Multi Table Tournament Strategy
The multi-table tournament represents the most popular and definitely most televised style of poker play. The World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour, among many others come immediately to mind. An interesting development recently shows the majority of World Series of Poker tournament players now earn their entry to the event through online qualifying tournaments. Chris Moneymaker (2003) and Greg Raymer (2004) both earned their buy in's to the World Series of Poker at Poker Stars and went on to win millions of dollars, and now represent Poker Stars to the world! The structure of these tournaments is quite simple. For a “buy in,” or set amount, players are entered into the tournament. Every player is then given the same number of chips and seated at as many tables as are necessary, and the elimination begins. When a player “busts out,” he leaves his seat, and remaining players are moved around to ensure equal numbers at each table. As you can imagine, this takes hours and even days to complete large multi-table tournaments.
All of this concentration, work and drama, for what? Only the top few finishers will earn money. If the tourney pays top 10 finishers, and you finish #11, tough luck. For many players who have had great success in regular ring games, the multi-table tournament is a cruel effigy of failure. This can be directly traced to the fact that most players do not grasp the changes needed from their ring game style to a tournament style. Consider some examples:
You hold Ax suited in a regular ring game. Your course of action would probably be to call at least one, possible two bets, and even raise in late position, if everyone has folded in front of you. On the other hand, what to do with Ax suited in the early stages of a multi-table tournament? Almost without fail, tournament experts will tell you to dump those cards without wasting a single bet.
How about QJ offsuit? In ring play, I probably wouldn't give this hand the time of day. However, at the final table of a multi-table tournament, this can represent a very playable hand! We do indeed have a riddle, and in the following, the riddle explained.
Lets begin by breaking the multi-table tournament into three periods: Early, Middle and Final Tables. Early tournament play would obviously be the very beginning of the tournament, and characterized by lots and lots of fish and suckers. The middle time period will be after almost all of the fish have busted out, except for a lucky few, and the remaining players are fair to excellent poker players. The final tables then would be represented by excellent players, and maybe, just maybe, some fool whose on a hot streak, or a fair player whose having a good day.
As you can tell, this is not an exact science. You really can't put a number on when you move from early to middle and even to final tables. It all depends on the nature of the tournament. In a tourney filled with great players, you may be into middle play very early. In a loose tournament, the final tables, may not come until the last 15-20 players.
Finally, lets look at a winning multi-table strategy...