Starting a tournament can be downright daunting. You will become more confident as you win a larger stack of chips. Your chip size can give you a huge advantage, if you play it right. It can also disappear if you get too cocky.
Finding a Winning Mindset as a Chip Leader
You will start to have a real edge when you become the chip leader. By the final table, the player with the most chips has a 33.3% chance of winning the tournament. The player with the second highest number of chips has a 22.9% chance of winning.
These numbers tell an interesting story. Being the chip leader clearly gives you an advantage. However, the chip leader still loses in two out of three tournaments.
You can’t afford to be complacent. You need a solid strategy to hold your lead and drive other players out. Here are three strategies from 888Poker.com that chip leaders can follow in a tournament.
Bid more conservatively before the flop during earlier hands
The chip leader should use their leverage to push on other players. However, being too aggressive can cost them if other players call them on a weak hand. They are more likely to catch a bluff if big bids are placed before the flop.
On the last table, there’ll probably be at least nine players remaining. The odds of at least one of them getting a three of a kind or better is 23.1%. Each player with one of these hands recognizes that there is a 98% chance that they have a better hand than the chip leader. If they already have a good hand before the flop, there’s a good chance they will hold onto it, regardless of how aggressively the chip leader plays.
As a chip leader, you want to bid somewhat cautiously before the flop, unless you really do have a winning hand. By the end of the flop, many players will have folded and it will be easier to place a river bet.
If there are only three players still in by the end of the flop, the odds that at least one of them will have three of a kind or better drop to 8%. This is when it makes more sense to use your leverage as a chip leader and bid high. At least one of the weaker players will be more likely to fold, which improve the odds more.
Your strategy will evolve as the game progresses. You will be able to identify more passive players and run them out of the game. The probability of having a winning hand will rise exponentially as players go out.
Play more aggressively with players with medium stacks
Tight players can be unpredictable. They may get nervous and fold as you raise them. They may also wait until the right-hand to go all in. When they only have a couple of chips for going out, they will have no choice but to play the bitter end.
Players with medium stacks can afford to be more cautious. They will be more likely to fold if you raise bids steeply. Pushing hard is smart if all of your opponents have medium stacks or are more timid players.
At this stage, you want to be going for blind steals. This is the point of the game when there is more for the chip leader to gain by pushing on opponents with shorter stacks. Players are more likely to fold and still have a large enough stack for to be worth your effort. Players with medium stacks will be pushing on tight players in the blinds, but they aren’t going to risk their stack against the chip leader.
Trim your bets as more players are tight by end game
Placing liberal bets makes sense when you are playing against larger pool of players with medium stacks in mid-game. This strategy ceases to work when there are fewer players left and most of them are tight.
With fewer players on the table at this point, you will have a higher probability of a winning hand. At the same time, the odds that you will be called will be higher as well, because tight players will have no choice but to go all in if they potentially have a winning hand.
Surviving players tend to be sharper and have less to lose by checking. They won’t cave as easily to large bets, so you need to expect some calls while placing river bets. Bets that are large enough to get at least one of them to fold could cost you your position as chip leader if one of the other players calls you.
At this stage, it is time to start pulling back with your bets. Betting a smaller portion of your chips is going to be enough to run the river. It will usually come down to one or two players calling you at this point, because they can’t fold as cautiously as they could when they had medium stacks.