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Five Errors of Starting Players

Why tournaments and cash are two completely different games

Markus Moergis, the Academy of Poker tournament expert, explains why it is impossible to use the same strategy for cash and tournaments. How to adjust to ever-increasing blinds and constant change of the stack sizes? What to do with the bubble and mental challenge of the poker tournament? Read, enjoy, and share your thoughts.

There are two major differences between tournaments and cash games: the constant growth of the blind and the payout structure.

In cash games blinds always remain the same, the stacks are always deep, and all-ins, even in the loosest games in the world, are comparatively rare occasions. In tournaments, to the contrary, blinds go up at regular intervals, stacks become shallower and players, like it or not, have to play for the stacks very often.

The second difference is the way the winnings are distributed. In cash games, you can win or lose money every hand. In tournaments, the prize pool is divided between top 15%-20% finishers with the winner getting the lion share of it.

These two difference change the game completely and you can’t ignore them when building a plan for the game. In this article, I will tell you about 5 major mistakes tournament newcomers make and explain what can you do about it.

Here we go.

Never ignore the structure

You may start the game with 100 or 200 big blinds and move down to 40 BB after a pair of levels without even playing a hand. Wait for a little and you will enter the danger zone of 10 to 20 BB.

When the stacks become shorter, the starting hands requirements change as well. When you are playing tournaments, count not your chips, but the number of blinds. Pay attention to how big will be the blinds after the end of the level. It may happen that next level your stack will lose fold equity completely and turn into a pumpkin.

Get know tournament structure before the registration. You may always study it in the tournament lobby.

Pay attention to stack size

You can’t replenish your stack in a tournament. If it were so, the tournaments would have lasted for ages. As a result, stacks in the tournaments vary desperately. At the same table may meet the players with stacks from 5 to 100 blinds.

When playing a tournament, be always aware of not only your stack but also of the stacks of your competition.

If you think about making a raise versus a short stack at the blinds from late position, think twice. Short stack will never call your raise, so you can’t overplay them postlop in position. He would 3-bet you very wide and you have to choose between risking good chunk of your stack with small equity advantage or folding too much.

Be ready for the Bubble

The approach of the prize zone influences the strategy of all the players. And sometimes in an irrational way. The big stacks play looser to collect even more chips, short stacks desperately look for the chance to double, and middle stacks just try to survive and sneak into the money somehow.

Experienced players know when to change the gears. They understand when to apply maximum pressure and when the deep defense is a better option. Want to get the extended guide for playing on the bubble? I can give it to you.

It is an essential part of my learning course. First, I will give exact charts to understand what to do at every position at the table with any size of the stack. Then we speak about how to keep calm, avoid money pressure and exploit the leaks of the field (extra loose play of the chip-leaders, extremely tight middle stacks, and short stacks ready to play for the stack with any two). To join the course just hit the button below and sign up.

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Remember Pay Jumps

When the tournament is only in the very beginning of the prize zone, most players just ignore pay jumps. They wait until the moment money matters. Most of the times they mean final table. However, the truth is that money always «really matters».

To understand the real value of tournament chips, you are to study ICM (Independent Chip Model) theory. However, even without knowledge of the exact numbers, you can still make some adjustments. Avoid unnecessary risks if you can easily survive one pay jump or two, stay away from aggressive chip leaders if you have a big stack too, or vice versa put pressure on the players who care about pay jumps too much.

If you want to dive deeper into the ocean of poker math, check out my video about the way I use ICMzer to improve my game:

Get ready to a mental challenge

Two most important skills necessary to become a tournament crusher are patience and endurance.

Accept that it is impossible to win every tournament you enter. Even the strongest players in the world can’t do it. Moreover, you will leave most of the tournaments empty-handed. It’s just a nature of the tournament and you can’t do anything about it. To get a big win, you are to survive long streaks of dog days.

Why endurance is so important? If you gonna become a tournament player, be ready to play a lot of long sessions. Moreover, you are to show the best game until the very end of the session. You can’t just get up and leave if you are too tired or have no desire to go on. You are stick to the table until the very end.

Moreover, the later stage of the tournament, the higher is the price of the mistake. Many inexperienced players or even experienced cash grinders underestimate the influence of mental and physical fatigue on the game. My recommendations to improve endurance are meditations, good sleep, healthy food, and physical activity. Simple as it does, but it works.

Here is what you should know before stepping on the path of tournament grinder. Of course, it is not an ultimate guide, but still a good point to start.

And if you are serious about becoming tournament pro, here is your chance. Sign up my learning course and get:

  • 4 online lessons about the basics of preflop strategy and poker math;
  • 2 individual training sessions, where we will break down your leaks and create a detailed plan of how to eliminate them.
  • detailed preflop charts for every position at the table, that will boost your confidence and allow to make preflop decisions quick and easy;
  • software masterclass, that gives you a powerful tool to work on your game after graduating from the Academy.

And last but not least. If you join my course this month, you will get a welcome €200 discount. The group is gonna be full very soon, so don’t waste your time, hit the button below and sign up.

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