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Middle Stage Poker Tournament Play Basics

You've survived the early stage of one of your first no limit hold'em poker tournaments. Now you are in the middle stage. Maybe half the field is gone, the blinds are up and antes are juicing the pots. How can you follow through to give yourself the opportunity to make the final table and possibly win?

How you handle the middle stages of a poker tournament will depend in large part on how you handled the early stages. If your goal was to slowly amass chips and survive, you probably have about an average stack. If your goal was to gamble it up and take a lot of chances, willing to risk getting knocked out early in order to be competitive, then you probably have either a very large stack or a very small one.

If you have been playing a ‘small ball' game, just trying to amass chips and not take too many chances, now may be a time to shift gears. If you have been playing at the same table for awhile, players may have noted that you are generally only entering the pot with premium hands and not going crazy without flopping something strong. If this is true, you are in an ideal position to bluff. Ideally, opponents will give you credit for strength, and unlike in the early rounds, if they fold and you collect just the blinds and antes, you have still won a pot really worth winning.

If you have a big stack, this is a good time to put pressure on the medium stacks. Most of them are sensing the money is near and trying to survive and get some of it. It is unlikely they will want to get involved with a player who can eliminate them when they can make money by staying out of your way and letting the short stacks get knocked out first.

If you are unfortunate enough to be one of those short stacks, the middle stages are when you should be looking to make a move. You are probably not going to make the money unless you double up, and if you wait too long, you will not have enough chips to threaten anybody, meaning when you finally come in, you will get too much action, making it likely you will be eliminated and not even giving you that threatening a chip stack when you are not. You are better off moving in now when you have enough chips for it to matter, even if you are not doing it with a premium hand.
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