So you’ve taken the advice dished out in our first series on early stage tournament strategy and you’re looking to survive the middle stages? Perfect, these tips should now help you survive the next most important phase. For the purposes of this article we’re going to describe the middle stage as being at least 10 levels in until the money bubble pops.
During the middle stages of a poker tournament you’ll want to begin to gradually increase your level of tight/aggressive play to loose/aggressive as the bubble approaches. The reason for this is that many of the smaller stacks will tighten up in an attempt to make the money and not out with nothing to show for their efforts. This is a prime time to steal the now bigger blinds and get the smaller stacks away from any flop which they’ve not connected on. For now though, let’s back up and look at your strategy from the perspective of a middle-sized chip stack.
So you’re smack-dab in the middle of the tournament field with an average stack of 15,000 chips. The blinds are at 200/400 and you’re looking to improve your chip position as you progress to the later stages of the tournament. Your playing style at this point should be mostly tight/aggressive. Taking down smaller sized pots and avoiding any big confrontations is the wisdom we wish to impart to you at this stage. In a perfect world, you’re not all-in until the final hand where you win the tournament. Of course, this is virtually impossible in any poker tournament but you get the gist. Don’t try to be a hero at this stage and make the crazy call, just stick to ABC poker and mix in a little loose play here and there. Keep them guessing and you’ll find the perfect spot to crush an unsuspecting opponent.
As the bubble approaches you’re in great shape if you’re a little above in chips or better and you have a few short stacks to your left. Since these players pose little threat to your stack you want to look for any opportunity to push them to make difficult decisions. The last thing these players want to do is get knocked out with a pitiful hand, so push them to make the difficult decisions. If the action isn’t raised to you and you have one or more small stacks to your left, raise with most any face card.
The only poker players to watch are those that do pose a threat to your stack. If a small stack or bigger stacks pushes back and re-raises then you should react accordingly. If your holding is that weak, the fold is easy so just be aware that a re-raise by you at this point is likely to get called by the short stack. In almost all cases a re-raise by one of them will account for most of their chips so whatever they have behind chip-wise, they’re going to commit if you push them to do so.
In summary, you want to still employ a degree of ABC poker here. Most of the trickery and bluffing you see on televised poker is during the final table. So unless you’re a pro like Phil Ivey or Greg Raymer, it’s best that you save the heroics for the final table as well. First things first though, you have to make the final table first! Following this strategy should help and once you make the final table, Before you go be sure to check out our Poker Bonus Page for the highest online poker bonuses around.