Knockout Artist: Top 5 Tips to KO Your Poker Opponents

Knockout poker tournaments are an increasingly popular format of the game. They are also a lot of fun, adding bounties to each player to give extra incentive to knocking people out of the tournament. Here we will look at some tips to maximise your chances of getting those lucrative bounties.

Play aggressively from the beginning

This is part of what makes knockout tournaments more fun. It’s beneficial to generally play more aggressively and try to win chips right from the start. Even just adding 10% to your stack in the early stages can put you ahead in chips of the majority of your table and then give you many more chances to win bounties. When playing non-KO tournaments and 200bb deep you are typically looking for extremely strong holdings before getting in many chips, which often leads to a lot of folding (zzz).

Of course, this should not be taken as licence to start opening T-8o UTG or barrelling off zero equity for multiple streets on bad run outs! Your play still has to be calculated and should be more in the realm of widening your pre-flop 3-betting range, particularly in position.

Another factor worth considering is that late regging bounty tournaments can put you at a disadvantage. You will immediately be below average in chips and then a target for those with more chips at your table. For this reason I would recommend registering as early as possible.

Target the shorter stacks

It goes without saying you will only win a bounty against a player that has fewer chips than you! Because of that you should be looking for as many opportunities as possible to get in pots with shorter stacks.

One way of achieving this is widening your pre-flop 3-betting range against these villains. This is effective because it allows you to play more HU pots where good spots to either bluff or value bet thin can be identified. For example, if the CO opens from 70bb and you have 80bb on the button you should be 3-betting this spot very liberally. Medium pairs and reasonable suited connectors you might normally flat become standard 3-bets.

Playing multi-way pots is less desirable as your hand will need to be played more honestly and another stack in the hand may have more chips than you, which could scupper your plans to get the bounty you had targeted. As a result I find taking the more aggressive route preflop to be best a lot of the time.

Always be aware of the microstacks!

It is a crime to let someone with a very short stack get away without being put under pressure in a KO tournament, if you have any kind of chance to do so. It’s quite easy to miss a player getting their stack crippled if you are multi-tabling and have several decisions taking your attention away. It’s certainly a mistake I have made too many times! I would recommend never auto-folding in KO tournaments and always scanning the table to check there aren’t any sub-10bb stacks that could be targeted.

When there is, for example, a 3bb stack in play with a decent bounty you should be doing everything in your power to get involved in a pot with that player as you will be getting the bounty equity with very little damage to your own stack. How far you go with that depends on a number of factors (eg. your stack, the average stack, the stacks of opponents etc) but it’s perfectly conceivable the T-8o example from tip 1 becomes a good open!

Call off shorter stacks light

The extra financial incentive of a bounty means you will have to call off lighter than usual to realise that bounty equity. It is best equating the bounty to tournament chips depending on the exact format you are playing. So if you are playing a Super KO where you get 5k starting chips and the bounties are 50%, the bounty can be considered 5k chips.

The maths becomes a lot more complicated when deeper in tournaments and ICM becomes a factor but clearly in general you should be calling off short stacks’ all-ins significantly lighter than in regular MTTs, and often when you are behind the villain’s range. The bounty equity will make up for this.

Win your all-ins!

This is clearly a tongue-in-cheek ‘tip’ but it’s worth remembering that calling off multiple short stacks when behind and losing does not make those calls bad. The majority of bounties will be won from all-in pre-flop situations so it’s essential you get that luck if you are going to do well in a particular tournament. Good luck!