like Doyle would have played the hand and you get a bad beat, well thats just part of poker so you might as well get used to it now.
8. SURVIVAL . Your goal of course is to snap the tournament off, but your first priority should be to get into the money. Just use your head and play smart.
9. Study Your Opponents: Study your opponents and make note of their tendencies. For example, if you have a player that calls just about anything, obviously it would not be wise to try to steal a pot against him as he will probably call you with his low pair. Conversly, if you have a player like that and you have a strong hand, bet more than you normally would as you will probably get a call out of him unlike if your playing against a good player that would probably fold his adverage hand.
10 . Realize The Amount Of Players Left In The Tournament And Where They Stand In The Money: If your in a tournament that pays the top 9 places and you have 11 people left in the tournament, this may be a good time to steal a couple of pots if your in position. They are trying to get into the money and wont risk their chips unless they have a premium hand. On the other hand, once everyone is in the money, if your going to play a hand make sure it is one where you are willing to risk a large part of your chip stack on. My experience is when it gets down to the money players, you see many people on the short stack going all in so although it may be tempting to play that 9-10 suited, it may not be a hand you want to risk a large amount of chips on.
These are just a few of the bigger mistakes I see players make when playing texas holdem tournaments. There are many more strategies that I will be sharing in the future. A quick note for cash ring game players. Take a minute before you sit down at a table and watch the game until the button goes around the table once. What your looking for are the saps who think they can play, but don’t have a clue. When I play online poker, my goal is to win money. And don’t understand the players who like to sit down with the poker guru’s. Frankly, when I play poker I am looking for the easy action, not the tough action. And unless you don’t like the color green, there is no percentage in playing the poker guru’s.