the most important part of a tournament is constantly putting into perspective the strength of your hand. from hand one all the way until ur last, u can use what u are dealt as power--power to build up ur stack, and power to look at what others are doing the next time a similar situation comes up, ur in position to build up ur stack. and it doesn't have as much to do with the actual "hand" u hold (like top two pair, bottom set) as it does with how this strength compares to the opposition. every opponent has his/her own way of valuing hands, and most of them are going to be robotically playing each strength the same way. but it is where u are at in a tournament that tells u when to attack.

in the early levels, it's all about survival. a general rule i like to use is to fire one semi-bluffy kind of barrel in a hand, face as few 3-bets as possible preflop, and play as tightly as possible when value betting. if i have to go deeper into my stack than this, im probably going to be forced to shove every hand i play by level 4. u definitely don't want this!

i know a lot of people are annoyed by those at the table that choose to sit out. and i say u shouldn't be. u should be able to adapt to shorter handed situations. now u can get more creative--u just won't get as much from ur big hands if a loose cannon is waiting in the corner for god knows what to happen before he chooses to make his/her entrance. u also shouldn't fear competition. most players aren't going to be making it an excessively large amount to go on a given street, and there's generally going to be several callers, which only increases ur pot odds and ur implied odds for later in the hand. for example, im going to be seeing the flop between 70-85% of the time on the big blind simply because the pot odds are too good. but at the same time, im not afraid to throw away a hand as good as AJ if i know someone out there has better, or that someone at least has an ace which seals my fate more or less before i even get going. but the idea is to get value when it's there. don't wait for someone to misplay something. attack from early position with that top pair and a gut shot. do u see any value in waiting, hoping nobody outdraws u? and what if they do outdraw u later? don't u at least want to make them pay, or perhaps get them to fold before their winning card shows up? there may be times when ur patience wins u an extra bet or two, but the main reason i might decide to check the flop is just to control its size. maybe im anticipating this hand to be highly competitive, in which case i may just want to step aside and save my chips. or maybe i know im so far ahead i don't want to let the cat out of the bag. is this because i flopped top set? no! its about flop texture, and position. im going to be betting a set of aces a lot harder in the early levels against the bad players, and im not waiting for them to catch up. a lot more hands than u would think are uncompetitive, even when u check to the river--ur opponents may just not want to ever put any more chips in. its okay to get them to think about it early in the hand and risk them folding than to not get anything.

as the levels progress, im definitely opening up my game a lot more, and taking stabs with absolutely nothing (well, maybe a backdoor straight draw and backdoor flush draw--these have value  ). i still can't comprehend how often people begin to shut down when a tourney is 100-200 people away from the money...or in a 45 man sng with 20 people left. this is the time to pick up dead money. im looking to create value when there isn't any there initially. this means im raising preflop on the button and cutoff as often as i can, and im not raising the same amount either. think about it--if i raise 5 hands in a row on a 6 handed table, and each one is to a different amount, and showdown is never reached, what could u possibly tell about my game other than im really loose? and by raising when u have nothing, u give the false perception that u have plans for a big bet on the turn or river, even if u don't really have that plan. in my next post i will talk about the value of every single card, and how on each street, u have to reformulate ur plan for the hand. and don't minraise! this does nothing--it doesn't get anyone off a hand, and it doesn't give u enough for ur value bet. and limping from early position? only if ur game allows it. if ur seeing flop after flop via mere limps, take advantage of seeing the easy flops, or perhaps put that big 6x raise out there with K9o on the hijack! doooo ittt!

what is the outers of doom? it's when a situation comes that costs u a lot of money--an unavoidable situation where only 2, 3, 4, etc. cards can come off that get u to commit. am i talking bad beats? sure, i guess. but what i had in mind were when u plan on making a big move, sort of a semi-bluff/value shove/ big value bet b/c i sensed an overvaluing on ur part. u have what u think is the best hand, but u overvalue it to take down a pot. this should be coming near the money when ur shortstacked. u might win a big pot without having to face the showdown, but every once in a while somebody rolls over the miracle set--a hand that u could not possibly put ur opponent on. i call this bad luck, others call it bad play. u be the judge. this mainly concerns cash games. most situations like this in tourneys are when ur too shortstacked for it to have made any difference.

if ur opening up ur game at the right moments of a tourney, u will start to win pots u never knew u could. i like to put the pressure on when i know my opponent has just made a timid move. i may make a "benefit of the doubt" check on the flop or turn, but then i hammer the turn or river with a pot sized bet if the right card[s] come off. again, i've set myself up early in the hand to look stronger than i am. u don't have to run and hide just because u've missed. and if u are "lucky" enough to make a lot of hands in early position, and u either get to showdown or u show them to ur opponents instead of mucking, then later on they will remember and give u respect when u do decide to try a bluff from OOP. these work better than the reverse float, unless u are playing against opponents who don't bet enough on the flop, giving u great odds to call. opponents who play small ball against me are in for a surprise :-P , cause im gonna be reading the flop and making judgement calls based on their betting all nite long. lay off the alcohol, u give too much away 8)