Now those of you that follow my articles on a regular basis will already know that I am not a tournament player. However, I would fancy my chances of taking down an online tournament a damn site more than at least 95% of the players who actually play in them. I know the theory surrounding large field online poker tournaments and I know one thing…..most of the people that play them in fields of say 1,000+ simply don’t have the proper strategy or anywhere approaching it in order to give themselves a chance of first place.
Now there are two schools of thought here and two styles, these are the hunters and the gatherers to give them a rather more romantic name. In other words, the “sit and wait” types and the “chip accumulation” types! The sit and wait types don’t take needless risks and wait for a run of luck to come their way. However, the chip accumulation types know that the levels in online poker tournaments are really quick and so a decent stack can become a short stack very quickly.
The first style tends to have a lot of lower place cash finishes and will cash far more often… but wins are rare. The second style increases the chances of the win or getting to the final table but also increases the chances of busting. I think, when handled correctly, logic dictates to me that a higher variance style is always more successful because it exploits smaller edges which add up over time.
The problem with exploiting smaller edges is that quite often a “small edge” is an illusion when in actual fact there was no edge there at all. The fact of the matter is that tournament poker is similar to cash game poker in many ways. One such similarity is that a specific style is more suited to one person than another. This is often based on skill, knowledge, experience and attitude to risk.
So a highly aggressive tournament style that busts out much more frequently may be better for a top pro but it wouldn’t work for a lesser tournament player. If you have the bankroll and the experience along with the right personality to accept the swings then I think the optimal style of tournament poker is a very loose-aggressive style. This and only this will amass a big stack early enough to take you deep into the tournament often enough. However, this style is far more risky than a sit and wait style!
The bottom line in all of this is that there is really no one shoe that fits all when it comes to playing tournament poker. Really strong tournament players may hit the news by taking down a big event or coming close but the poker news doesn’t tell the whole story. What it fails to report are the massively long losing runs that aggressive tournament players have to endure that often leave them broke or scratching around for a buy-in. So base your tournament style on what works for you personally and not on what someone else may be doing.