Sports & Games

Universal Tournament Strategy

Daniel Negreanu

Lesson time 9:33 min

Learn the universal tactics to take from table to table—no matter the stage or type of play—that will help you throughout the everchanging tournament landscape.

Daniel Negreanu
Teaches Poker
Join Daniel at the poker table. Learn his strategies to advance your cash, tournament, and online play.
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One of the more frustrating thing about tournament poker as it compares to cash games is variance and bad luck. Like, in order to win a tournament, you're going to find yourself in a lot of situations where you're in a coin flip, which essentially means, you know, you have a pair versus two over cards, where two players were in a pot that was unavoidable. One has queens. The other has ace, king. And the fate for both players is all going to be based on the flip of a coin. Obviously, the queens has a small advantage. And we can't focus solely on these things and look at our tournament resume and decide, well, you know, I've just been unlucky. Because in the long run, you have to focus on making good decisions. The frustration is part of the reason I always believed that in order to be a tournament player requires a resiliency, a mental resiliency to not focus on things that are out of your control. And variance is a thing that can affect your confidence. And it's something that obviously occurs in cash games as well. It's just different. It's a little less gut wrenching in the sense that, you know what? You'll be back tomorrow. You're not out of a tournament. You can still have bad luck and win in a session. But in order to win a tournament, make no mistake, you're going to have to get really lucky. One of the things I enjoy most about tournaments is the ever-changing dynamics, whether it's the chip stacks, the skill level of the players that come and go, the position I'm at the table in relation to them. Those are all things that I have to think about, in addition to how do I play my ranges at a normal poker game, right? What does my stack size look like? And what are the ICM implications of me playing a hand in a certain situation? So you might be at a table, and you love the way things are going, down to three tables. Well, what happens often is the player gets broke from another table. They move you! So you were in a good situation. It's very important now to reestablish what am I looking at now? OK, So I was a bully at the other table because I had the big stack. But now the chip leader's on my left, OK? And the one next to him is second in chips. So that's going to force me to play slightly different. You want to be a little bit more cautious and careful in situations where you can go broke because you could basically have what we call an ICM disaster. The other consideration you want to be looking for, where are the short stacks, and who are the short stacks? Typically, professionals who are on a short stack, they're more than comfortable using a push chart formula, where they're going to, like, go all in with their stacks. And they're not, like, too afraid to get in. But a lot of amateurs, when they're sitting on like 8 to 10 big blinds, they may play very, very conservatively, and they no longer become a threat, so really mapping out the table and kind of figuring out where the danger lies, whether it's the ski...

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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.”


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

wish it went a little deeper in poker strategies in cash games

Daniel is a great teacher. I was an avg casino poker amateur before this class. Now I'm above avg bc of 3 changes in my game due to this class. A+

I am a college student who has been playing poker occasionally and Daniel has assisted me in understanding the game in ways I never before imagined. Very interesting content!

very interested and well done. Poker has a very colorful language



Say you are playing a tournament with a BB with an ante and also just a small blind. Should you include the ante with the BB when saying your stack size? Say the BB is 1000 with a 1000 ante and you have 20000 chips. Does this mean you are in the danger zone or in shove mode?

A fellow student

Here's another situation I encountered 2 times in 3 days on live events. Played against loose players. We were equally sized sitting on ~15-25BBs (which was considered a big amount as the blinds were really high already). Villain raises 3BB, I 3-bet from good position, they call pre-flop from bad position. Game one: I had AK, flop comes, 446, we both check; turn is a King, guy goes all in. I call, lose against a 4-6 flopped full house. Game two: I had AA, flop comes, 234. Guy goes all in. I call, lose against a flopped straight (56s). I've been pondering these two games since then. Now I'd be folding, but then I just simply could not believe that they are shoving it all in (~15-20BBs) after calling a 3bet from bad position - seemed like an unreasonable play, and thought it's a big bluff on a wet board, but that's why it worked. Any thoughts on this from anyone?

Jessica E.

I get busted early in a lot of sub-coin flip situations (60:40) where I ought to have folding equity and where I would be getting value in a cash game. Is it better to divide the money across multiple streets in these situations when possible? That is, is it better to let the lagtard see a flop and even a turn if they don't fold at all preflop?

Yakov S.

I played in a tournament a couple weeks ago.. got down to final 3 tables and I had maybe 23 BB and I swear I got 33 at least 5 times out of 15 hands.. I can't play those that late in the game but my stack kept dwindling down.. Got to the final 2 tables and maybe 3 hands in out of position I get QJ suited.. I shove all in which I see now was a mistake and got called by button with Ace4.. we both miss the flop, turn, River and I'm out against an Ace high.. we both made mistakes, I keep wondering how the hell did he call my all in for 20 BB when all he had was an Ace high