How to Navigate Big Field Tournaments

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Editor & Live Reporter
4 min read
WSOPE Main Event

The 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP) is fast approaching. Players in their tens of thousands will soon flock to the Horseshoe Casino (Formerly Bally's), as the WSOP returns to its roots after being hosted at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino since 2005.

Even with coronavirus, the 2021 WSOP was a success, despite the poker tournament fields being smaller than what Vegas has seen in the last decade. Now with covid seemingly being in the rearview mirror (at least for poker) it's expected that tournament entries will reflect pre-covid numbers, with a possibility of those figures being surpassed.

You only have to look at the record entry figures in some events at this year's EPT Prague to know that live poker is back and players can't get enough of it.

For some players who are venturing to the WSOP for the first time or players returning after a long hiatus away from the felt, they could be forgiven for forgetting how to adjust their game to large tournament fields. Luckily, PokerNews has come up with some top tips on how to best navigate poker tournaments that attract swathes of entries.

Understand the Different Tournament Stages

In theory, poker tournaments are divided into three sections; The early stage, the middle stage and the end stage. To best navigate big field events, you need to know what you should be doing in each section of the tournament.

In the early stages, you shouldn't commit chips with marginal hands. Instead, go for maximum value with your strong made hands in the first few levels. Also, being able to exercise patience and disciple will help you avoid difficult situations.

How you play the middle stage of a tournament depends on the size of your stack but generally using the following principles will put you in good stead. You should put small stacks under pressure and upping up the aggression in late positions to steal blinds. However, be aware of the big stacks at the table and avoid confrontations with them.

In the latter stages of poker tournaments, this is where the big money is to be won. Like the middle stage, when a big stack you should continue to put short stacks in uncomfortable situations. You should also understand ICM as well knowing push/fold charts.

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Don't Play Too Many Hands

With a fresh starting stack of 200 or more big blinds, it can be really tempting to play every hand. However, in reality, this is a terrible idea. Competent opponents will recognise this and wait for good hands to play against you. If you're up against better hands, you're going to need to get really lucky. Even if you do get lucky, over the long run those good flops, turns and rivers will filter out.

Ways to avoid playing too many hands is knowing how to select starting hands in No-Limit Hold'em.

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Use the Bubble to Your Advantage

When on the bubble, many short stacks will shut-up shop to avoid missing out on the paid places. Several of these players will fold strong hands just to ensure they get some ROI on their investment. This is a great opportunity for the players with sizeable stacks to push their opponents around and steal blinds.

If you find yourself in this position, you're in a fantastic spot. However, there will be occasions where a player will move all-in after you have opened the action. Some players will feel inclined to call with marginal hands in this spot, but it's not necessarily something you should do. You do not want to be calling all-ins too loosely and doubling up short stacks at your expense.

Obviously, if you have a good hand, get your chips in the middle but do not feel compelled to call 10+ big blind all-ins with hands like 98 or Q10.

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Editor & Live Reporter

Calum has been a part of the PokerNews team since September 2021 after working in the UK energy sector. He played his first hand of poker in 2017 and immediately fell in love with the game. Calum has written for various poker outlets but found his home at PokerNews, where he has contributed to various articles and live updates, providing insights and reporting on major poker events, including the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

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