Tournament Hold 'em Hand by Hand

Tournament Hold 'em Hand by Hand

by Neil Myers


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Dear Aspiring Poker Tournament Winner,

Do you regularly play in No-Limit Hold'em tournaments? Do you want to get to the final table more often? Then this book is for you!

$10,000 TV tournaments that last for days require very different winning strategies than much faster paced tournaments that last for hours. Most of us never play in the televised extravaganzas. Instead, we play regularly in No-limit Hold'em tournaments that have buy-ins of $40 to $1,000.

Many tourney entrants never win money. A few savvy players know that small tournaments can be fun and profitable if you know exactly how to play them. Hand-by-hand, I will reveal why these players make more than their fair share of final tables—and how you can join them.

You'll learn:

   • How to win despite a run of bad cards

   • How to assess good-value tournaments and avoid bad ones

   • How to play when you are short-stacked

   • How to build a big stack and use your chips as a weapon

   • The vital importance of position in tournament play

   • When and how to change pace as the blinds and antes increase

Some of the conventional advice about tournament play is just plain wrong. Success requires more than a desperate attempt to survive and wait for big cards. So if you want a chance to feel the thrill of a big payday at your next tournament, buy this book now!

I'll see you at the final table.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780818407123
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 02/01/2008
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tournament Hold'em Hand by Hand

The Step-by-Step Guide to the Final Table


Copyright © 2008 Neil D. Myers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8184-0712-3

Chapter One

Who This Book Is For and What You Will Learn from It

This book is for players who share one or more of the following characteristics:

Players who know how to play no-limit Texas Hold'em and have done well in cash games. This book assumes you know how to play no-limit Texas Hold'em. If you are completely new to Hold'em then you should read my book Quick and Easy Texas Hold'em. That will cover the basics and give you a foundation for winning play. If you have only played limit Hold'em and never played no-limit Hold'em than you would do well to read my book No-Limit Hold'em Hand by Hand. This book covers many no-limit Hold'em concepts that will be valuable to your tournament play. Having said this I will emphasize throughout this book that no-limit Hold'em played for cash and tournament no-limit Hold'em are very different games and must be treated differently. If you are unaware of the essential differences you will play one, and possibly both, badly. Superficially they appear to be the same, but they demand different strategies. This is why some good cash players never do well in tournaments and vice versa; they fail to adapt their game to the different structures of cash and tournament play and suffer accordingly. If you are a successful cash player you will learn what it takes to do well in fast-structure, multi-table no-limit Hold'em tournaments.

Players who play tournaments regularly but have never done well. You somehow got bitten by the tournament bug. Maybe you watched TV poker, maybe you played small tournaments with friends, or maybe you played in a charity poker event. You may have actually played a lot of tournaments but have never or only rarely finished in the money. If this describes you a lot of this material will come as a revelation. Careful though! It may test some of your most fondly held yet erroneous assumptions about correct poker tournament play. Admit it, if you knew how to play well in tournaments you would have done better in them, right? It's no use blaming bad luck or bad beats either. You know deep down that we all enjoy and suffer the same luck over time yet you have seen those players who regularly appear in the money. If you want to have any hope of joining them, put aside your ego, stop feeling like a victim, open your mind, and I'll show you how to become a winner. You will learn why you have not done well and learn a method that with practice and application will make you a consistent winner. You will need to study but I'll make it fun.

Players on a limited or small bankroll. One of the irritating facts of poker is that you need money to play. In my first book, Quick and Easy Texas Hold'em, I gave some basic bankroll guidelines for the casual player. These will serve you well if you only play the occasional low-limit game and play a fairly conservative strategy. However, even these moderate sums may be too rich for some. Also, if you plan on playing regularly your bankroll needs for a cash game may be considerably greater. Tournaments offer the rare poker possibility of strictly limited downside risk, namely your buy-in, and the chance for a big payday. Of course many if not the majority of the entrants have almost no realistic chance of a money finish. Poker players refer to this as "dead money" and it increases the "overlay," or betting advantage, of the better players. If you follow the guidelines in this book your money will not be dead and you will have a far better than average chance of a money finish. The fact is you can play a tournament and receive 1,000 to 3,000 tournament chips or more, depending on the tournament structure, and experience the thrill of no-limit poker. The buy-ins are often less than $200 and prizes, depending on the number of entrants, can be in the thousands. If you get into the latter stages of a tournament that has a few hundred entrants you may find yourself pushing around $100,000 in tournament chips, all for the cost of the entry fee. Losing is always a downer but your consolation is all the thrills and hours of entertainment have not cost you your life's savings.

These days there are hundreds of regular tournaments to play in, both in land-based and Internet casinos. The next low-cost entry tournament is rarely more than a few hours away.

