This is How You Win a Poker Tournament with 1000 Players

The great thing about tournaments with many players is that the prices are very high. Profits of 1000x buy-ins and more are not uncommon. Reason enough to deal more intensively with a strategy for such tournaments.

The goal of a large MTT

Contrary to popular belief, it is not every player’s goal to win such a tournament. In reality, a lot of players are only there to get the money.

For most players, it feels like a victory to reach the money ranks. Of course, they would like to win too, but actually they are happy not to lose the buy-in. After all, you can confidently feel like a winning player when you get into the money, while everyone who was eliminated before is loser.

With this attitude, the majority of players actually go to a tournament when the entry fee moves at a certain level.

On the other hand, players who want to win the tournament are at a much higher risk of dropping out early because they are looking for the chance to get far in the tournament and then be amply compensated.

So think about what you want beforehand. Don’t take the goal that sounds best – choose the one that suits you and that you can seriously pursue. If you want to win a tournament, it basically doesn’t make any difference to you whether you finish 2nd or 1000th.

Good tournament players have this mentality because it is more profitable. Here is a simple explanation:

Let’s say you want to play 10 tournaments at Online Poker USA with a buy-in of £1000 each. Your plan is to always hit the money. In five out of ten cases you fail, in the other five cases you just manage to get the money.

  • Loss: 5x £1000 = £5000
  • Winnings: 5x £2000 = £10,000
  • Profit: £5000

In the second scenario you are playing to win. You knock out nine times early and win a tournament.

  • Loss: 9x £1000 = £9000
  • Profit: 1x £100,000
  • Profit: £91,000

As you can see from these numbers, the only way to really win money is to win tournaments. The variance is of course much greater, because in the first case your balance sheet can never look worse than -£5000, in the second scenario it can be up to -£9000.

These numbers are just meant to show you the huge difference in payouts. It makes no sense, of course, to assume that you regularly win every tenth major tournament. But once you win £100,000 you could lose hundreds of tournaments and still be up.

Anyone who plays to somehow get into the money will of course say that they also have the opportunity to win the tournament or to get into the money more often. While some do make the money more often, they are like cash game players on a winning streak. We will come back to this later.

When the money ranks are reached and you are around the chip average, you will need a good deal of luck to get really far. While the winning players distribute their gambling share over the entire tournament, you will now have to take a very high risk in order to have a chance at the last table.

Many cash game players are addicted to taking a session as a prize. They ignore long-term results as well as calculated hourly rates. Such players end a winning session with a fraction of the profit they could have made, only to be somehow in the black when they quit.

I am not a proponent of this tactic. The attitude to end every single session with a profit is not safe for a serious poker player, because it limits the winnings and sometimes even causes severe setbacks.

Sometimes you just don’t play well. Perhaps you are tired, depressed, or just a little distracted. Now, if you force yourself to stay at the table because you have to make up for your losses, you risk even greater losses. If your only concern is to win, you are diminishing your winnings and risking greater losses.

The lucky guy strategy

Be the first to realise that in a tournament with so many players, you need to gamble a lot to stand a chance of winning the tournament. You must have many Winning coin flips, your hands have to hold out against weaker ones and you also need a little, sometimes even a lot of, luck if you are in the worse starting position.

Really good MTT players know the importance of luck and incorporate this into their game too.

Amateurs often watch MTT pros and wonder how they can always be so lucky. In reality, of course, they are no more or less lucky than you or me, apart from short, actual lucky streaks.

The big difference is, you seek your chance in situations where it amounts to a coin flip and you need some luck, and you know when the right moment has come. If your hand is 60:40 favourite, would you be more likely to risk your stack against a player whose stack is only a third of yours or someone who covered you?

Amateurs usually choose the former because even if they lose, they will stay in the game. The problem with this is, time and time again, you will be able to take risks like this to get back to where you have been.

A professional plays to win and would rather go for the player with the larger stack, because the pots are bigger and give them a better chance of reaching one of the top places with good moves.

The ROI should also be considered in this context. If you’re playing a tournament where you can win 1,000 times your winnings, you need to make strong moves. As a solid player, you should assume that luck hits you more often than just a few times in a thousand.

If you see a professional going far in a tournament again, assume that he has been “lucky” several times in the tournament so far.

