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Poker Tournament Skills

We can all agree that there are many skills you need to win consistently at MTTs. Many of us have enough experience to form an opinion on which skill is the most valuable and important. Here are a few skills that I think are extremely important in becoming a top MTT player. Which do you think is the most valuable?

Inflection point play- This is what Dan Harrington says is the most important skill in his book HOH: Adjusting your game according to stack sizes and centering every facet of your play on these sorts of conditions: this includes everything from starting hand requirements to your level of aggression. This is an important skill because not everyone utilizes it, therefore, you stand to gain a really big edge when you play inflection points well.

Chip extraction- An intangible skill that many top pros have mastered: the art of making the most possible money on their winning hands. This is a skill that allows many great players to get consistently deep by building a stack in the early and middle stages of MTTs, and isn’t very prevalent among normal players. Some say the key to winning an MTT is to pick up a lot of monsters at the right time. I say it’s more important (at least long-term) to get the most value possible out of said monsters.

Selective aggression- This is a wide category involving putting pressure on your opponent and spotting weakness. The top players do this so well. Experience is a key factor here. It takes a while before you can get the hang of telling whether your opponent is weak or strong and having the guts to stick with your reads.

Patience and resilience- MTTs carry a lot of variance, good and bad. The best players have developed a “thick skin” when it comes to riding out the bitter dry spells that we all face. This is an important skill to have at any level. Also, the patience involved in actually playing MTTs is a very important skill when we’re talking about long-term success. After all, it can take 6 or 7 hours before you reach the final table in online events, or maybe even a few days if you’re in a live tournament. Patience is an important basic skill that not many of us have all the time. Top pros are without a doubt the most patient in the game.

Maybe there isn’t a skill we can define as the “most important.” Maybe the most important skill is too intangible to be defined in such a clear-cut way. Maybe every skill carries equal importance. What do you think, personally, based on your own experience?

Feel free to respond with any suggestions that aren’t up here already!

Inflection points are critical moments during the later stages of a tournament when your chip stack is the most important factor in determining your play. Inflection points are defined by your “M.” The size of your stack in relation to the pot is called “M.” You just divide your stack by the pot. ie: M = your chip stack / total pot.

Depending on your M, certain actions occur:


Green = M of 20+

Green = You have enough to make many moves, and can safely limp things like suited connectors, and low PPs. Harrington says it’s worth taking some risks to remain here.

Yellow= 10-20

Yellow = You lose the ability to play conservative poker.

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