Poker hand selection in tournament poker

When you play poker online tournaments one of the most important skills to master are discipline. Playing No Limit Texas Hold’em is not that difficult to learn but without discipline you will most likely end going out of the tournament sooner than later.

You need discipline when selecting which hands you play

There is a big difference which hands you should play depending on number of poker players at the table.

In a 10 handed poker tournament it is more or less plain stupid to open from early position with AJ. You would have 9 players acting after you who could all hold hands like AQ, AK. JJ, QQ, KK or AA. I am not going into math in this article but try and shuffle a deck of cards a few times and deal 9 hands face up and see how often you are beat pre flop. It is not an unfair assumption to make that the best outcome of the “AJ early position raise” would be winning the blinds. The rest of the time you will have someone throwing in a re-raise where you need to fold. It is simply not a +EV (expected value) to play a hand like AJ from early position under these circumstances.

Many players raise with mediocre poker hands even they know it is wrong. Often players get bored waiting for a decent poker hand in a tournament. If they have not played a hand for 4 rounds then AJ suddenly looks like the mother of all poker hands. It is a terrible way to throw away precious tournament chips. Poker tournament chips have a lot more value than chips in a poker cash game. When you run out of chips in a poker tournament you have to leave the table. Game over.

Hands that are playable from early position are the above mentioned except AQ. I simply prefer to throw that hand in the muck too. At later stages in a poker tournament it might be impossible to muck AJ and AQ from early position because of the blind structure and your stack size but a real good sound advice is to throw it away. More money has been lost in tournament poker with AQ than any other hand.

The typical scenario is that a player raise with AQ and get reraised by another player holding AK. An A hits the flop and now AQ is bound to lose a big pot. Watch out for these hands that can be dominated. Every time you get action playing those hands you are in severe danger of losing all your chips.

It is of course impossible to win a tournament only playing very big cards. Several different strategies of getting chips can be used. When a player makes a raise you have to consider reraising every single time- no matter which cards you hold. Never throw a hand away without thinking about if a reraise could make your opponent fold.

The Mantra

Many players watch tournament poker or cash games on television where the MANTRA is the button is power position. You can play many more hands on the button because of the positional advantage etc. While this is true then it also creates many players who raise from the button regardless of their holdings. This is an excellent spot to pick up some tournament chips if you are the Big Blind. Reraising the Button is a strong move because the button might not have a particular strong hand. Even if the button have a fair and decent poker hand then he still need to be afraid that your hand is even stronger, Should he make the call when you reraise then you need to continuation bet the flop to make him fold if he missed it.

Medium and small pocket pairs have a lot of power if they hit the flop. A set (3 of a kind) in poker is a monster hand. However if you miss the flop you are left with nothing but one pair and should throw your hand away. Calling a bet on the flop with a pocket pair is not good poker. Either you hit and continue in the hand or you miss and let go of your hand. Pocket pairs are actually some of the easiest hands to play if you follow this rule.

Playable hands in tournament poker

Monster hands: AA

It is in poker like in Lord of The Rings- one poker hand is above all the other hands you can be dealt. Ace Ace takes that price by lengths. The hand is playable from all positions and hopefully for all your chips if possible. After the flop AA is reduced from a monster to a hand where you need to proceed a bit more careful as your opponents could have made a set, two pairs or picked up a strong draw.

Mini Monster poker hands: KK, QQ, AKs, JJ

All these hands can be played from any position. Just remember that if you raise QQ from early position then there is a slight chance that one of your opponents might hold KK or AA. Any significant action going on and you have to really consider throwing away QQ and JJ.

AK is a hand you need to consider even more careful how to play. Often it is referred to as a coin flip when players end all in with AK vs. 77. In my world this is not entirely true. AKs is an underdog against all pocket pairs higher than 22. If AK is unsuited then it is a 44%-56% underdog. Calling all your chips with AK is not a given. The hand strength simply does not warrant that you make instant calls with it.

Easy poker hands: 22-TT

Either you hit the flop and now have a monster or you miss and have to throw the hand away.

Speculative poker hands:

54s,76s, JTs, 86s, A5s and many more similar.

Hands like those are speculative hands that should only be played from the button and preferable only when a few limpers are already in the pot. Rasing the pot with hands like these will cause you more grief than joy in the long run. Of course these hands can win a big pot but it is more likely you miss the flop and need to throw it away. Play these types of hands very carefully from late position and for a low cost. Being suited is not a reason to play the hands but it definitely adds to the power of your holding. You can flop a flush or a combo draw that make it possible to continue in the hand. Hands that are unsuited should without hesitation be folded.

Garbage poker hands:

Well if it looks like garbage it is garbage. J4, K3, A2, Q4 are examples on hands that are unplayable. Most hands in poker are unplayable and you need the patience to wait for decent hands. No need to begin an attack a few minutes too early with a riffle when reinforcement in terms of a nuclear bomb or at least a few hundreds stealth fighters are on the way.

What to remember

Remember Texas Hold’em poker is a high card game and playing big cards only is a splendid poker strategy.

Many of the online poker sites today have a really good tournament program for poker players. We recommend players to play tournaments on Absolute Poker or Titan Poker.

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