I played a $33 turbo single table tournament last night and wanted to share my tournament poker strategy with you on how I won. If you’re not familiar with a STT, they are usually 9 or 10 handed tables and the top three get paid. The payouts are usually 50% of the prize pool for 1st, 30% for 2nd, and 20% for 3rd.
The whole point of playing STTs is to make the money. That is the main objective. That seems counter to what most people think about playing poker which is to go for first. With a stt, you want to get third, and then go for first.
I play on Full Tilt and the turbos they offer have a better blind structure than Poker Stars in my opinion. So even though the blinds go up every 3 minutes, the increases are not large.
The tournament poker strategy most experts advise is that a tight aggressive strategy is right. I wholeheartedly agree. While you may see players who play just about every hand occasionally win a game, over the long term a loose tournament poker strategy does not have a very positive expectation.
Here’s how I won a STT:
The first two hands I had AsQh and AhQd and had to check fold both times because I missed and had callers behind me in position. The third hand I had AdJs and just open folded it under the gun. If I raise and get any callers behind me and an ace flops, it’s very likely I am behind. So to make a tough decision easier I just fold it.
In the 4th hand I have Qd8d in the big blind and win a 480 chip limped pot when I turn two pair.
It is not hard to play tight when you do not get any big hands that hold up. For the next 22 hands I did nothing but fold. I was down to 1200 chips from a starting stack of 1500 and the blinds were already at 60/120. So I had about 10 big blinds left. I needed to find a spot to put my chips in and double up or else I was going to blind down and not have a chance to make the money.
I had QdQh in the big blind and the small blind just completed so I shoved and he folded. More folding followed this small win.
The next hand I played was also in the big blind, the small blind limped and I checked, flop was 6c5s4d, he led and I raised, he folded, I had 6h5d. I was up to 1880.
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A few hands later I picked up AsAh and raised and everyone folded. Up to 2040. Three hands later I was in the big blind with KhKc. We were 6 handed and the blinds were 100/200. The button pushed with ATo and my pair of kings held up. Down to 5 now with 2 more til the money. I had 3455 in chips. 3 hands later I had AdKh and just shoved and everyone folded.
Then I fold 10 hands in a row until I pick up AdQd UTG and shove 2935 chips with the blinds at 150/300 and take it down. I get a walk in the BB next hand and shove two black tens in the SB next hand into the BB.
This is the point where I start to become much more aggressive and try and take control of the table as everyone tightens up to make the money. I pushed Ad4h and the BB short stack calls with Td8h for 1295 total, I have 3835 and the blinds are 150/300. My ace high holds and we are now on the bubble.
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This is the point where tight aggressive poker strategy gives way to loose aggressive poker as the blinds get so high. And everyone tightens up to wait for the short stacks to bust so the medium stacks can make the money. I want to pick up as many pots and chips as possible while putting the most pressure I can on the medium stacks while they wait for the small stacks to blind out.
If I’m first in the pot, I’m shoving all my chips in the middle. I push twice with K7o and then UTG w J8s and a medium stack calls with AQo and holds. I had 6080 chips to start the hand, two players with stacks around 3000 and one short stack with 1700. Mathematically, it is correct for me to push with 99.1% of my hands in this spot and the BB is only supposed to call with 4.2% of his hands which is 77 and up and AQs and up. So if you want to be picky he made a very slightly bad call but if I was in his spot I would probably do the same after seeing me push allin several times already.
So I lost that pot and was knocked down to 3070 and on the BB. But I picked up 1200 the next hand when the SB limps and I flop a straight with 67s on an 89T flop.
Play with aggressive strategy if you are losing
I resume my very aggressive strategy and push with ATs and the short stack calls with A6o and I hold. The bubble is popped and I have 6870, the other players have 2110 and 4520. I can pull back on the aggression because now the other two players are not concerned as much with making the money and are all gunning for first place. I have to tighten up just a little bit at least until the blinds get so high that it becomes push fold poker.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing to the end though. I picked up ATo in the SB, the button folded and I pushed with 6370 chips, blinds at 250/500, into the BB’s 3610 stack. He called rather quickly with pocket fours and it held. I was down to 2760. A couple hands later I have to get lucky to stay alive. The button, who is now the big stack pushes and I decide to call with A2o in the BB. He shows A5o and is a small favorite. I river a two to double up. Poker is such a nicer game when you can win when you are ahead and when you come from behind.
A few hands later we are still three handed when the other big stack busts the small stack. KQo beats QTo and we are now heads up. He has me 8580 to 4920 and the blinds are 300/600. I can push with about 63% of my hands and he can call with about 42% of his hands. I am using an ICM calculator to get all these numbers about pushing and calling. You can Google it to find a free one.
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A couple hands in I double up, pushing with Q8s and beating his K4o. Now I have 9840 and he has 3660. For the next 13 hands we basically trade blinds. On hand 105, he strikes back and doubles up with K4o against my J2o monster. Now we are about back to even but the blinds are 400/800. On the final hand 109, I push with J9o and am not happy to see him with Q9o. The poker gods are shining on me today. As I river a jack to take the pot and win the tournament.
So that’s my single table tournament strategy that has helped me win almost over $18,000. And by playing single table tournaments on Full Tilt this year. Good luck to you and I’ll see you at the tables.