How to Play Poker Tournaments (and tips to increase your winning rates)

If you’re wondering how to play poker tournament, here is one simple explanation: Players buy-in for the same amount and often receive the same portion of tournament chips. Therefore, the luck factor is a bit more present compared to the cash games, although it doesn’t mean that you should heavily rely on chances. 

In its simplest term, poker is a game of mathematical strategies and the ability to predict your odds and your opponent’s ranges. 

Now that you know the difference between casino tournaments and cash games, let’s delve into the simple hacks to increase your winning rates through a solid and consistent strategy. 

Take things slow 

You should start conservatively before the antes kick in since the initial goal is to survive rather than earn value. In the early stages, you have everything to lose (FYI, you can lose all your chips) but can’t win the casino tournaments, which are a marathon, not a sprint. 

It’s not really important to increase the value of your chip stack during the initial stages unless you notice that your opponents are playing too tight. By opening up your game a bit, this counter-strategy can help you steal their chips. 

Be conservative or aggressive, depending on the blind increase

In turbo casino tournaments where the blinds balloon quickly, a better goal is to build a large chip stack than survive. However, the opposite is true for tournaments in which the size of the blinds is slow to build up. Simply put, how aggressive or conservative you play your game depends primarily on how fast or slow the size of the blinds increases. 

One of the most common mistakes of newbies and average players is they build a large chip stack but later on blow it off in an attempt to win the tournament in its early stages. Remember, the most exciting part is usually the middle stages when players have varying chip stacks, including those short-stacked players who often resort to a specific strategy that you can use to your advantage.  

Short-stacked players often resort to a three-betting strategy in an attempt to double their stacks. When facing these opponents, you must tighten up your opening range and fold many hands that you would often open each position. This also means that speculative hand types should be a clear fold when facing these opponents since you can’t call a shove.

Meanwhile, high-cards can increase in value since they are ideal for calling a three-bet all in from a short-stacked position. 

Analyze the potential of your hand 

The best hand types have the strongest post-flop potential in the early stages. For instance, pocket pairs and suited connectors are considered strong hands with minimal risks. And as the game progresses, if your only good preflop moves are either fold or all in, offsuit aces with shallow stacks are suitable as shoves from late position. However, this principle does not apply during the initial stages. 

Understand your position 

Be honest with yourself in terms of your position. Whether you’re in a good or weak position, you have to recognize it and adjust accordingly. That being said, having a big stack gives you more leverage against your opponents, whereas being short-stacked limits your level of aggression. 

If you and your opponents have big stacks, it’s best to avoid them in the meantime. 

Protect your stack 

In wars, sports games, and even casino tournaments, a good defense is a good offense; this means that aggression will take you nowhere unless you also know how to protect your stack. For this reason, you should focus more on protecting your chips, especially at the middle stage, rather than act as the main aggressor at the table. 

The middle stage is considered a danger zone because you no don’t have the benefit of playing speculative hands to try out if the flop can come out great or not. 


Now that you know how to play poker tournament in a “smart” way, visit Capitol Casino if you want to take your game to the next level. Aside from offering the most exciting poker tournaments Sacramento, we also have a bar & lounge and an in-house restaurant known for its delectable Asian cuisine. Visit us now!