What Is Not Covered in This Book

Even authors of staggering genius are unable to cover everything in one book. I am not such an author and so this applies doubly to me. This book will be to your benefit if you play in multi-table, fast-structure, no-limit Hold'em tournaments. By fast-structure I mean tournaments that last less than one day, usually somewhere between four to seven hours on average.

You will need greater and more varied poker skills if you want to succeed in the big slow-structure tournaments such as the main event at the World Series of Poker and the many televised tournaments you have probably watched that form part of the Professional Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour. The skills you learn here will serve you well if you play in the tournaments but they are not enough to carry you through unless you are very lucky. Your opponents, especially in the latter stages will usually be of a higher quality than those you run across in the smaller tournaments and the slower structure and bigger stack in relation to the blinds will often mean that you will have complex poker decisions to make.

Some players specialize in Sit and Go tournaments that usually consist of one table (occasionally two or three) paying prizes to the first three finishers. These tournaments have a very fast structure and players with a fixed, almost robotic playing strategy can do quite well, if they understand exactly how to play these to optimum effect. These tournaments are not covered in this book.

Satellites have similarities to Sit and Go tournaments and may consist of one or many (Super Satellites) tables, the prize usually being a seat in a bigger tournament. Satellites represent an excellent opportunity to gain entry to the event that may have entry fees of $5000-$10,000 and more. The satellites entry fee may be a few hundred dollars or less. Internet poker rooms have satellites for as little as $10. It was by entering one of these and finally winning the main event that Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003. As one western poker writer has stated, it's like taking a toothpick and turning it into a lumber yard. I can think of no competitive arena that offers similar opportunities of growing a modest stake into almost instant riches. Like Sit and Gos, satellites have their own specific strategies and considerations. I recommend playing in them and becoming skilled in their execution, but again, how to do so is beyond the scope of this book.

Also, there are many tournaments that are not no-limit Hold'em although no-limit Hold'em tournaments are by far the most numerous and popular. If you are a skilled Seven-Card Stud, Omaha, Razz, or Limit Hold'em player you can certainly find tournaments that use these poker forms, but they can be hard to find outside of the larger poker events, like the World Series. Right now, no-limit Hold'em all but dominates the poker scene. Events played that do not feature no-limit players are willing to devote the time to playing them well. However, smaller fields often mean lower profit potential and you may run into expert specialists. If you are willing to devote the time and study to becoming one of these you can do well, but these forms are not covered in this book.

Chapter Two

How to Use This Book, plus the Ideal Tournament and the General Winning Method

A Winning Strategy for Fast-Structure, Multi-Table, No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments

This book offers a specific method for playing fast-structure, multitable, no-limit Hold'em tournaments. These tournaments have the following characteristics:

1. The tournament consists of fields of around eighty to 400 players.

2. Buy-ins range from $25 to $1,000, with the majority being around $100 to $500.

3. Players start with a chip stack that is at least thirty times the opening Big Blind; for example, a Big Blind of $50 and a chip stack of at least $1500.

4. The tournament lasts for about four to seven hours on average.

The methods described in the following chapters are designed specifically for tournaments of this type. They are not applicable (though elements of them might be) to Sit and Go tournaments (one or many tables), One Table Satellite tournaments, or Multi-Day, Slow-Structure tournaments. The latter include tournaments that are often televised, such as the Main Event at the World Series of Poker or the bigger events on the World Poker Tour or Professional Poker Tour.


If you play in, or plan to play in, these big, slow-structure events, then what you will learn in this book will be of benefit and a good foundation for playing in bigger tournaments. But you will need additional skills that are beyond the scope of this book. These big events are really meant for the most highly skilled players, and players like this will enjoy a considerable overlay because most of those who participate in these events have no idea how to play in them so as to maximize their chances of winning or even finishing in the money. Even in these types of tournaments when the field becomes very large, numbering thousands of players, the luck elements increase. In slow-structure tournaments with smaller fields, say 100 to 500 players, skilled players can do consistently well. This is why some skilled professionals like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, T.J. Cloutier, and other notables have been consistently able to win over the years. They enter a lot of events, they understand what it takes to win tournaments, and they play in events that favor skill over luck. I should add that when some of these players were at the peak of their powers, they were perhaps some of the very few who knew and understood how to play tournaments well. The knowledge gap is closing rapidly and to win consistently, winning players of the past will have to adjust to current conditions. Some have already done so, while others are slower to adapt and their recent results reflect this. However, this is all the subject of another book!

