Applying an Effective Multi-Table Poker Strategy

A multi-table poker game can go by many names. Every tournament you see from the WPT to the WSOP is a multi-table game, as well as different satellites and freerolls on poker sites. These are typically games that have anywhere from, say, 20 to 2,000 players, all vying for a spot at the final table. The action here is incredibly fast-paced, and you need to either be other-worldly lucky or a pure chip monster to survive these grueling tournaments.

Developing a Multi-Table Strategy

While it might be incredibly difficult to win a multi-table poker tournament, there are quite a few basic strategic principles you can implement in order to boost your odds. Solid play, a feel for the game, and a little bit of luck in your favor will help you climb through the ranks and finish in the money. Before we get started on the tips, however, we would like to suggest you cut your teeth and practice these strategy tips in a freeroll. This way, you're not risking any money. You don't want to actually invest capital in a tournament format you're completely foreign to. Try these tips out in freerolls, with a few hundred or thousand players, and get a feel for the format.

Try to Double Early

The games are so fast-paced not because players are a in a mad dash to double-up per se, but rather because the blinds force the action. The blinds typically tend to double every few minutes, so if you're thinking of an 80/20 or slow-play assessment strategy, your stack will be whittled down to nothing in no time. The idea here is to try to double-up early on. You want to play more of a 50/50 style of poker, barring any big table raises. But if you can get in for a good price, or in position, you want to come in and see more hands in the early stages of a multi-table tournament. The negative here is that this puts you in more of a position to bust out, but the positive is that you have better odds of doubling your stack, at which time you can down-gear and go into more of a solid play, assessment mode.

Play Frequently in Position

There are three spots on a poker table that are considered in position, barring the number of players who fold or call in any given hand: The big blind, the small blind, and the top spot of them all, the button (Dealer chip). These positions are strong because they're typically last to act. Say that you're on the button and someone across the table is in a hand with you. After the flop, they either have to check or bet, which means you'll always be acting behind them. While this can leave you vulnerable to a slow-play check-raise, it also makes you powerful in that you and your chips are forever lurking in the minds of everyone acting before you. This is the best position on the table, and you should try to play hands from these spots whenever you can. The blinds aren't as strong, of course, but you typically get in for cheaper, since your money is forced. So you have odds in your favor to play, which can pay off greatly in a multi-table game.

Be the Hunter, Not the Hunted

Hopefully, before the blinds go up a few levels, you will have at least doubled your starting stack. When this happens, particularly online, your table is bound to switch, placing you in unfamiliar surroundings. Bigger stacks are usually hunted in multi-table tournaments. In a single-table setting, a big stack is very scary, or also when a multi-table is dwindling down to the final payout structure. But during the heat of the game, when things are just starting to roll, players with chips have a target on their backs. Be the hunter in this scenario, not the hunted. You have to come in with an aggressive mind-set, ready to duke it out in hands, and not afraid to back down. Show that you're out to play poker, not to just sit around.

Don't Sit Around on Your Laurels

Let's say you've played great poker for the first leg of the tournament (before the first break), doubled up a couple of times, won a few big pots, and have about 12k chips, well above the average. What do you do next? You might be tempted to revert back to more of a limit-like strategy, but you really have to keep your foot down. Sitting around will ensure that climbing blinds force you into action. Forced action is not a position you want to be in; you want the freedom to force the action. Don't be reckless, of course, but don't back out of playing an aggressive style of poker either.

These particular strategies might seem scary to some, particularly if you're paying good money to play in a multi-table tournament. But this is why we suggest going with freerolls first. You will learn how to navigate the harsh terrain here; plus, in big-dollar multi-table tournaments, people are playing slower because they don't want to risk it all either. So things even out greatly in this regard.

Remember when reading and implementing these strategies that these are only sound starting principles, not win-all, inclusive strategic plans. Each game is different, each table is different, each player is different, and even each hand is different. Start with the basics, practice a lot, and start to add variations to these strategies to make them you own. Before you know it, you'll have your own unique strategy.

Most importantly, however: Make sure you're playing on a legal online poker site that accepts players from your juristiction, and always gamble responsibly.