Many novice players go into poker tournaments basically just spinning their own respective wheels. They look to play whatever good hands they get dealt, look to play whatever marginal hands they can get in cheaply with and then decide to push and shove when their stack gets somewhat small in the middle to late stages. I do not consider this a plan in fact I consider this no plan at all.
This is akin to someone getting behind the wheel of a car to find a location that they have never been to before without consulting a map or doing any research as to where they are going. All they are doing is driving the car but they need to firstly find the route or one of the routes and then stick to it. Just because someone else’s route may have got there faster should not deter them as the goal is to get from point A to point B.
The worst thing that you can do in any tournament poker game is to go in with a plan and then change it. No matter what you do then luck will always be the deciding factor for what happens in the short term. So if you go into tournament poker with a plan of playing tight during the early levels but looking for spots to pick up chips then you should not deviate from this simply because other people have bigger stacks. You cannot control what happens in pots that you do not contest or on other tables.
But you absolutely must know what your plan is and then stick to it. Whenever I play tournament poker then I have a balanced plan. By that then I mean that I pay careful attention to the two key aspects of tournament poker. These are to survive and to win chips. You need to survive in order to cash but you cannot cash or win the event without amassing chips and that cannot come without risk. Do not think that you can cash in tournament poker without taking risks…….you can’t. If you could then every satellite winner in the world would be doing this and returning their investment multiple fold.
Do not think that just because a top player plays differently to you that their poker tournament plan is better than yours. They may have a much larger bankroll than you, or they may have a different attitude to risk meaning that they can mentally accept much longer losing runs. So if you see a top player splashing chips around and making the final table while you bust out just short of the cash then do not alter your plan. Keep in mind that a plan isn’t just for one tournament and as we have already said, whatever happens in the space of one event will be dictated by luck anyway.
There will be lots of players in the event that you have seen who will have a similar style to the top player who will have already been eliminated. So the fact of the matter is that they may be a top player but they are a top player that got lucky. So develop a plan and stick to it rather than just playing poker hands almost like you do in a cash game. Remember also that tournaments are also based on a third factor above and beyond survival and chip accumulation and that is time. Each tournament is built around time and you need to be very cognisant of that fact at all times.