Multi-table Tournament Strategy

Multi-table tournaments (MTTs) can be very dynamic and exciting. However, they require a different strategy and skills than cash games.

In cash games, the goal is to play consistently and adapt mainly to your opponents. Blinds do not increase with time and you do not have to worry about the relation between your stack size and blinds. Unless you play high stakes poker, most of the time you can just stick to a good starting hand chart and still make a nice profit.

Multi-table tournament strategy

In tournaments, you have to adjust your strategy depending on the current tournament stage. The biggest tournaments bring tens of thousands of players together. If they had similar rules to cash games, they would take weeks to complete. This is why blinds are increased periodically in order to eliminate players faster. It can be anywhere from one minute to one hour.

Tournaments can be broken down into four stages:

Early stage

Early stage begins with the tournament start. Blinds are low in relation to the average stack size. Your main goal here should usually be to play very carefully, avoiding taking unnecessary risks. In short, the best strategy here is to play tight, folding anything other than premium starting hands.

Example – some player raises from an early position with 9 players at the table. Another player reraises him on the button. You are holding a pair of queens. What should you do? Unless you are certainly sure both of the players are maniacs raising and reraising any two cards, you should fold. More often than not one of them will have kings or aces.

There can be exceptions, when you can consider playing aggressively from the very beginning:

 when there are only a few of places with prizes or just one (“winner takes it all”)
 rebuy tournaments – some events allow registering again if you get eliminated early in the tournament. It allows playing very aggressively to become the chip leader quickly without risking busting from the tournament.

Middle stage

The blinds has been increased a couple of times now, you are still not in the money and you start feeling the pressure. You cannot stick to the premium starting hands anymore or you will get blinded to death.

You should still play tight from early positions but simultaneously you should raise much wider range of hands from late positions in an attempt to steal the blinds. You should also defend your blinds against stealers by reraising them (usually all-in unless your stacks are still deep).


The bubble takes place when only a few players need to be eliminated before the beginning of the prized places. During this period most players tighten up substantially just to survive to the money, waiting for other players to get busted.

If you are an inexperienced player, I recommend tightening up as well, playing only a narrow range of starting hands.

There is a better strategy, though. It will depend on your stack size and its relation to other players stacks. If your stack is small, tighten up. If your stack is big, play more aggressively. You can raise a wide range of hands and most of the time nobody will play back at you. Even if you get reraised, you will never risk your whole stack and tournament life. This is a good way to build up your stack.

Late stage

During late stages of a tournament, the player field is much smaller than at the beginning and everyone is already in the money. Many weaker players will still play like during the bubble, just trying to survive as long as possible without taking risk. They will never win the tournament this way.

Your goal here should be to win the tournament, not to survive. You have to play aggressively by actively stealing and defending blinds. Of course it is risky but you will not win any other way. You will probably have to win a couple of coin flips in the process. Coin flip in poker is a situation, when you are around 50/50 to win the pot, AK vs QQ is a good example of a coin flip.

Conclusion on multi-table tournament strategy

Multi-table tournaments are only for flexible players that pay attention to more just their hole cards. You have to be very adaptive if you want to achieve success in tournament poker.

Go back to the Online Poker Strategy.