Dominating the Poker Tournament as Chip Leader

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The Best Chip Leader Strategy for Poker Tournaments

Have you ever focused so hard on achieving a goal that once you got to your destination you had no idea what to do?

Just as in life, this is a very common situation that you will find almost definitely find yourself in at least once in your poker journey too!

You will have exhausted all your strategic moves getting to the high position of the chip leader on the leader board and may think to yourself, “well now what?”.

We are here to answer just that singularly frustrating question. The position of a chip leader in a poker tournament is an exhilarating position. But, my friend, all that shines is not gold. It is also a precarious place to find yourself in and you do not want to waste the opportunity to run deep and cash in all that glory just because of one miscalculated move. Do you?

Of course, no one does. So, as the chip leader, it becomes even more important to have the right strategy in a tournament. As a chip leader there are two main things you will need to focus on: maintaining your position at the top and winning the tournament.

This article will help you achieve both of those with a few tricks you should always have up your sleeve.

So, how should you play as the chip leader, when should you play aggressive and what should be your overall strategy?

Let us run through all of these common doubts and clear them up for you.

What should be your game plan as a chip leader?

As the chip leader you have earned some amount of liberties, but do not for a second assume that you can be reckless with your chips. At any point in the tournament the tables can turn on you. So, even though you may be the chip leader, it is not advisable for you to try to make your opponents fold at every chance that you get with your aggressive maneuvers. With this tactic you are sure to find yourself in the dumps telling everyone the stories from the time when you used to rule the table.

In the early stages of the tournament when there are smaller blinds but deeper stacks you must follow certain pointers.

In the early stages when the players are deep stacked, firstly keep in mind that your opponents will play a wider range of hands in the preflop. Also, the big stack will not be worth your while at this point as they would be when payouts are on the horizon.

Another thing for the chip leader to keep in mind in the early stages is that there aren’t any lucrative pots that can be won pre-flop based on the blinds. This is because the stack to pot ratio is huge and the forced bets or antes are not in play till this point. So, you should adopt the aggressive stance only once the antes in involved. This way you will have more chips to win. The tight image that you establish early in the game will stay with you later when you need it. The stakes will be higher and you can take then advantage of the shorter stacked players.

How To Make Aggression Your Friend When You Are The Chip Leader?

As a chip leader aggression can be a useful ally for you at times. Let us discuss a few of those situations and why aggression works in them.

1. In a bubble play

This situation in a poker tournament is a result of the tension that surrounds the table just before the final prize pool is complete. All the players know that walking out of the tournament at this point means forfeiting all your investment and walking away empty-handed. As a result of this, the short-stacked players try desperately to hold on till the last player busts out. this is a perfect opportunity for a chip leader to pressurize all the other players with a wider range of steals preflop. The short-stacked players will be on the lookout to minimize cash. this means that you can then widen your opening ranges when the others are still left to act. Similar to the shirt stacked, the medium stacked players will want to protect their stacks and shave off some of the shorter stacks for themselves.

As the chip leader you can take advantage of the bubble dynamic and bet or bluff with more aggression which will make them fold their cards.

2. When playing against straightforward opponents

Some players tend to play their game in a straight forward, fit-or-fold manner. When they miss, they fold, and when they hit, they call. Sweet and simple. No tricks when it comes to them what you see is what you buy.

These sweet and simple players can win you some serious money in a poker tournament. These are the ones who are straightforward even post the flop. When you are in a late position you can raise liberally in the preflop even with a wider range of hands. Your aim should only be to take down the pot and get your chips up with bets. Although the player may be straightforward, it is wise to keep an eye on whether he or she is adjusting their gameplay. If this is the case, be sure to reassess and tweak your actions accordingly.

3. When playing against medium stacks

Some playing styles are more difficult to counter than others. Tight players are Some playing styles are more difficult to counter than others. Tight players are unpredictable. They can go any way, if you raise, they may start biting their nails and eventually fold or they can sit tight and go all-in on the right hand. Other times they may have no other choice then to stack it out till the sad demise of their play if they don’t have enough chips left.

These players can afford to be more cautious than others and so may fold if the bet gets too aggressive or steep for them. They most likely do not want to put their entire tournament stack in jeopardy. So being aggressive with them and bidding high can be a good strategy to get them to fold.

4. When chopping in a tournament

When only a few players are left at the table in a poker tournament there might arise the discussion of a chop. In this case as the chip leader you should realize that it is time to take advantage of your lead. Using your leading position as leverage against the other players. When deciding the payouts, your chip advantage could score you a chunk of the pot at reduced risks. Your chop amount should very well reflect your stack especially in live tournaments where calculators are not integrated.

These are some of the situations in which you must play aggressively. However, some situations call for a more controlled play.

As chip leader when should you pull your bets?

Your betting must always vary according to the game stage and player pool. As a chip leader placing liberal bets when you are up against a large pool of players who are medium stacked is perfectly alright. As the game advances this strategy may turn out to be a stalemate since the players are fewer and most of them playing tight. At this stage you although you will have a higher chance of winning. The odds that you will be called will increase too. Your tight opponents will have no other choice but to go all-in if they are holding a winning hand.

It will do you good to remember that the players you are up against in the latter half of the tournament are the good apples. They are sharper and less likely to lose or cave easily to larger bets. At this hour, you have a lot to lose as the chip leader. If one of your opponents calls you on a larger bet you could easily lose all your hard-earned chips.

So, doesn’t pulling back your bets sound much better? If that is what you are thinking then you are exactly right. That is exactly what you should be doing. Bet a small portion of your chips, play safe, and run the river comfortably at the same time.

All of these tips and strategies will surely help you improve your game when you are in the chip leader position. Following them will assure an effective strategy to get the best out of the lead that it so hard to achieve.

Don’t forget what has been discussed above, be aggressive when you can leverage a good deal for yourself, and play tight when you think you can lose your lead. A well-balanced play is the right way to go for a chip leader! 

It’s time to get excited and use all these tips to your advantage at your next Spartan’s poker tournaments. Afterall there is no better place in the whole country to win big!


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