Play within the first hour of a multi table tournament is often filled with all-ins and bad play. Your main priority is to just last the hour, and if you can, obtain a sizeable chip stack. Normally, as tournaments are populated by a high percentage of bad players, you will need a good run of cards or unbeatable luck to be sitting in the top ten at the break.
So, how can you ensure you will be in a good position at the first break?
In the first few hands of the tournament, I would advise you just sit back and observe your opponents. Unless you get a top five hand I would be prepared to let it go, to fully focus on understanding what players are sitting around you. In these observation hands, I would be looking out for small signs to get any sort of information on your opponents. Of course five or six hands isn’t a big enough sample to get any real read on a player, but for example, if you notice Player A hasn’t played a hand once from late positions, you may be able to capitalize on that later on in the tournament.
After this, I would still remain tight. Players are likely to be playing very loose and you will probably be encountering an all-in almost every other hand, so it would be wise to steer clear of getting involved without premium hands. However, I would recommend playing weaker hands whilst in position. If you find yourself on the button for example with suited connectors, it is of course a good decision to call an un-raised pot. You have great pot odds and the amount of players in the hand makes this worthwhile.
After around 30 minutes, most of the bad players should have been eliminated and play starts to settle down. If you resisted to get involved with the “all-in or fold” crowd, you probably won’t have played many hands and will be at a huge chip deficit to your surrounding players. This is not a problem, as now skill is a huge factor and you can start to outplay your opponents to win chips. Also, by playing tight for the first half an hour or so, your table image will be greatly feared when you become aggressive. You will find you can bluff your way into winning many pots, but do not over do this as your image will soon make a quick U turn and you will no longer strike fear into your opponents. Around this time you will have to try and double up. Of course you will have to wait for the hand, but if you want to keep up with the pace setters, this is essential. Also trying to get involved in hands with the less skilled players may ship a few sizeable pots your way if you can find a way to outplay them.
By this time you should also have a vague read on all your opponents and made a few notes on some plays they have made. This should allow you to make individual plays on each player depending on their style.
As you approach the break you should encounter that play becomes increasingly tighter. The main reason for this is players do not wish to be eliminated from the tournament so close to the break, after spending one hour playing. This is a great opportunity for you to take advantage of this situation and try to pick up some pots by getting involved with more hands and increase your bluff frequency. Also using your position is vital here, and taking down pots from late position will help create a healthy stack size as blinds will be fairly high. Although you will find most players tighten up, players with small stacks usually start playing aggressive. Essentially they want to double up, as some would risk their tournament life to be in a better position after the break. Also they do not want to be in a bad position at the break, then wait five minutes and be eliminated within the first hand.
This will take you up to the break, in which you should take a well earned breather, grab a drink and relax for five minutes. You should be in a creditable position, and within reach of the top spots.
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