During the course of a Multi-Table Tournament (MTT), whether live or online, there are multiple stages. Each stage carries its own flow, and these stages are successfully passed through by implementing proper strategy. While styles between players vary inside each hand, the core strategy surrounding involvement in pots should be applied universally. This is the intro to a 5 part series on MTT’s, sure to get you deeper while remaining healthier in the chip stack department.
I want to use this introduction to share some notes and basics some of you may be unfamiliar with.
“Action” Dan Harrington was kind enough to share his system of M’s and Q’s in his tournament hold ’em book series awhile back which is immensely beneficial to anyone not familiar with it. To my knowledge, if you aren’t using an M and Q system you still measure chip stack by number of big blinds (BB’s) you have. The reason this strategy is not useful is because all it tells you is the magnitude to which you can raise in relation to the automatic blind bet. This is not very informative to you. The M system takes into account all the blind money on the table before any action takes place. So, in a tournament level where blinds are 200/400 with a 25 ante, a nine player table blind opening pot would be 825. You take this number and divide your stack by it, and you have your M. This value will tell you what kind of strategy to employ with your chip stack. At 5 or under you are limited to nothing but an all-in pre-flop move. From 5-10 you may want to try a small raise to win a pot outright without risking your stack, but I wouldn’t count out just open shoving with this as well. If your M is anywhere fewer than 10 and you raise, you are only doing it to steal the blind pot or fold if re-raised. If you are willing to call off your stack on the strength of your hand when re-raised, then you should be moving all-in in the first place, unless of course you’re trying to pull some sort of tricky play with AA or KK, but I advise against it depending on the stage. From 10-15 you can feel pretty comfortable making your standard raise and anything over 15 gives you free reign to do as you please.
So, what’s a Q? This should be used mainly in faster blind structured tournaments, and turbo tournaments. The Q is your stack in relation to the average stack of the field. If you have 5000, and the average is 2500, your Q is 2. If you’re online, the average is supplied for you, and if you’re live you just take total entrees multiplied by starting chip count, then divide by players remaining. This information should be available on the level and payout board. The reason for the Q is because in a faster blind structured tournament you may be towards the end of the tournament and notice your M is floating around 5-7, and you consider shoving with marginal hands. Now, that is what you would do in a more player friendly structured tournament, but in this case everyone may have a low M as the blinds race up faster than players get eliminated. So, if you have an M of 6, but your Q is above 1, you might want to consider being a little less care-free because you aren’t low in the standings, just a victim of a poorly structured tournament.
In hold ’em, it is important to know, your table’s collective personality and your position each hand far outweigh starting hand quality. If you refuse to acknowledge position and table personality, and play solely based on your starting hand quality, you will never win long term. Hands like AK need to be folded pre-flop, and hands like Q10 need to be used in a re-raise all-in at some points. Understanding this and submitting to it is your first step to learning how to actually play hold ’em, rather than letting it play you. Remember, you can get across the country in a Kia just as easily as in a BMW; it’s all about how you drive the car, not what the car is.
This information should get you off the ground, and make you a much more knowledgeable player in terms of when to deploy your certain strategies. I don’t plan on going into detailed hand play, because so many different factors need to be accounted for, but what I will describe is a basic system that suggests the style of play I’d advise. A basic example: If I say that at a certain point you should turn on your aggressive game, I don’t mean play a hand from start to finish aggressively. How you play the hand post flop is up to you and your read on the hand, but when to enter a pot, how often and how aggressively is what my aim is to teach.