So use the lucky guy strategy for yourself. Take risks when it can pay off for you. In a great gymnast, you often have to take it seriously, so choose the situations that will get you the most out of it.

The opening in a large MTT

Losing players like to refer to tournaments with large fields of participants as lottery, while winning players do consistently well.

Conservative opening

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.” This is what my father said to me when I was in elementary school, and I still stick to it.

Just because you can (and must) gamble in a tournament doesn’t mean you should always do it.

If the ratio between your stack and the blinds is greater than 20:1, you have no reason to gamble. With a value like this, you can play poker “right”, as one might say.

That means you can fold, call or raise in practically any situation. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity if it turns out to be favourable.

At this stage of the tournament, you can afford to play conservatively and avoid coin flips. There are even pros who generally won’t move all-in if they don’t have more than 100 times the blinds stack, regardless of how strong their hand is.

They argue that even an 80% chance is not big enough for an all-in. That’s why they even fold AA in the first blind level when there is e.g. B. is about a main event.

I consider this philosophy to be both right and wrong. Of course, the chips stand for your remaining in the tournament – so you have to defend them. No tournament without chips.

If you are by far the best player at your table, it makes perfect sense to fold in such a situation. With a big stack you can accumulate chips differently against nine weaker players.

But if the situation is different, you will naturally want to build the largest possible pot if you have a winning hand. So at the start of a tournament, it is best to dodge big pots if you end up with a coin flip or if you are in a worse position.

If the chips: blinds ratio is less than 6:1, the call, raise or fold options no longer apply to you. On the next hand you will definitely play for your entire stack because you are basically pot-committed.

Push and pray

Online tournaments are developing into a veritable all-in festival, especially in the final phase. Don’t let yourself be further impressed. Good players do not act arbitrarily but systematically.

Dan Harrington wrote that it would be better to take a risk to keep your chips: blinds ratio above 20 than to take a risk to get it back there.

Correct timing is almost more important than the hands they get. Since they don’t know whether the next hand you get will be better or worse, the only thing you can rely on is your timing and the approaching blinds.

Getting into a hand first is generally better than being the first to call. An example:

Your stack blinds has dropped to 6 and you’re waiting for a hand to move all-in with. You get K ♠ Q ♦. Let’s say your opponent has a stack blinds of 5 and is sitting on A ♥ 6 ♥.

If you go all-in, your opponent may fold. But if he opens his hand in front of you, he is likely going all-in himself.

With K-Q you are behind a lot of hands that an opponent pushes all-in with, but who would fold the same hand if he was to call all-in with it. So the first strike, as Harrington calls it, is more important than the cards.

In such a situation, pick the player and the timing that is best for an all-in. Better all-in against a stack that is bigger than yours. When you lose to a player with a smaller stack who may be more willing to take the chance to double down. If you are left with a big blind or two, which is practically the equivalent of being eliminated.

With stacks of roughly the same size, it makes sense to start an experiment with maximum profit. Successfully stealing the blinds is so valuable in itself that the risk is worth it, especially when you consider that the next time you double up, the profit increases to the power.

On the bubble

First of all, the bubble is of no interest to you if you are playing to win. Focus on making the right moves to get to the last table.

It should be said that hardly anyone can free themselves from the pressure of the bubble. If they can be influenced by it, it also affects you.

Since the majority of players are just trying to get in the money, you will avoid getting into a situation just before reaching the money ranks where your tournament is suddenly at stake. This allows you to steal the blinds more often and to force your opponents to fold more often.

Watch closely who no longer wants to play on the bubble. Shoot them up and build your stack. If another player at your table seems to be pursuing the same principle, avoid them for now. An aggressive opponent can put you in a pot that is bigger than the one you want to play.

Also, if there are seven players at your table who are giving up their blinds without resistance, you shouldn’t take any chances and get drawn into a hand with an uncertain outcome.

However, be aware of the following: A player with a small stack is likely to be playing push or fold. with a reasonably sensible hand he will answer every raise you raise with an all-in. These players are looking for the coin flip and want to either win with a re-steal or be eliminated. Push or fold players should therefore be treated with caution.


As you may have noticed, I didn’t talk about the final table game. The problem with this is that there are so many factors at play. Blinds, stacks, player behaviour and much more. make it practically impossible, in my opinion, to provide general guidelines.

It was my aim with this article to show how you can tailor your game to get more final tables. I hope to see you there then


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