10 Reasons Why You Suck at Poker Tournaments

If you want to become the next tournament legend, the next Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth, you need to work on your game. And the first step to working on your game is recognizing what skills and/or situations you suck at.

Since we’re more than happy to point these out for you, what you’ll find below are the most common areas in tournament poker that players suck at, and tips for how to improve.

10 Tournament Skills or Situations You Suck At…. And How to Get Better

1. Post Flop

Post flop is a weakness for you. You don’t understand how to assign equities or break down each street to determine possible hands. You also bet without understanding why, let alone thinking about flop texture and pot control.

How to get better. To get better at your holdem post flop skills I recommend playing more flops. The more flops you play, and ultimately, the more you screw up, the more situations you have to learn from. I also recommend reviewing your hand histories, posting hands to forums or hiring a coach.

2. Reviewing Hand Histories

You lack discipline when it comes to reviewing your hand histories after you complete a tournament. So you don’t see the spots where you could’ve played better, made more or lost less money. As a result your progression in tournaments will be slow.

How to get better. The first step is to make hand history reviews a habit. After every tournament you play, pull up your hand history in your preferred replayer. Then go through the biggest hands only. I find that it helps to have PokerStove and a calculator open, too. You might also review your hands with a peer.

3. Determining All-In Ranges

Another skill you don’t have is determining all-in ranges. So you’re likely missing out on opportunities to isolate short stacks, which can be helpful in building a stack.

How to get better. The first thing I recommend doing is playing with SNG Wizard. It’s only for sng tournaments, however, it’ll give you an idea of what ranges look like for any given stack size and position. You just need to adjust it for larger tournaments. From here I suggest playing with PokerStove and a calculator, so you can get some of your (pot odds) math down. Last, you should go through hand histories and try to recognize spots where it might make sense to isolate a short stack, and then spots where you might not, because the risk of losing x amount of your stack isn’t worth what you’d gain. Both types of situations are important to recognize.

4. Push/Fold Poker

Push/fold poker refers to the strategy you use when you have less than 10 big blinds. You either push with a good hand, or fold a bad one. But apparently you still like to play pots with a short stack. Sometimes you like to wait so long that you blind out.

How to get better. I would play with SNG Wizard. You’ll learn what type of hands you need to push or fold, relative to the players’ stacks and ranges around you. This will also show you how wide you need to be shoving, so you don’t blind out of the tournament so often.

5. Building a Stack

You don’t know how to build a stack, so you often find yourself barely making it into the money. When you do finally make it to the final table bubble, you’re hardly ever in a position to abuse the table and give yourself a commanding chance to win. This goes for the final table, too.

How to get better. You need to get better at multiple skills, including stealing the blinds, reshoving, restealing, abusing the bubble and post flop play. You should also focus on building a stack throughout the entire tournament, and not all at once.

6. Folding Sucky Hands

I don’t know why, but you like to play dominated, weak hands preflop. Hands like A5, KT, QJ and 76s, because it’s suited. These hands get you in trouble because you flop a weak top or 2nd pair hand, and can’t let go of it, or because you chase the bad end of flush or straight draws. Probably without the right odds.

How to get better. Review your hand histories and see if you’re playing these hands. Be honest with yourself. Are you winning or losing more with them? Most (newer) players don’t have the skill set to play these sorts of hands. Do you?

7. Getting Value For Your Strong Hands

Why do you slow play your aces preflop? What about that set you flopped on that 6-J-K two-tone flop? Don’t you like chips? Don’t you want to build a stack? I think you like getting sucked out on. It gives you an opportunity to bitch about the “bad beat” someone dealt you.

How to get better. Bet more, slow play less. Consider your opponents’ ranges and the board texture before you decide to slow play your hand. Play a few more hands preflop so that you can raise your premiums and still get action.

8. Playing the Early Stages

It blows my mind, but beginners like you love to splash around during the pre-ante levels with all kinds of crap. One guy even told me that he sees the small blinds, all his chips and thinks to himself, Hey, I should play me some hands. Maybe I’ll get  lucky and double up.


Before you know it he has a short stack and has busted out of the tournament.

How to get better. You need to realize that pre-ante the pots will hardly ever get big enough to make a significant change to your stack. But you will give yourself an image of a spewtard, which will affect your fold equity later on. You also risk busting out. Ultimately, you risk more than you stand to gain. So you should be more selective early on.

9. Being Aggressive

Why do you play so scared? Just call and check? All you end up with is small pots, bad beats, awkward situations and min-cashes. But maybe you like those sorts of things?

To each his own…

How to get better. Becoming a more aggressive player is a matter of practice, of just doing it. I can tell you from experience that it’s a little weird at first going from checking and calling, to betting and raising. But in doing so you’ll pick up more pots, build more stacks and final table more tournaments. You’ll win more money.

So get aggressive. Then review your hands afterward to make sure you’re improving, as well as to make sure you’re picking the right spots to be aggressive in.

10. Bet Sizing

You suck at bet sizing because you like to raise 5x the big blind one hand, 7x another and 2.5x the hand after that. You clearly have no idea why you’re betting what you are, and are likely copying what you saw your favorite pro do on TV.

How to get better. To get better at bet sizing you should have an understanding of pot odds, and how sizing affects them. Often times if you don’t bet enough, you’re giving the other players profitable odds to call and hit their hands. On the other side of the coin, though, betting too much can be counterproductive. Think about it like this – if you bet 7x the big blind, don’t you think you could accomplish the same thing with a 3 or 4x bet? Not only that, but by cutting your bet in half, you give yourself chips to do it again later.