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No Limit Tournament Strategy Basics


Here every player has the choice to bet as many chips as he has left, which leads to some major differences:

  • You can be eliminated in the first round by loosing one hand
  • You can win much more in a single hand, even double up against one or triple up against two opponents
  • You can put more pressure on your opponents
  • You can protect your winning hand much more effectively ( for example: you hold ATs, flop is 23T rainbow. By betting high you can push your opponents off that hand and avoid the 3 overcards drawing out on you. An opponent with an overpair of course would be a nightmare.)
  • Bluffing and inducing the others to bluff is more effective here because more chips can be invested. As always, timing and dosis are essential when bluffing.

The most important principles in No Limit tournaments are these two:

  • When a player raises before you act, you need a much better hand than you would need if you were raising yourself. This is the so-called “Gap Concept”, described by David Sklansky in his great book “Tournament play for advanced players) (published at Twoplustwo). On the other hand, that also means that against an opponent who is aware of that concept, you can open-raise with a wider range of hands. ATo for example is a good hand for an open raise in NL, but not a hand that you should call a raise with.
  • There is a fundamental difference between a made hand and a draw when playing NL: A hand with many outs is a nice thing, but even when you have 12 outs, you are still an underdog to the made hand. If your opponent puts you all-in, do you want to risk your survival on a 35/60 chance? So especially when the blind levels are high, investing too much in a drawing hand is a bad idea. It is a mistake often made by good ring game players. In NL, two or three busted draws can cost you your life. In ring games you can trust that mathematically you make a correct call with a good draw, but in a tournament you do not have that luxury all the time. That does not mean that you fold all your draws. If you get to see the showdown cheap or when you have a relatively big chip stack and plenty outs, you can call.
The ideal poker room to put those skills into practice would be a room offering lots of low-buy-in NL tournaments - we recommend PokerStars. Their tournament schedule is the best of all poker rooms, and they have $1-buy-in NL tournaments starting almost every 10 minutes!
Download PokerStars free poker software by clicking this link, and insert marketing code PSA2049 plus bonus code STARS500 when signing up.

Some other questions regarding No-Limit strategy

  • How high should I bet? Ask yourself one question first : Do I want the opponents to call, or do I want them to fold? Then bet accordingly. Second question you must ask yourself: What will do when I get raised? This will happen very often. Let’s suppose you have made a medium raise with KTs. Your opponent think it is a weak raise and triples your bet. What now? Consider a raise from your opponent before you bet! With hands that have to fear a re-raise you should not bet too much, so you can still back off if necessary. With hands that you do not mind getting re-raised like AKs, AA, KK you do not have to consider that problem. Same goes when you are short-stacked and you would have to go all-in no matter what, but then it makes more sense to move all-in right away, thus improving the chance that your opponents will fold.
  • The size of the opponents chip stack should be considered. Players with very high and with very small chipstacks tend to call your raises more frequently, so do not try to bluff against a player who is desperate.
  • In the early tournament stages, you often see players making an all-in move first-in. This is extremely stupid. Chances are that the only situation where you get called here is by a player who holds AA or KK. So you win only the blinds most of the time, but loose everything almost certainly against AA and KK.  When the pot is already bigger because some players have limped, it may be worth while with a strong hand.
  • When you think that you are one of the better players in the tournament, do not take too many chances and wait for the right situations. On the other hand, when you are at the final table and you feel like the only amateur at a pro table, you may tend to gamble a little bit more.

All-In Situation


This situation obviously occurs much more often in NL and limit tournaments than in ring games. Basically, there are three possible variations:

Reasons why you would raise and go all-in:

  • Your hand is definitely the best, and somebody will call your raise
  • You are not sure whether your hand is the best, but sure nobody will call your raise
  • You have a very good starting hand, there are chips in the pot and you want to win them here and now, or at least produce a heads-up situation
  • You are short-stacked and you would take this hand to the river anyway

Reasons to call an all-in raise from a player who has less chips than you

  • You are sure to have the best hand
  • The all-in raiser is desperate and your hand is better than average (you have to be sure that nobody else behind you will call as well)
  • Do not call when someone behind you will call and eliminate the player for you and you will thus rise in the money ranks without taking a risk

Reasons to call an all-in raise from a player with more chips than you

Apart from the reasons in the previous chapter, you might consider calling when you you are short-stacked, your hand is better than average, you already have many chips in the pot and you will be all-in from the blinds soon.


Pot Limit Tournaments


In Pot Limit, betting is limited to the size of the pot. That means, that in the early stages of a tournament when the blinds are low you will be able to see the flop and turn or even the river rather cheaply. Your strategy should be closer to the limit ring game. Later when the blinds go up the pots will be bigger and NL strategy should be applied.




When only one player qualifies, it is obvious that it does not make any sense to try too hard to survive when you are short-stacked in the later stages. Use your chances to increase your chipstack at least to a point where you are able to compete when playing heads-up.
The opposite applies when more than one player qualifies and only few players have to be eliminated. It does not matter with how many chips you qualify. Play tight, and hope for other players to get eliminated. When you play, play aggressively – do not forget that the other players with the shorter and medium-size stacks will probably fold and hope someone else will be eliminated.


Re-Buy and Add-on Tournaments


When players have the option of re-buying new chips when the go bust, they tend to play a looser game. So you should play your vulnerable hands cautiously, and when you have a monster do not fear too much that your loose opponents might fold. After the rebuy period has ended, some players will obviously change their playing style.
Also, in most cases the prize money will be good relative to the original buy-in, so if you don’t have to re-buy, you get very good value for your money when you end up in the money. Tournaments with xxx players and 2-3 times  re-buys are quite frequent. I suggest you try to win chips instead of buying them. Adding on extra chips makes sense if you think that you have a good chance of winning, and if the per-chip re-buy is relatively cheaper than the original buy-in.
Never re-buy when you are short-stacked even after rebuying (e.g. later in the tournament when many players already have big stacks).


Deposit options for US poker fans

If you are based in the US, finding a poker room that accepts US players is only one of your problems. It is also difficult to make money transfers. But there are a number of options for deposits and withdrawals for US gamblers and we have described them here ... read more

All Freeroll Poker Tournaments starting now

All the big poker rooms are offering freeroll tournaments. There is no need to deposit, but you can still win real money. To find a permanently updated schedule of all freerolls starting in the next few minutes, across all rooms - click this link!

Play Poker and Blackjack at the same room

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, due to a low house edge and the fact that strategy can improve your results. But not all poker rooms have Blackjack too. Find our favorite rooms for Poker and Blackjack - read this!

European Poker Tour qualifiers

The European Poker Tour is becoming more and more popular. With moderate buy-ins, but very large prize pools, a lot of money can be made at these events. In consequence, several rooms are offering satellites to qualify for the offline EPT events. To find out which rooms offer the best chances for EPT qualification read this article.