Frankly, I know of no book in print at this writing that offers completely sound advice on how best to play in slow-structure tournaments, under current conditions. The best books available (many of which are credible efforts) all have flaws. Books that I recommend, that at least offer useful, though sometimes incomplete or flawed information, include those by Dan Harrington (though I believe he places far too much emphasis on card selection and is generally too conservative), Doyle Brunson (great book but somewhat outdated), Erick Lindgren (up to date but not detailed enough to be practical), and T.J. Cloutier (again, outdated and rather superficial). Some of the current tournament superstars are great players but not, it seems, great writers, teachers, or analysts as none has yet penned a useful and remotely complete volume. Perhaps they reason that it is better to play and win the big bucks rather than share their secrets and earn a poker author's pittance. Very wise!

So if you understand the limitation of this book and its method, I will share with you a series of strategies than can serve you well if correctly applied. I run into many players who have entered many tournaments over the years and have never finished in the money. Some of these are good cash game players, but they do not understand how to adjust their game to tournament conditions. They erroneously believe that the same game will serve them under all conditions. This is patently false. It is also an error to believe that if you are a winning tournament player you can therefore dominate in cash games. Again, lack of understanding, hubris, and arrogance are to blame, and many good tournament players have lost a good chunk of change in cash games. So in using the methods I describe you should know how to select your field of battle. What follows is a personal recommendation about what I believe to be the ideal tournament for the methods described.


So is there such a thing as the ideal fast-structure tournament? Maybe not ideal, but there are definitely characteristics I would look for that reward skilled play rather than make a tournament a mere luck-fest. Here are three factors I look for before I plunk down my hard-earned cash and give up my even more valuable time to enter a tournament.

1. A field of 80 to 350 players. In my opinion, when fields have too few players the prizes are really too small to justify the cost of entry and the time it takes to get to the final table. I have seen tournaments with as few as thirty players or so and with buy-ins of $60 last hours. Depending upon payout, the top prize might be only $600 with second place paying $300 or less. This does not seem a good use of my poker time. If I win I want a bigger payout than this and so should you. Conversely, a field of over 350 in a fast-structure tournament can make for some impressive prizes but it also begins to cross the threshold where luck is a more significant factor than skill. I have seen some fast-structure tournaments where the field is as high as 1,500 players. The online free rolls often have more. Eventually as the Blinds increase and antes be come larger, there is no real poker left to play. Luck wins out. To some extent all fast-structure tournaments are like this in their final stages, but when that occurs you want to be at or very close to the final table. If it becomes a luck-fest with, say, 150 players still remaining, the chances of winning even a large prize do not adequately reward the skilled player.

2. Buy-ins of $100 to $300. With a field of this size I like the buy-in to be large enough that if I win or make a top-place finish, I feel that I have got a pleasing return on my investment. I prefer not to spend more than $500 on an entry fee because even for the skilled player, fast-structure tournaments have a high element of luck. It is easily possible to play twenty such tournaments without a money finish (though this would probably indicate that there is a flaw in your approach), and maybe longer before you capture a top-three prize. If you play these tournaments skillfully however, making the money can be a regular event and a top-three finish can occur as often as once every twenty to twenty-five tournaments or so. To the unskilled you will appear to be "a very lucky SOB." You will know otherwise. Most times you will still bust-out but when wins do come they will more than compensate for this.

If with fields of eighty to 350 players you are not placing in the money at least one in fifteen times or so, then you are probably doing something wrong. The reason that you can do this well is because so many other players are clueless about correct fast-structure tournament strategy. Of course, you can have runs where you win more frequently and you can have extended periods where you only make low-place finishes or finish out of the money entirely. However, when you do make it to the final three or win, you want the prize to be large enough to compensate for the many times you make a low-money or no-money finish. The strategies I recommended in this book will give you the best shot at a high-money finish but you cannot avoid busting out many times. It is the very nature of tournament play as currently structured.


Excerpted from Tournament Hold'em Hand by Hand by NEIL D. MYERS Copyright © 2008 by Neil D. Myers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Basics     1
Introduction: Mr. Strangepoker, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Tournaments     3
Who This Book Is For and What You Will Learn from It     8
How to Use This Book, plus the Ideal Tournament and the General Winning Method     13
A Book You Must Read     35
Seven Reasons to Play No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments     37
Mindset and Key Skills     41
Cash Games vs. Tournaments     43
Survival or Chip Accumulation     47
Bluffing and Tells     50
Position and Stack     53
Position Problems     55
Stack Problems     71
Card Problems     103
The Endgame and Money Matters     127
Latter Stages of the Tournament: The Final Straight and Attacking Medium Stacks     129
How to Measure Your Success as a Tournament Player, and Determining a Tournament Bankroll     135
Conclusion     142
Glossary     145

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