There are three things every poker player should know if they wish to be successful over the long haul. I have given these tips to a friend who was about to play in her first tournament and wished to get a quick lesson before it started. She played a quick satellite first and she won that. Then she played in the tournament and ended up in third place. This was the first time she played away from her kitchen table and only the fourth time she played at all.
This is what I told her:
• Play good cards
• Play in a great position
• Be aggressive
Play good cards! It seems very simple. People wish to show off to the table and let everyone know how good they are by picking up a pot with some garbage hand. These hands don’t come up winners very often and even when they do they don’t make up for all the times you miss the flop at a hefty price. Play all the “no brainers”, the AA, the KK, QQ, and AK. If you feel safe, play the AQ, JJ, 10-10. Only play the KQ and KJ if you are the raiser with no player in front of you. Calling a raise with these hands is a sure-fire way to get broke.
Play in a great position means playing with good cards in the last three positions, the button, the cut-off seat (one seat in front of the button), and two seats in front of the button. These are the meat and potato positions. They will get you the money. Don’t defend your small blind unless you have great cards because being first to act is a horrible place to be with less than optimal holdings. Opening (first to enter the pot after the blinds) with suited connectors, say 7-6 of hearts, is a bad spot because these hands play well for value and you don’t have value if you don’t know who is going to play behind you and for how much. The last one is a bit tricky.
Online play is different than how we played over the last 25 years so be careful if this is where you learned to play. I have seen the hyper-aggressive win tournaments, but not until the final table did this strategy work. I have seen people use it when the tourney first starts in an effort to pick up a lot of chips quickly. A tournament is a marathon, not a race. Use good judgment and learn when to push. A passive player (seldom raises with less than AA, KK, or QQ) should go broke either early or in the middle of the event, either way; it is not the way to play to win.
Raise preflop if you intend to play, no matter what. If you win the blinds you can play another round for free, if you get played with, you have both position and card strength on your side. Either way, you will have great success.