Tips to Dominate Local Poker Tournaments

Bethany Jones
by Bethany Jones  |  Reviewer and Columnist
dominate local poker tournaments
Learn how to dominate local poker tournaments using these simple but very effective tips and strategies

If you’ve been playing poker online for some time or have been watching poker on TV and are considering taking a shot at local poker tournaments, this guide should help you start on the right foot.

Regardless of whether you’ve gained some experience on the virtual felt or caught a poker bug watching televised games, there are almost certainly segments of play you will need to adjust to dominate local poker tournaments.

Once you get your feet wet, you will quickly realize that poker played in a small local room is much different from the one played during the EPT Main Event.

My Most Profitable Tips for Local Tournaments

1. Arm yourself with a lot of patience

Do you think that some players take way too long to act during big live events or when playing online?

Here’s an eye opener for you: regular players in local tournaments will often take forever to make a decision, and they won’t even try to pretend they’re actually thinking about the hand.

Ignore the playground antics

One thing you need to understand is that most players will know each other and these tournaments are their playground. Even the fairest of tournament directors can’t do much about it.

Players will argue, laugh, and take a really long time to fold, simply to annoy others or just for the heck of it.

I’m not saying that this is the situation in every small poker room you step your foot in, but it will happen often enough that you will need a lot of patience to dominate local poker tournaments. Forget about EPTs and WPTs, adjust to the situation, and don’t let it annoy you.

Yes, it slows down the game and makes already short blind levels even shorter, but that’s a reality of the situation.

Poker is all about adjusting to new situations and this is no different. As long as you’re aware of the situation and don’t let it influence your game you’ll be just fine.

There’s still plenty of time to play.

2. Stay focused on the actual tournament

dominate local poker tournaments
If you strive to dominate local poker tournaments, you’ll have to focus on the game more than the others and take full advantage of the information available to you.

As already mentioned, local poker tournaments can become quite hectic.

There will be laughing, yelling, drinking, and a whole bunch of other distractions.

If you are new to this environment, you can find it hard to really stay focused on the game.

Tune out the Kassoufs

You may or may not be clued in about the whole Main Even and Will Kassouf situation.

At the WSOP, there will be a tournament director to try and keep people in check.

At a local tournament, be prepared to handle several Kassoufs at your table!

On your path to dominate local poker tournaments, you will need to learn how to put all these distractions aside and fully focus on the task ahead: winning.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t also have fun while playing, but if you are there to win money, you will gain a tremendous edge by focusing on the actual game.

Patterns become clear with focus

By focusing on the game you’ll not only be able to play your hands correctly, but you’ll also start noticing patterns in terms of bet sizing and the general mannerism of other players.

Live tells may have a limited value, but there is a lot of information just waiting to be utilized.

Overbets, underbets, bluff frequency, they’re all there, waiting for you to read and categorize them.

You’ll be able to notice all this and much more if you exclude all the unnecessary clutter and pay attention to poker being played.

3. Forget about fancy moves against low-level players

When trying to dominate local poker tournaments, straightforward and simple poker will be your best friend. I’m not suggesting you should play the ABC formulaic style that was popular 20 years ago, but fancy moves, for the most part, will not work to your advantage.

Consider increasing your bet size to isolate

For example, three-betting light to isolate a player in position will probably work in an EPT event. In a small buy-in, local event, it is not at all unusual to see four people behind simply flat call your three-bet and you end up playing a five or six way bloated pot with a mediocre hand.

This is especially true during early levels when blinds are small. Most players will want to see the flop and given the fact they still have a lot of chips in front of them, they will not be sorry to put some of them to work.

You may be surprised to see someone flopping a full house with J-5, but first of all – they were suited, and secondly, you didn’t bet that much.

dominate local poker tournaments
Fancy moves may look cool when it is Phil Ivey doing them, but in these small local tournaments, they could be your undoing

Keep it straight and simple for the most part. When you do have a big hand, don’t be afraid to make a large three-bet.

Most of the time, you will still get at least one or two callers trying to get lucky, which is perfect if you are playing a big pocket pair. You don’t really want to go five ways against totally random hands.


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4. Know when to ramp up the aggression in tournaments

While fancy moves are not recommended, knowing when to ramp up the aggression is key.

Many players frequenting local tournaments are there every day. They will be looking to make money at all costs. They are not even playing to win – they are playing to cash – and you can take advantage of that fact.

How to take advantage of tight regulars

As the money bubble or final table approaches, you can really open up your game. This is especially true if you are on a relatively short stack, with 10 – 15 big blinds.

Don’t be afraid to shove those chips in over limpers or even over a late position raise. You aren’t playing online at Ignition Poker against anonymous reckless players.

You don’t have to do it with any two, but there is no reason not to shove a hand with decent equity like 9-10 suited over three limpers. Most of the time, everyone will fold, and when you happen to run into a really big hand that simply can’t fold, you will still have decent chance of winning.

A couple of uncontested pots like these can quickly take you from a short stack to being really well positioned on the leaderboard in these fast structures.

To dominate local poker tournaments, you need to think differently than most players at the table. They will often play to cash; you need to play to win and this will pay off handsomely.

5. Don’t make deals

You should refuse any deal offers. It will not make you their favorite guy and can even trigger some nasty comments, but if you are there to dominate local poker tournaments, you shouldn’t really care.

The thing is:

By allowing a deal, you are giving them a break.

dominate local poker tournaments
If you truly want to dominate local poker tournaments, try to avoid deals at all costs. By doing this, you will keep many players out of their comfort zone or put them on tilt.

Some of the players are desperately looking to cash for various reasons and by denying them a chance to do it before the actual bubble bursts you are keeping them out of their comfort zone.

It will make them play far too tight, waiting for the money, or put them on a tilt where they will constantly try to eliminate you.

Either way, you will put yourself in a position to win a lot of chips and use them to claim the first place money.

Taking emotion out of the tournament equation

This article contains tips and advice on how to decisively win local poker tournaments.

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This is not your how to be nice and friendly in a poker room manual. Your behavior and overall attitude will mostly depend on your general character and the type of people you meet.

But, if you want to crush, you need to put all those considerations aside.

Winning poker takes advantage of your opponents’ weaknesses. If they don’t focus on the game enough, you should focus twice as hard. If they are timid approaching the bubble, you need to use that fear against them.

It doesn’t make you a bad guy, even if some may think otherwise. The way you play the game doesn’t have to do anything with how you are in other areas of your life.

You want to be friendly? Buy a round of drinks for everyone at the final table. Then take all of their chips.

And then buy them another round when you win, if you really feel like it.

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