Dodge the Faux Pas! Typical Poker Tournament Mistakes You Should Avoid

Dodge the Faux Pas! Typical Poker Tournament Mistakes You Should Avoid

Although poker may appear straightforward, delving into the game’s strategies and theories reveals its complexity. In this article, we will examine some of the blunders that novice tournament poker players often make after peeling back the initial layer of the game.

Cash games are undoubtedly prevalent in poker; however, most players nowadays enter the contest through tournaments. Amateur players often make fundamental errors at tournament tables, which can be detrimental since a single mistake in a game could cost them their entire stack. Having said this, even seasoned players make crucial mistakes during tournaments, sometimes because of the complacency of experience.

With the long hours involved, remaining focused and playing your best poker is crucial. It is definitely necessary to avoid costly errors in poker tournaments. Fortunately, many errors are easy to correct. Hence, use this brief guide to outline the most frequent poker tournament blunders and learn how to avoid them.

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Not Anticipating the Bubble Early Enough

It is essential to notice the impending bubble to avoid a disadvantageous position for tournament players. Skilled players understand that the strategy required in an event’s early, middle, and late stages differs. As the money bubble approaches, there is often a substantial shift in players’ systems. Some opt for more aggressive gameplay, particularly if they have a firm chip count to intimidate their opponents.

Conversely, others become more conservative, especially those with shorter stacks. Even some players with medium or large stacks may avoid taking risks and potentially miss out on reaching the payout. It is crucial to recognize this significant shift in the tournament’s dynamics caused by the proximity of the money bubble.

Failing to Recognize the Tournament Structure

Tournaments, particularly “turbo” events with fast structures, rapidly feature escalating blinds, short levels, and significant antes. As a result, players can only afford to be more selective with their initial hand requirements as they would in slower-structured games.

This also implies that players should not be overly concerned with defending or attempting to steal blinds when they are relatively low but instead should focus more on doing so later in the game when they have increased.

It is crucial to monitor the number of chips you possess and how many big blinds they are worth at the current level. Additionally, keep track of the upcoming blinds and antes for the next level to avoid being caught off guard by sudden jumps, which may be significant in low buy-in, fast-paced tournaments.

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Excessive Continuation Betting

Since the publication of Doyle Brunson’s Super System, numerous players have incorporated the practice of continuation betting, placing a bet on the flop every time after raising pre-flop. This tactic was previously effective because most opponents folded too often on the flop. However, being selective about continuation betting is essential in modern tournament poker.

Several factors must be considered when using a continuation bet on the flop:

Another typical error is using a considerable bet size when making a continuation bet. A bet of half the pot or less is usually adequate, so avoid being too aggressive with the size of the c-bet.

Failure to Recognize Pay Jumps

Some players only pay attention to pay jumps in a tournament once they are in a position where the payout differences become significant, such as reaching the final table.

In the early stages of a tournament, the pay jumps may be gradual, so players should be reassured about the difference between being eliminated immediately or a few minutes later. However, in the later stages, especially at the final table, payout differences become critical factors in decision-making for particular hands. At this stage, the Independent Chip Model (ICM) can help determine the actual monetary value of tournament chips.

Many novice players must recognize the substantial variance in poker tournaments, including Sit and Go’s and Multi Table Tournaments. Even skilled players with a 10% ROI may experience long break-even stretches or lose 30 or more buy-ins.

Thus, adhering to proper bankroll management is critical. Depending on the aggressiveness of your strategy, you should only play at limits where your bankroll allows for 50, 100, or even 200 buy-ins.

For example, if your bankroll is $1,000 and you follow a 100 buy-in management approach, you can only participate in tournaments with a buy-in of $10 or less. Should your bankroll drop to $500, you’ll need to switch to games with a buy-in of $5. This method guarantees you always have at least 100 buy-ins available and minimizes the risk of ruin.

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Finally, Players Often Forget That It’s a Battle of Mental Fortitude

Playing poker is a demanding mental activity regardless of the format or variant. However, tournaments require some distinct “mental game” skills that some players may overlook, particularly those accustomed to cash games.

One of these abilities is patience. Like in cash games, tournament players must be patient when selecting starting hands and consider their opponents’ tendencies and positions before deciding whether to participate.

In addition, tournament players must also be patient concerning the rewards tournaments offer. They must understand that even the most successful tournament players frequently fail to cash and that significant payouts for winning or reaching the final stages are rare. As a result, tournament players must be mentally prepared to experience setbacks frequently as they strive for those significant paydays.

Endurance is a crucial but frequently disregarded skill in tournaments. Unlike cash game players who can take breaks or put in short sessions at their discretion, tournament players must remain in the game from the moment they sit down until they exit, whether by losing or winning.

Inexperienced players are frequently caught off guard by the physical and mental fatigue that sets in after several hours or even days of poker. In tournaments, players who can remain attentive and focused for extended, uninterrupted periods often have a significant advantage over those who cannot.


Playing poker tournaments can be a fun and exciting way to test your skills against some of the best players in the world. To help you make it to the finish line, you must have a good strategy and knowledge of common mistakes that can cost you dearly.

As a grand takeaway, every player, whether a rookie or a veteran poker card game player, should have a solid tournament strategy. Knowing when to play tight, when to bluff, when to aggression, and when patience is essential will give you an edge over most players. Remember that there are no shortcuts to success in poker tournament games. And even if things don’t work out as expected, keep learning and leave every table as a better player than you were when you started.

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