While a poker tournament cannot be won in the early stages, it surely can be lost.  Ultimately, our goal is to play poker tournaments to win.  A tournament is a marathon though, not a sprint.  During the early stages of a poker tourney, one should play with a long haul perspective.  A solid tournament poker player enters the early rounds patient and wise – staying out of trouble and knowing where and when his bread is buttered.

What kind of hands play best in the early stages of a poker tournament?

Premium hands such as pocket rockets play well regardless of the stage of the poker tournament – which goes without saying.  Speculative hands such as middle suited connectors work exceptionally well early in the poker tournament.  Hands such as seven – eight suited hold up well against multiple players, draw well and extract value after the flop.  Because hands of this nature play well post-flop, they can be utilized effectively in early MTT play.

How to play the early stages of a poker tournament

Because the blinds are small in relation to both the starting chip count and the average chip count, raising does nothing more than builds a big pot.  In a poker tournament’s early stages, the majority of the value comes after the flop.  As a result, many hands that are normally “raising hands” are better suited as limping hands before the flop.

Ideally, early in a poker tournament, we want to speculate smartly – as we are looking to see flops cheaply.  When we take a cheap flop, we look to gain maximum value from our opposing players by way of out flopping them, and then either betting heavily to steal the pot, or betting to cause them to draw foolishly.  Even with our stronger hands, we do not wish to discourage play after the flop, as many a player can be tricked into thinking their top pair with a weak kicker is the goods.  These are the players we will look to punish by playing deceptively before the flop.  I characterize our play as deceptive before the flop, as we are limping with the majority of our hand range.  As a result, we are rarely revealing our true hand strength until the flop has come in most instances.

As the flop comes about, we will tighten our play.  If the flop misses us and we stand no chance of muscling the pot smartly, we commit to going away.  If we hit the best of it, we will increase the size of our value bets in order to compensate for the absence of preflop aggression.  Because many people fail to tighten up on the flop, our higher value bets will pay off more often.

In a poker tournament‘s early rounds, the best way to maximize our chip intake is by permitting the tournament opposition to over-value their hands after the flop.  We will play deceptively, yet efficiently before the flop, by not disclosing our hand strength with a raise most of the time.  A strategy of this nature is a rewarding, efficient and effective means of playing in a poker tournament’s early stages.