Guest Post by Mitchell Cogert
11 Lucky Steps To Win A Poker Tournament: New Player Guide
Step 1: Learn the rules of poker, and how tournament poker is different.
You need to know the ranking of hands….from no pair to a royal flush. The basics (in ascending order): no pair, one pair, two pairs, three of a kind, a straight, flush, and full house. These are the most common hands.
A poker tournament is different than other forms of poker since everyone starts with the same number of chips, there are rounds that are timed, after each round the amount you bet increases, and you play until one player has all the chips.
Step 2: No limit hold’em poker is the game to learn since you can win millions–just like on TV.
This game is simple to play.
1. Each player gets dealt two cards down. Players call, raise or fold.
2. The dealer turns over three community cards, called the flop. Players still in the pot check, bet or fold.
3. The dealer turns over one community card, called the turn. Players still in the pot check, bet or fold.
4. The dealer turns over one last community card, called the river. Players still in the pot check, bet or fold.
5. The player with the best hand wins.
In a tournament, there are forced bets called the blinds (where you have to put money in the pot before seeing your cards). The blinds are important since everyone takes a turn in putting in those bets, and a poker tournament at it’s most basic level is a battle for these blinds.
Step 3: Know which are the best starting hands in a poker tournament.
After you get your first two down cards, you need to decide to play the hand or not. And if you play will you call or raise.
In general, the highest pairs are the best starting hands–pocket Queens, Kings, and Aces. Suited connectors are good starting hands–like 7-6, 8-7, 10-9, where both cards are the same suit (called suited)–since you can make flushes and straights. Ace-King is a strong hand since if you improve on the flop, you will often have top pair, top kicker (the highest ranking unpaired) card–like a pair of Kings with an Ace kicker.
Step 4: Practice, practice, practice
There is nothing more important than getting practice. Practice leads to experience. Experience will make it easier for you to improve.
The fastest way to get practice without it costing you a dime is to sign-up to play at an online poker site. The biggest is www.FullTiltPoker.net. The .net is a free site–so they give you chips for free. The only downside to learning this way is that everyone is a big gambler–after all, it’s free!
Step 5: There are probabilities in poker you need to know; fortunately, there is a trick that makes this is easy.
First you need to know what an “out” is in poker. An out is the number of cards you need to complete your hand or to make a specific hand. Second, probabilities are the percentage of the time you will end up with a desired hand.
To figure out the probability of making a desired hand, you take the number of outs and multiply this number by 4 or 2. Multiply it by 4 if there are 2 cards left to see, and multiply it by 2 if there is one card to come.
Example: If you have two hearts as down cards, and the flop has 2 hearts, you have 9 cards to make a flush. 9 times 4 is equal to a 36% probability of making a flush if you see the next two cards.
Step 6: Know these 4 most common probabilities in hold’em poker.
• If your starting hand is not a pair, the probability of hitting one pair on the flop is about 32%. That’s right, you (and your opponent) will not improve on the flop 2 out of 3 times.
• If your starting hand is a pair, the probability of hitting three of a kind on the flop is 12%.
• If your starting hand is two suited cards and 2 cards of the same suit flop, called a flush draw, the probability of making a flush is 36%.
• If you flop a straight draw, 4 cards to a straight, the probability of making a straight is 36%.
Step 7: Knowing the probabilities helps you decide how or if you should play your hand. All you need to do is compare the probability versus the pot odds.
The pot odds are the amount of your bet compared to the amount of money in the pot. For example, let’s say the pot has $50, and your opponent bets $50. To call that bet it will cost you $50 to win $100. That means you are getting 2-1 on your bet (the pot odds).
Now, let’s assume that your opponent made that bet on the flop, and you have a flush draw. You believe that if you make a flush you will win the pot. So, your probability is 36%, which is about 2-1. Since the pot odds are right, you should make the call.
Step 8: A trick in making the correct decision is to know not just the pot odds, but to know the implied odds.
Implied odds simply includes how much additional money you will win if you make your desired hand. Using the above example, if you and your opponent both had $1,000, and you hit your flush, your implied odds may actually be the $50 to win over $1,000! That means your implied odds are 20-1!
But wait. Your implied odds are really much less, since if you make your flush (let’s say on the next community card or turn), your opponent will see that you made your hand, and he will just fold to your bet. So, you end up with winning just the $100 in the pot for your $50 call.
That is why if the hand you are trying to make to win a pot is hidden from your opponent, you will usually win a lot more money. Your implied odds are higher, since he will not know that he is beat and will call your bets.
Step 9: In a poker tournament since the bets increase each round, you must learn to accumulate chips.
This is one of the most important things to learn in tournament play. You can’t sit back and wait for the best starting two hands. You must steal the blinds, especially as they increase each round. As a result, you need to learn the different ways to steal blinds, pots and accumulate chips.
Here are some tips:
• Blinds steals: When you are one of the last players to act pre-flop, and no one has entered the pot, raise with any two cards. Specifically, if you are on the button (the player to the right of the blinds), or the cut-off (The player two to the right of the blinds), just raise. You only have to beat a few players to win the pot.
• Power steals: Raise pre-flop when other players just call. When a player calls the blind, he has a good but not a great hand. When he raises the blind, he is telling everyone he has a strong hand. If other players call, raise them and tell them to fold since your hand is better.
• Continuation bets: If you do raise pre-flop and a player calls your raise, don’t give up. On the flop, your opponent will not improve his hand 2 out of 3 times, so make a continuation bet; that is, make a bet on the flop as if you made your hand. It will often force your opponent to fold.
Step 10: Play your opponent’s hand and not your hand. This is the most important tip in poker and most players don’t even know it.
Since your opponent can’t see your hole cards, you can always hold the winning hand. If you know when your opponent is weak, you can play your cards like you have the winning hand.
Example: Let’s say your opponent raises pre-flop with pocket Aces. You call his raise with pocket 2’s hoping. The flop comes down 8-7-6 all of hearts. This is a bad flop for you. But, forget about your hand.
Unless your opponent has an Ace of hearts, he can’t be feeling too comfortable. When he bets on the flop, think about what you can do to win the pot. If you call his bet, and a heart, 4, 5, 9 or 10 hit on the turn (21 cards), what’s your opponent going to do since it looks like you may have made a flush or straight.
If he checks the turn and you bet, what will he do? If he bets the turn, and you raise him, what will he do?
It’s important to know what your opponent will do in these situations and to play his hand not your hand. No limit tournament poker is about accumulating chips, stealing blinds and pots, and playing your opponent’s hand. Since most of the hand is revealed on the flop, figure out the range of hands your opponent is holding and play against these hands. Even if you don’t really have a better hand, you can win the pot because you are playing your opponent’s hand.
Step 11: Don’t go on tilt!
Poker is gambling. And even when you are a favorite to win a pot, you are not really that big of a favorite. If your opponent hits that one card to beat you on the river, don’t get so angry that you lose your composure. This is called going on tilt (If you want to laugh at a player who goes on tilt for all sorts of reasons, just visit YouTube and put in “Hellmuth.”)
When you go on tilt, you make bad decisions. If you do get angry at the poker table, before you play another pot and make a bad decision, walk away from the table. Take a break and calm down. They will deal you another hand when you return–I promise.
Mitchell Cogert is the author of Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves. Called “the best poker book published in 2008,” it reveals 101 winning plays the Poker pros use to win no limit poker tournaments. For more information, go to his How to Win a Poker Tournament blog.