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10 Most Common MTT Player Mistakes

October 25, 2019
by PokerStarsSchool

As a poker tournament MTT player, you can boost your chances of success significantly by avoiding these ten common mistakes.


This is by far the biggest factor in explaining why MTT players with some degree of potential end up going nowhere. Being a successful MTT player requires the resilience of a cockroach and the patience of a monk. It is like knocking on a hundred doors until one finally opens. As big cashes come around fairly rarely, particularly in events with large fields, it can at times feel a bit like playing the lottery for hours on end. The natural reaction to this is a restless discomfort that causes the player to try to force his way to that massive stack. This usually results in busting unnecessarily. Most of the time, this busting doesn’t actually hurt you, because you were not going to cash anyway, but every now and then it costs you thousands of buy-ins! Next time you feel restless, remember – this could be one of those times the stars have aligned in your favor.

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Burn Out

MTTs can be long and exhausting. Try to stay energized with frequent healthy snacking, plenty of water consumption, and above all, inspiration! The inspired player is the one who does not lose touch with the magical hope of that big elusive cash. The inspired player stays energized because he has never fallen out of love with the game and stays connected to the real-life benefits that poker success entails for him. Whether it’s freedom, a lavish lifestyle, putting food on the table, or anything else, inspired players have a purpose and are far more likely to avoid burnout during longer events.

Early Game Spew

The early game feels hollow a lot of the time, as though the action has not really started yet. This feeling can lead to carelessness and over exuberance. A tight approach to the early game is universally accepted as correct due to how little chips are worth at this point, but how massively importance survival is. As the tournament progresses, the value of a big blind starts to increase rapidly. Having 40BBs when a big blind is worth 10x the monetary value, is much more important than trying to grab 200BB right at the start at the expense of your tournament life.

Fear of Not Cashing

This irrational phobia is all to do with the subconscious mind’s poor understanding of EV. Your brain gets attached to this one buy-in that you have invested because this is the tournament you are currently playing. The big picture is of course that successful players are those who score more large cashes and not those who creep into the money more often. Because humans do suffer from this hard wiring fault, your opponents will, on average, be tighter than they should be around the time of the bubble. Take advantage of this with ruthless aggression.

Poor Risk Selection

There are many times in MTTs where a risk that is profitable in absolute terms is actually a mistake in relative terms because it was likely that a better spot would arise. This sort of concept does not feature at all in games like ZOOM cash games but is highly prominent in MTTs. Take large risks that are lucrative compared with the likely spots of the near future, not ones that are just slightly better than break even.

Not Stealing Enough in the Later Stages

When you have made it deep into an MTT by winning the required succession of big pots, the small ones can seem rather insignificant. As the blinds ramp up, however, you will soon find yourself under pressure once again and will be forced into some precarious risks to stay alive. The way to reduce the risk of ending up in such a position is to frequently fuel your stack with small pots. Stealing in late position is a great way to achieve this, especially when there are some medium stacks in the blinds, who are not yet short enough to shove back, but are too short to call and play with post-flop freedom.

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Not 3-Betting Enough in the Later Stages

As we noted above, your opponents are incentivized to do a lot of stealing as the blinds increase. As a direct result, their opening ranges will usually become a lot wider than they were early on in the tournament. Consequently, our 3-Bet range needs to expand accordingly especially where we have position. Look out for spots where the effective stack size grants you a lot of leverage. For example, if Villain opens to 2.5BB on the CO and we find ourselves on the button with a semi-respectable hand like K5s we may want to re-steal depending on the effective stack size and the player type. If the former is 35BB, and the latter is not of the reckless variety, then 3-Betting looks good. If we make it 6BB we will be forcing Villain to flat out of position; fold, or make a very large and unappealing shove from his point of view.

Poor Bankroll Management

At times, scoring a big cash can go to a player’s head, but it is so important that you do not attribute the win solely to your own genius! Variance in poker is a very real thing. This is a game of both skill and luck. In the long run, you will experience phases in your MTT career where you go hundreds of tournaments without a big cash. You need the bankroll to handle that. Try to have 200+ buy-ins for the stakes you are playing at a bare minimum unless you want your career to be short-lived.

Lack of Observation

Usually, your starting table will be where you do battle for the foreseeable future. It is crucial that you figure out who is who as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, many players find themselves three hours into a tournament with only one or two reads on the line-up. For a serious MTT player, this is unacceptable. Try to take notes on hands in which you are a bystander and let no unusual play go without being noted. The notes box and color coding systems are perfect for these purposes.

Poor Time Management

A common theme amongst less experienced MTT players is starting tournaments at the wrong times. If you play poker in the evenings and work all day, it makes little sense to play until 4 am. You will simply burn out and miss out on the next day’s volume. In essence, you are trading tomorrow’s high-quality play for lower quality, tired play tonight. Research how long tournaments are likely to take before signing up and try to coordinate MTTs so that they never clash with non-poker issues that cannot be avoided.

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