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Multi-Table Tournaments - Basic Strategy Part 3

This is the third part of a 3-parts article. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2

Third Stage
This is the 'bubble' stage when closing in on the money. The strategy here depends largely on your stack. With a small stack you might be forced to pick a spot to get your chips in just to survive. A small stack can't wait for a hand sometimes. The best opportunities are going all-in against blinds or limpers, hoping they fold.

With a large stack you can be selectively aggressive against medium stack opponents that have tightened up to make it to the money. Stealing the blinds of medium stacked players with small raises can make for easy pickings at this point. Not against all medium stacks for some will defend their blinds, specifically the better players that catch on to what you're doing. By close observation it's not too difficult to identify the players that have frozen up their play to ensure they make it 'in the money'. These are the opponents you can target for blind stealing when the opportunity presents itself. Many of these players have tightened up so much that they won't defend their blinds even if they believe that you're betting into them with any two cards.

In large buy-in MTT's the medium stack player should be careful with small stacks because they may go all-in at any time. Even if you have an edge in card strength this isn't a good time to engage in races that you might only have a slight advantage. If the chip stack of a small stack opponent is only a small percentage of your chips then, of course, you don't have as much to fear and can then lean on them if you have the cards. Medium stacked players should avoid big stacks altogether for the most part. As we discussed before, it's difficult to defend blinds or play back at aggressive big stacks at this crucial point of a tournament.

The exception to this strategy is in small buy-in MTT's. Just making it into the prize money isn't nearly as important because the money you win for barely getting into the money is hardly anything. You have to finish high up on the money board to realize any big prize money. In these smaller tournaments I continue to play my regular game regardless of the 'bubble' stage. As a matter of fact, I'll look for pot and blind stealing opportunities regardless of what my stack size is in a small money tourney.

Fourth Stage
'In the money' play. To make it this far you've played good poker and just need to keep it up. Hopefully, you've played with some of your opponents somewhere throughout the MTT and have a good feel for their style. Pick your spots from cards and opponent tendencies. This is the part of the tourney in which all the insights and knowledge you've accumulated throughout the day can be utilized.

The higher up the money list, the more dramatic the differences in prize money. There's a much bigger difference in prize money between 5th and 6th place than there is between 145th and 146th place, for example. The goal should always be to make it to the final table. This is where the majority of the prize money will be distributed. At the final table I like to be a little more aggressive than usual. I open up my opening hand range a bit and limp in more often. The more flops I can see, the more chances I have to win all the chips. If I detect someone has tightened up, I attack. The talent level at the final table is usually very good, so I want to have as many opportunities to tilt the odds in my favor as possible. This doesn't mean blindly throwing chips at the pot or taking unnecessary chances. But you can't be a spectator either. Be proactive when it's inexpensive and/or relatively safe to do so and create yourself some opportunities to win the tournament.