During the early rounds, 50 to 100 blinds, I play very conservatively and avoid playing trap hands like A-10, K-Q, J-Q especially out of position. You have plenty of chips because of the low blind level and aren’t under any pressure to win pots. There is very little reward in bluffing as most of the pots are small.
Keep clear of mediocre hands during the early stages. The blinds are low enough that you can afford to wait around for better hands. It’s very difficult to get away from these hands when you flop top pair but if your opponent is betting big you are more than likely dominated. Even flopping top pair with a hand like A-K if you are faced with an aggressive bet like a big check raise or reraise may not be good on the flop. With plenty of chips why risk your tournament life early. You’ll need those chips later when the blinds get larger.
That being said I do play hands with strong double up value from position for small bets. Some good examples of these are small pocket pairs and suited As. If you hit your set, 2 pair or flush it can easily double you up if not you can check it down or fold to an aggressive bet and you aren’t out much.
Play is generally looser early in the tournament than later. Players limp in from any position hoping to gain a big lead early in the tournament. Even a pot sized raise early on could only be 40 or 50 chips which looks very small to players looking to gamble. Because of this I recommend you raise 5 to 7 times the big blind with premium hands like A’s, K’s, Q’s and A-K early on. Don’t worry about scaring off your opponents. This is what you want to happen as the more people in the hand the lower your win rate is going to be. The odds of somebody sucking out against your premium hand are much higher with a lot of players in the pot.
Don’t over value A-K early on. A lot of players at small stakes are way to willing to go all in with A-K. This is such poor play. You have to realize A-K is just a drawing hand. Why are you risking your tournament life in the early stages with a coin flip hand. You don’t want to be called because the ones that will call you probably have A’s or K’s. Even if you get called with a small pocket pair like 2’s you have less than 50% win rate. While this might seem like an acceptable risk to you this is not a winning strategy.
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