Changing Gears In Tournaments
Poker Tournaments Require Changing Strategies
Unlike cash poker, which only requires that you change your strategy to suit the various opponents that you encounter, poker tournaments also feature the additional element of changing circumstances and rising blinds which also require you to make adjustments. These additional adjustments are commonly known as changing gears in a tournament.
Before we talk about the other gears that we will be switching to, it's important to talk about our first gear, which is our default strategy that we use at the beginning of tournaments. A lot of players focus too much on their gears so to speak and don't appreciate enough that there are two elements here, which are the general adjustments that we want to make, the changing gears so to speak, and the specific adjustments that we always need to be looking to make against specific players.
So while we have the luxury in the initial phase of not being forced into more aggressive play than we perhaps would find ideal, at the same time we want to make sure our beginning strategy doesn't leave too many good opportunities on the table.
We Can't Let Our General Strategy Overwhelm Our Specific Ones
Coming up with a default strategy to use, and adjusting this overall strategy as the tournament progresses, is definitely something we need to do, but at the same time we need to realize that these strategies don't trump the specific techniques that consist of normal sound play. Instead, they should serve to modulate them.
For instance, it's fairly common to see players tighten up as you move toward getting into the money, and therefore there usually is a lot more opportunity to bluff, as players may be playing fit or fold a lot more at this point and therefore will be willing to let you take more pots down.
So earlier in the tournament with people playing looser you won't be doing as much of this, but at this stage there may be some players who are already playing too tight, and we don't want to miss out on pushing them around regardless of the stage the tournament is in.
Two Rationales Behind Switching Gears
There are two main drivers of the desirability of switching gears, which are internal and external reasons. Internal reasons are situations where we need to make adjustments simply based upon our own situation in a tournament. For instance, as the blinds escalate, our stack to blinds ratio will tend to decrease, and we may find ourselves in a position where we have to play much more aggressively. Our stack to blinds ratio is a fairly significant factor in fact, and we always need to adjust according to our present situation.
External factors in needing to change gears involve how our opponents are playing, whether that be the fact that things are tightening up, getting a lot more aggressive, or whatever. While there are stages of the tournament where we may expect certain changes, and it's good to anticipate them, at the same time we need to pay close attention to the extent that these changes actually manifest, and not just assume them.
It's Really Still All About Looking To Exploit People
Much of the adjustments that we'll be looking to make as the tournament progresses still has to do with finding the best strategies and tactics to exploit our opponents, with the main difference being that our opponents will be adjusting as the tournament progresses, so we need to be adjusting to that accordingly.
If other players didn't adjust, then our changing gears would be limited to our internal adjustments based upon our blind ratios. However, if nothing else, other players will be forced into adjusting to their own internal ratios, so we know that their changing play will always be something that we need to always be aware of.
In the end, if we can adjust our play to the amount of chips we have in relation to the blinds, and also look to the changes that other players are making, we will be putting ourselves in the best position that we can to maximize our opportunities for a good finish.