Common Mistakes Made By Poker Tournament Players

don't be guilty of making these common mistakes in poker tournaments

Poker tournaments are a potentially lucrative business. They also have the ability to decimate bankrolls and destroy your self-belief. You don’t have to play perfectly to succeed in poker tournaments, but it certainly helps. Cutting out these common mistakes from your play is a sure-fire way to help you become more successful.

One of the Common Mistakes is Not Recognizing The Structure

Not checking the blind structure of the poker tournament you’re playing is a common mistake and a major one. Most players look at the starting stack and the first blind levels, but they need to look deeper.

Some tournament look to be deep-stacked when they first shuffle up and deal but turn into a crapshoot later on. Online poker sites have started building some fantastic blind structures, yet some are awful.

Look for jumps in blind levels as these drastically cut down the average stack size. For example, an MTT may go from 100/200 to 200/400/40a with another increasing to 150/300 or even 100/200/20a. Not knowing if there are jumps in the blinds is a common mistake and one you shouldn’t make.

Not Reconizing Changing Stack Sizes is a Common Mistake

An extremely common mistake in tournaments is not keeping an eye on the ever-changing stack sizes. Players become fixated on their own stack when they should pay attention to those around them.

You may be in the enviable position of being sat behind a healthy stack, but what about your opponents? It’s standard to raise light from the button, yet not if your opponent’s stack is such they could shove on you.

Likewise, calling a raise or three-bet from a stack where you’re not receiving the necessary pot odds to try flop a set is a common mistake. You lose in the long wrong each time you make a mistake. Stop making these common mistakes!

Not Considering the Approaching Bubble

The money bubble is a super important period in a poker tournament. It’s a time where you’ll either see a return on your investment or not. The approaching bubble is also a time where you can accumulate a serious number of chips.

Players tend to do one of two things when the money bubble is on the horizon. They either tighten up beyond belief, hoping to scrape into the money places. Or the throw caution to the wind and take advantage of those players who’ve turned into rocks.

Not knowing which player is doing what is a common mistake. Would you call a raise or a three-bet shove from someone playing extremely tight on the money bubble? Will you allow yourself to be bullied by an opponent trying to vacuum up all the dead chips? You’re making a common tournament mistake if you answered yes to either question.

Failing to Be Aware of Pay Jumps

The majority of MTTs have a pay structure that’s relatively flat early on but has substantial jumps late on. Take the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event for example. A min-cash of $15,000 was paid to 1,286th place. This payment continued all the way to 1,063rd place. $15,970 was the next highest payment, hardly an increase.

Compare this to the final table where ninth-place won $1,000,000 and the champion banked $10,000,000. The jump between second and first was a massive $4,000,000.

Short-stacked players will try to “ladder” up the payouts, much like on the money bubble. Not taking advantage of these players is another common mistake. As is not putting your opponents under pressure when the money becomes serious. Knowing your opponent is an amateur and the next pay jump means the world to them means you can put them under the test for their entire stack with little repercussions coming your way. Know your foe when you’re at the poker tables.

Don’t Make These Final Common Mistakes

Poker players often underestimate the mental toughness required to be successful. Cash game players can up and leave whenever they like, this doesn’t happen in tournaments. Major online poker tournaments can take up to 12-14 hours to complete. This doesn’t sound too daunting, but what if you’ve been at work all day beforehand? What about if you have to be up for work the next day?

Major live tournaments like the WSOP Main Event take a week to complete. A week of 12-16 hour days where you have to be at the peak of concentration.

Then comes the fact you spend most of your time losing in tournaments. Even the best poker tournament players only cash in 15-20% of the events they play. That means they fail to cash in 80-85% of the games they enter.

Are you prepared for long losing or breakeven stretches? You’re making a cardinal common mistake if not.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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