In the last, adrenaline-filled, days of a Texas No-Limit Hold ‘Em tournament, when the blinds are slowly eating up your stack and your fingers are about to fall off into poker oblivion, it is understandable why a lot of players cringe when crunch time finally comes. Don’t let that happen to you. Remember that your emotions can totally shatter your hopes of winning and sticking to rather mechanical yet logical approaches to the game will get you the top.
Aggression should start to show up here. Waiting for premium or good cards like A-10 and K-Q will munch up your stack. And once you do get them, you’ll probably only have about three to eight rounds left to play! That’s why you should be bold and keep on hammering those chips on the table!
With only four to six players in the table, it is highly unlikely that someone will have good hole cards, so it is necessary that you call the high blind and lead out with a probe bet of around a third of the pot if the flop is favorable. For example, you get J-5. It’s an average hand, but you should call the high blind here, hoping for a good looking flop. It shows down 2-5-9. Since you have middle pair with a rather good kicker, you should make a value bet of around the size of the pot. It drives out most opponents and wins the pot immediately. That is the flow of plays most of the time in small tables, so it’s integral that you squeeze into pots, jostle for it and muscle them out, winning the pot.
Since plays tend to go fast and rounds end quickly in a snap, it’s important that you drive out small cards held by opponents in order to avoid them getting lucky in the flop. So raise cards like A-5 and Q-9 like they were Big Slick, so small suited connectors like 5-6 will be less likely to call your raise given the current pot odds and the outs for the hand.
But lower raising standards mean more difficult decisions when the flop comes. Suppose you have Q-3 and the flop presents J-7-8. It is a very scary flop because it brings another Ace, a possibility of a high flush, and the possibility that your opponent has hit a pair of Tens with a J or a Q.
Now you have to play your hand based on what you know about your opponents and the cards presented. It’s difficult toager against an opponent with two overcards when you don’t know what they had for example a 6 and a J in the pocket that only a Ten can beat.
But suppose your opponent had bet strongly with a wide range of hands? Now you can’t just fire out a bet or raise because in this situation you might be setting a trap. Instead you check and he might bet strongly. If he had nothing and a wide range of hands, then you can call or even raise. But we want to exploit our hand more so if we bet strongly, we might seem weak and our opponent might fold.
And the fun begins! A few turns of a card and your opponent might have a Masters or AA, and you know that you can’t outplay him if you don’t hit your straight or flush. So pull back and take it slowly, building the pot up. By the 12th street you bet confidently and your opponent probably thinks we’re bluffing. Sometimes opponents get hopeless brick and try to make the river in that one more hand, other times they’ll take a stab at it and then you just save the hand for a more valuable opportunity.
Then, finally, the river comes and it is a Q! You just save the hand for another reason and your opponent folds. We win the pot with a carefully played semi-bluff, and haven’t even seen most of it yet! In Fifteen tournaments I played, I finished first or second 8 times, including once in the final. I have since then realized that stealing the blinds is a hugely important way to succeed in tournament dewapoker.