Sports & Gaming

Tournament Strategy: Early and Middle Stages

Daniel Negreanu

Lesson time 12:24 min

The way you play in a tournament early-on has a big impact on the final outcome. Learn strategies specific to early and middle stage play, like how to be mindful of stack sizes and account for blind structure from the get go.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Early Stages: Increase Frequency of Hands That Have Postflop Potential • Early Stages: Adjust Strategy Based on Speed of a Tournament’s Blind Structure • Middle Stages: Be Mindful of Stack Sizes, Especially the Short Ones • Middle Stages: Avoid Tangling With Other Big Stacks • Middle Stages: Fold or Shove If You’re in the Danger Zone


Super excited to talk about tournament strategy. Now I've played cash games. I've played tournaments all my life. But I've always felt more excited about a tournament because it has a beginning, a middle, an ending, and at the end, you win yourself a nice trophy occasionally. Whereas, a cash game, to me, has always felt a little bit more like work. You know, you go in there, you punch your clock, you make your money, there's no trophy at the end of the day, but it's a job well done when you did have a win. So we're going to talk a little bit more in depth about tournament strategy, things to look for throughout the various stages of the tournament because there's always going to be an ebb and flow. There's always a dynamic that's changing. When you play cash games, you're rarely going to be facing situations where stack size matter as much as they do in tournaments. Right? In cash games, typically, people play relatively deep. Rarely are you're going to see a player with just 10 big blinds left sitting on a stack. And in tournaments, it's very common. You're going to see stacks ranging from five big ones to 10 to 20 to 50. And, of course, you're going to have the deep stack play, especially in the early level. So we're going to go through bit by bit what to look forward to and what to think about in the early stages, middle stages, late stages, and how that all changes throughout based on the different dynamics that you're going to be faced with. Let's tackle the early stages first. And there's definitely a few schools of thought on how to approach these levels, like some players are out there like gangbuster taking advantage of everybody and really pushing the envelope, trying to build a big stack. Where others, especially because in most tournaments that you play, the first few levels will not have an ante, they're going to play a little more snug. And they're going to play more conservative and sort of wait for big hands. So the question is, what should you do? And how should you play? And the answer to that is going to be an answer that you could use for most poker situations. And the answer is, it depends. As a general rule, before the antes kick in in a tournament, you do want to be on the more conservative side, right? There is a simple fact here that in the early stages, you can go broke. You can lose all your chips. What you can't do is when the entire tournament. So the question is, how much value is there in doubling your stack at the early stages in terms of how often you're going to cash or how much more likely you are to win? And it's not as significant as you would hope. It's far more important, especially in the early stages, to think in terms of survival. That's going to be a theme throughout this tournament portion. In cash games, we're always thinking, how do we get max value? That's the only thought. That's the only thing that matters. Well, in a tournament, there's another consideration. The other considera...

About the Instructor

Put yourself across the felt from Daniel Negreanu, the biggest live tournament poker winner of all time. The six-time World Series of Poker champion teaches poker strategy, advanced theory, and practice through hand-reviews of his winning games. Learn how to sharpen your mental game through demos on reading opponents and spotting tells. Join Daniel at the table to increase your win rate, grow your ROI, and get your game “in the money.”

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Daniel Negreanu

Join Daniel at the poker table. Learn his strategies to advance your cash, tournament, and online play.

Explore the Class
Sign Up