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Multi-Table Tournaments - Basic Strategy Part 1

Multi-Table Tournaments (MTT's) are another popular format for No Limit Hold-em players on-line. Buy-ins range from as much as $1000. to as little $.50 and even free (freerolls). Satellite tournaments are also available, creating the opportunity for players to win a seat at a larger buy-in tourney.

With the popularity of on-line MTT's soaring right now, good tournament playing skills can reap huge benefits for the player that's willing to learn and study its nuances. Many players in this day and age play nothing but MTT's in one form or another.

A lot of the appeal of MTT's is that you can risk a relatively small amount of money for the chance to win a very large amount of money. Also, MTT's give a player a chance to play poker for a sometimes extended period of time with just an initial fixed amount of cash. It's possible to win hundreds of times the buy-in in a MTT. That is virtually impossible to do in one day playing cash games.  

First of all, strategies for MTT's vary depending on the number of entries, the pay structure, and the buy-in, among other things..

Many small buy-in tourneys can have 2000 or more entries and there's a lot of all-in action in the first 5 to 10 minutes. Some people are gambling all-in with marginal starting hands such as any pair, any suited, or worse. I avoid playing anything but the strongest hands at the beginning and let the all or nothing players knock each other out early. Of course if you get a premium hand like A-A or K-K, or hit a big flop you can usually get one of these aggressive players all-in heads-up and will be a favorite to double up your stack. Avoid getting all-in pre-flop with A-K or Q-Q if there are already two or more players all-in. This is good advice in most circumstances  unless short stacked or playing against short stacked players. Against several all-in players, A-K and Q-Q will usually be an even odds race at best. As the MTT  progresses the game  becomes more normal and can be approached as such.

Large buy-in MTT's exhibit very little of the wild play at the beginning that the small ones do. These begin with normal play with few exceptions. Of course, there are always a few players that will gamble all-in with mediocre hands at any event but they are few and far between at these stakes. I like to play very tight for at least 2 or 3 rounds to get an idea of how each player is playing.  When I start feeling comfortable I'll open my pre-flop hand range a bit from late position. Always playing tight in early position though. On the flop and thereafter through the turn to the river, I will adjust between aggressive and tight play depending on the opponent. Being ever cautious to avoid traps that can end my tourney hopes prematurely.

In many satellite MTT's there are generally very few seats awarded in relation to the number of entries. Because there are very few winners, an aggressive strategy is very important from the start. For example, if you've entered a satellite MTT that's composed of several tables of nine to ten players each, and only the top one or two finishers win a seat to the next round or tournament, you'll obviously have to be much more aggressive early on than you normally would at a regular tourney. Playing too tight in a top heavy MTT will usually leave you at a big disadvantage to the chip leaders towards the end of the tourney. I don't mean gamble with weak hands. What I do mean is be more aggressive with even a small advantage, from pre-flop to the river.

Normal MTT strategies can generally be separated  into four stages.

Next in Part Two we'll take a look at the different stages of a MTT.