Tight vs. Aggressive

February 22, 2010 |

I just recently wrote an article on ‘Taking a Hit’ in a poker tournament and it had to deal with taking a bad beat in a multi-table tournament. Throughout the article I mentioned building a big stack early in the tournament and there is multiple ways of doing so. In this article I want discuss the benefits of playing tight and aggressive early in a poker tournament. Many players have different thoughts on how to play early in a poker tournament, and they have own their own particular way of playing a complete tournament. I jus want to touch base on the benefits of each style of play to showcase the pros and cons of playing tight or aggressive.

I am going to start by discussing the ‘tight’ style of play. Playing tight can be an effective way to win a tournament, but it also has its downfalls. By playing tight, players are more probable to getting their hands into the middle of the pot with the best hand. They don’t put themselves in risky situations so when they finally do make a stand with a hand, odds point to them having the edge to win the hand. In early stages of the tournament this isn’t a bad way to play. Since the blinds are so small there is no need or hurry to enter the pot without having a monster starting hand. They want to wait until the blinds mean something to their stack. Yet if a player is playing tight and they don’t pick up a quality starting hand in the first several levels, they may become a short stack without even playing hand. So let’s say you finally pick up a hand to play and it happens to be AA. If this is the only hand you have played all tournament, and you happen to lose this hand to set, two pair, or whatever the hand may be; then you have ultimately put your whole tournament into the results of one hand even if you are holding AA. This is where being more aggressive early on can pay huge dividends as the tournament goes on.

I am usually a fan of playing tight early, but I do see the benefits of playing aggressive early on in the tournament. One of the reasons to play aggressive early on is because the quality of play is weaker early in the tournament. It may be smart to try and take chips from the ‘donkeys’ before they are all eliminated. As the tournament goes on these players will most likely be eliminated and the competition will only get stiffer as the tournament progresses. Another reason to play aggressive and play a little risky is the reward of a big stack. If you are able to obtain a big stack early in the tournament, you bought yourself some time to pick your spots wisely as well as have the chips to take some hits along the way. A big stack can help you bully around the table throughout the tournament and it allows you to play more hands. In the process of playing more hands the odds will point to you losing small and big pots along the way. If you have a big stack then you can afford to take those losses while still having chips to spare. Yet by playing aggressive you can put yourself in sticky situations, and you may get caught by a better hand when being too aggressive. With anything in poker and in life, there are pros and cons to everything. Find out whether the tight or aggressive style is for you and hone that style, or simply just run good. J Good luck at the tables my friends.

Craig Fleck

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