Tip #1: Taking ICM and Future Game into Consideration in Tournaments
While this may seem obvious and you may very well already know what ICM is, you are probably still punting off your stack way too frivolously in marginal spots!
Many of our students come from a cash game background (or have some knowledge of GTO) and believe that you should take every marginal spot even if it’s only a slightly +EV play. In tournament poker, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
GTO ranges are simply chip EV ranges, they do not consider future game or ICM which are critical components in tournament play. Your tournament life is EVERYTHING when it comes to succeeding in poker, and typically you should be playing a bit tighter than GTO in tournaments, especially when it comes to the bigger pots, calling all ins and other big hands.
Future game simply means that you are still able to realize equity and find profitable spots, because you still have chips to play with. If you lose your entire stack in a cash game it’s no problem, you can just buy-in again!
In a tournament however, once you’re out.. You’re out! There is no more future game, no more equity to realize, and your buy-in is lost forever. This is why taking future game and ICM into consideration and playing a bit tighter in big spots is vital to achieving long term success in poker tournaments.
Tip #2: Improve Your Bluffing Game
As you probably have figured out by now, people generally hate to fold their hands!
In fact, as a rule of thumb you should avoid bluffing at all in situations where your opponents have a very strong absolute hand range. This simply means that your opponent has a range where they are very likely to have a strong hand (top pair or better) when they show aggression or call a bet 1-2 times on a dry board.
Typically your opponents will almost never be folding their top pair+ holdings on the river, even if they’re supposed to in theory. Therefore, in situations where your opponent is likely to be calling too much, you have to bluff way less!
Many players often tend to take way too many marginal bluffing spots in tournaments as well, not taking into consideration ICM or future games just like in the first tip. With these considerations we may want to massively under-bluff when considering the value of retaining your chips and continuing to play later on in the tournament.
Tip #3: Be More Aggressive Against Big Stacks on the Bubble
Very often players with lower or middling stack sizes play way too tight near the bubble, just hoping to make it into the money. Although stack preservation is a big factor in tournaments, there are still certain plays we can make to accumulate chips and build our stack without necessarily having to put our tournament life on the line.
When you are in a scenario where you have say 20 big blinds, some other players have 10 big blinds, and then the chip leader opens with 40 big blinds, you can exploit their wide opening range by 3-betting as an exploit! 3-bet more aggressively and force them into a situation with their marginal hands, as long as you know the big stack isn’t a very tight player.
By taking down these 3-5 big blind pots preflop every now and then you will increase your stack before the money and set yourself up to make a deep run. Just be careful and don’t take every spot you see, especially if 3-betting and then having to fold will put you in a bad position where you are now a short stack and have to worry about making it to the money.