Multi Table Poker Tournament Strategy

Strategy in Multi Table Poker Tournament is different from cash game strategy, or even Sit and Go strategy. One of the most important parts is to understand how your strategy has to adapt to the different stages of a MTT poker tournament.

When the tourney has just started

  • Check how many chips there are in total in play and divide this figure by 30; that will give you the minimum amount of chips required to make it just about to the last table
  • Don’t pay any attention to the early chip leaders of the tourney - you will not see them at the last table, because they take too much risk too early. They will continue doing so until their chip lead is gone again. Why trying to “win” a tournament in the first 30min when it’s supposed to last well over 2 hours?
  • It’s all about survival in the early stages. Maintain your chip stack by winning a few small pots and let the others do the busting -- unless you have a very strong hand.
  • Making tricky-trappy-fancy moves will not find a lot of admirers in the early stages because most players won’t understand what you’re doing. Keep that for later on and simply play straightforward poker: if you have a hand – bet; if you have trash – fold. It’s as simple as that.

Close to the Prize Money

With a short stack, stay out of every hand to make it into the prize money ranks. Only play AA & KK and fold everything else. If you see the Blinds closing in and they are big enough to gobble up your remaining chips then go all-in before they arrive no matter what you hold.
Exception: when there are only 2-3 more players due to bust out, let your timer run out and get auto-folded; every second of survival counts.
With a medium-sized stack, this is the best time to play aggressively but stay clear of the big chip stacks. Target the medium sized stacks and very small stacks.

Here is why:
a) the big stacks won’t risk a lot when calling your big bet but they have you covered and busting out now is not what you want
b) you can do a lot of damage to the medium sized stacks, so they are most likely to fold to big pre-flop raises because they want to ensure to get some prize money and will only then start playing again; but don’t overdo it with your aggressive play and fold to bets that would cripple your stack or eliminate you from the tourney
c) the small or very small stacks are trickier; when you see a player is trying to win time by letting his timer run out, raise him because he’ll fold no matter what he has; also, if you have a short-stacked player covered by 10 times or more call his all-in with any hole cards but only if you’re the last one to act and nobody else has entered the pot

With a big chip stack, you are comfortable and can eliminate players by relieving them off their sorry chip stacks. If you have as many chips so you are almost guarateed a last table seat then leave most of the action to the other players and get only involved when you pick up a monster hand. This way you maintain your lead and all you want is to get to the last table.

It’s good practice to always aim for the last table, because there is the money that was worth playing the tournament for. If, for example, the last 20 places are paid but 11th-20th will only get slightly more than the entry fee was, then ask yourself this: “Is getting a few Dollars pay-off a result I will be happy with?” There’s nothing wrong with taking that small prize money, especially when you just started out playing poker, but don’t limit yourself by aiming for it from the start.

Again, these are guidelines. Your observation of the table action and playing styles of the other players is still crucial for your decision making. We hope the guide above will help you to become a more successful tournament player.
The best books ever written about No-Limit tournament strategies & tactics are Dan Harrington’s Expert Strategy For No-Limit Tournaments – Volume I & II.

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