Blinds: Pre-Flop Strategy
This is the beginning of the tournament. Everyone has been given an equal amount of chips. There is no pressure at this stage of the game (early stage) to do anything extreme in the big blind or small blind. Since this tournament is a freeze out tournament, it will be wise to play very conservatively from the blind positions. If you are new to the game or have been playing in cash games, there are hands you might play that should clearly be released. This is important to learn and adhere to. Don't try to win the tournament too early in the game.
Blind Position Strategy
At the beginning of a tournament, be very careful about falling into the trap of defending your blinds. So, yes, you have already had to bet. No big deal. Look at it as your "pay to play" expense and don't get married to your second-rate blind hand. You must look at the value of your cards and ask yourself if you would enter a pot with them in any other position. In any situation it is not good to throw good money after bad, especially when you only have so much to throw in a freeze out tournament.
Never overestimate your position when you are playing from the blinds. Remember, it is the beginning of the tournament. For example, pre-flop, you hold 66 in the big blind. Two people not only call you from an early position but one of them raises your blind by one bet or more. You look at that pair of sixes and think, well, what the heck, it will only cost me a couple more bets to play. So, you call the raise, and low and behold, the first person to call your blind re-raises. The original raiser re-raises him. Now you have another 6-8 (and probably more) bets in the pot. You have already dumped dead money into the pot on a hand that you severely overrated from the beginning. Be prepared to throw away these "glittery" cards when there have been raises in any position other than the button. In the blind position, it isn't worth the loss.
We all have a tendency to misjudge our opponents when trying to put them on a hand. It is very easy to estimate your opponent's hands to be either weaker or stronger than they are. Playing from the blind positions, you are the first to act in 3 of the 4 rounds of the hand. If you have misjudged your opponent's hands, then you will most likely lose extra bets.
Scenario One: No one has called you when you are in the big blind until the action makes it around to the button (dealer). The button raises by 4 bets. What hand do you put him on? Does he really have a hand, or is he just trying to "buy the blinds?" What do you recall about his previous play? He sits immediately to your right, so you have the ability to watch his action before yours on every hand except for the time you are in the blinds. So, what does he have in your minds eye? Also, what do you have? Remember, junk is junk. Even if he raises you from the button with junk, and you have junk, who will be on the wrong end of the stick? You have no idea what he has, and you have to be the first to act for the rest of the hand. If you check, he bets. If you bet, he raises. Can you see how you could lose very big here either way? Ask yourself if it is worth it. Or, is it better to wait to participate when you are in a good position relative to the button while holding good cards?
Scenario Two: This time you have a pair. Any pair. No one calls and the button raises. You could gamble on your pair and come over the top of the button by re-raising him. Now, he has to put you on a hand. If he has a fair hand, then he will most likely call or re-raise. If he was trying to buy the blinds, he will most likely fold. The situation is different here because you do have a decent hand to play against the button. If he decides to call your raise, you have the flop to look at. If it hits you, then you will do well against the button. If not, then, you gambled and will have to release your pair if the button bets into you. If he re-raises you pre-flop, then it would be best to release your hand. You don't want to give up a substantial amount of chips at this point in the game.
Scenario Three: No one calls and the button raises. There is no harm in releasing a small or medium pair instead of calling a raise from the button. Yes, he is most likely just picking up the blinds for free, but you have to weigh out the consequences of going against the button if he really has a hand. As you get better and better at tournament play, you will find that there are times to make him be the decision maker by reacting to your re-raise and there are times you won't. If your pair is big, such as 88 or better, then, you have a good chance of giving him a good go at the hand.
One thing that winning tournament players will all agree on is that they win not only because they know how to play their cards and their positions, but they know how to play the players.
Pay attention to your competitors. When you are playing in an online tournament, there will always be distractions. That is part of playing from home. But, when you are sitting in a live tournament in a casino, don't spend a great deal of time chitchatting with someone hanging on the rail, or watch TV because your favorite game is on. If you are at a table with someone who is constantly talking to you... remember, this is a competition. He is not your friend during this time. You might have a tendency to waver from this when you are in the blinds. Don't.
Defending your small pair against a raise while in the big blind might be worth it when there are many players involved in the pot. If you have a small pair in the small blind and there is a multi-way pot, it is definitely worth the call. "Know your opponents" will be something you hear over and over. If you are playing against a bunch of loose callers, then they could have just about anything. Be careful about expending a great deal of chips if there is a lot of raising. Playing the blinds has so many variables. Be careful to weigh everything out before entering a pot after a raise. Don't think it is only going to be for one more "little bet". This decision could be crippling to your bankroll.