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Tournament Tips

Short-Handed No-Limit Hold'em

A Select Few: the biggest adjustment you need to make in short-handed play is to widen your hand selection. Fewer players at the table mean that hand values go up, so you simply cannot afford to wait for the premium hands. Suited connectors, small pairs and any paint with a decent kicker should all be in your raising range.

Pole Position: keep an eye on where you sit as every position is key. But from pole position there is even less chance than normal that an opponent will hit the flop hard and multi-way pots are less common. The usual rules of early, middle and late position don't apply in the same way as in full-handed tournaments. Although the under-the-gun seat remains precarious, anything that you might label as 'middle' position is a perfectly legitimate raising spot.

Blind Fury: it's inevitable that you'll find yourself in the blinds more often, so you should be less willing to give them up so easily. Don't allow aggressive players to think that they can steal your blinds without consequence. Play back once in a while and they will have to think twice about making moves on you.

Gearing Up: although short-handed tournaments will generally be more aggressive than their full-handed counterparts, this doesn't mean that you have to go in all guns blazing. In the early stages don't be afraid to limp in and see some cheap flops - it's good to mix it up. As you hit the middle to late stages, you need to start cranking it up a notch or two, raising pre-flop and continuation betting a high proportion of the time.

Pot-Limit Hold'em Strategy

Playing Style: Both loose-aggressive (LAG) and tight-aggressive (TAG) styles will work, but be aware that employing a LAG style of play means you will face many more tricky decisions and your stack will get a lot more exposure than that of a TAG player.

Early Stages: at the beginning of a deep stacked event you might be playing with up to 200 Big Blinds. This figure tends to get halved at each new level, so it suits some players to see more flops in these cheaper rounds. Position is king in Poker and whether the game is no-limit or pot-limit you'll be doing yourself no end of good if you can play the majority of pots with position.

Middle Stages: some players raising/stealing activity wouldn't differ between no-limit and pot-limit even though there are no running antes in pot-limit events. As always it will depend on your table image, the table line-up, position and stack sizes.

Late Stages: chipping away in the latter stages of a tournament is also a preferred tactic as you're not risking your whole stack at any one point. However, just as in no-limit there are times when an aggressive stance is best. If you can get your chips into the middle before the other guy, you're giving yourself an extra chance of winning.

Heads-up: your heads-up strategy should be the same as in no-limit. Unless you're picking up a lot of big hands, the best strategy is to play small-ball trappy Poker against LAG opponents and crank up the aggression against a tight or passive player.

Limit Hold'em

Don't Be Too Loose: limit hold'em is slower in the early levels due to the capped betting, but disciplined stack management is still vital. Resist the temptation to make too many speculative calls, as thise wasted chips will add up. A few bets saved can make a real difference.

Keep It Simple: play a relatively ABC game during the early rounds and open up a bit as the Blinds increase. During the early levels, the very fact that the bets are small means an aggressive player can expect to get looked up more often than he would in a pot-limit or no-limit game.

The Magic of Draws: it's far more inviting to chase a draw in limit hold'em for two simple reasons. Firstly, it won't cost you as much and secondly, you are far more likely to get paid when you do hit. As for how you should actually go about playing your draw, well that is very dependant on your opponents and the flow of the game. If you want one rule of thumb however, it would be to try not to get too many bets in until you've hit!

Move Up a Gear Later: as in all tournaments, it's in the later stages of play where the real contenders start to show their class. You might have started off with a pretty straightforward game-plan, but as the blinds rise you can start to apply more pressure in every pot you are involved in. Starting hands are just one aspect you should consider; equally important are stack sizes, your image, position and the make-up of the table.

Omaha Strategy

Drawing To The Nuts: PLO is a big drawing game and with four cards in the hole it's not unusual to see the nuts on the flop finishing a distant second or third once the River has been dealt. It pays to proceed with caution if your flush draw is only King high.

Early Stages: there's more play in the early rounds and it's not a bad strategy to try and see some cheap flops when you might be sitting on 200 Bing Blinds. As play progresses it becomes more expensive to see Flops, so make the most of it while it's affordable.

Middle Stages: as in no-limit Hold'em it pays to use position aggresively to pick up the Blinds and apply pressure on your out of position opponents. Position is a huge advantage to have in any Flop game and PLO is no exception.

Late Stages: if you're short stacked you're looking to jam the pot with anything from semi-connected rags right through to big pairs surrounded by some big paint. A middling stack can be trickier; you may end up with 40% of your stack in on a draw, facing a blank on the Turn and an all-in bet. With a big stack you can open up and keep the pressure on the middling and short stacks.

Heads-up: as with all heads-up play, be prepared for the long haul and don't become impatient. The correct line is often to let an aggressive foe take the lead and play a trapping game. Against passive opponents you should play aggressively from the button with the occasional play from the Big Blind.