How To Play And Win Live Poker Tournaments In New Jersey

Posted on September 1, 2016

[toc]New Jersey has always been a great place to play live poker tournaments.

The World Poker Tour has always had a big event in the Borgata in Atlantic City, which has created countless millionaires.

Now, with the advent of legal online poker in New Jersey, the Garden State will soon have even more opportunities for poker players to play live poker tournaments at their favorite New Jersey casinos.

Why, just last week, PokerStars announced a PokerStars Festival full of live tournaments to take place in New Jersey.

The New Jersey poker aficionado would be missing out if they didn’t take the time to head down to some live poker tournaments and try and play their way to big money. Here are some of our top tips for playing poker tournaments.

Basic tournament strategy

Even if you’re a competent cash game player, poker tournaments have their own little nuances and idiosyncrasies that may trip you up. It’s definitely easier for a good cash player to become a good tournament player than vice-versa, but there are still a few differences to watch out for.

Build up your stack…

The goal of a poker tournament is to play to win. Sure, it’s nice to make the money and lock up a profit, but your main goal should be to accumulate as many chips as you can.

Many players will make the mistake of trying to preserve their stack when they are above average, but this is incorrect. You should be using your chips to pressure opponents and keep stealing the blinds and antes.

After all, you’ll want to have every chip in the tournament in front of you by the end of the day.

… but be patient

However, you need to strike a balance between accumulating chips and playing patiently. You’re not going to win a six-hour tournament in the first twenty minutes of play.

Similarly, you might come across a situation that gives you a slim edge in a big pot; in a cash game, you wouldn’t hesitate before putting your chips in. In a tournament, though, you need to balance out the risk of winning a big stack against the risk of going broke.

Have you ever heard a poker player say that “you should wait for a better spot?” That’s what they meant. Remember that chips you lose are more valuable than chips you win.

Stack size strategy

Unlike in a cash game, where you can (and should) top up to the maximum buy-in whenever you can, poker tournament players have to be able to confidently play a variety of stack sizes. Plus, as the blinds go up, your stack shrinks!

Playing a super short stack (<10BBs)

At this point, you should be looking to get your chips in and hopefully double up with a huge range of hands. Even if you only manage to steal the blinds, that’s a stack increase of 15 percent or more. At this stage, regular raising is not an option: If you see someone with a stack of fewer than 10BBs make a raise that isn’t all-in, you can consider them a bad player.

Playing a short stack (10-19BBs)

At the higher end of this range, it is theoretically okay to make a regular preflop raise without moving all-in, but most people prefer to simply bet it all and avoid awkward postflop situations.

That said, you shouldn’t shove as many hands as you would with fewer than 10BBs and should be looking for a good spot to double up rather than trying to create one.

Playing a medium stack (20-30BBs)

This is a slightly awkward stack size to play. Below 20BBs, raises and folds become automatic and you’re looking to just go all-in. Above 30BBs, you can afford to play a bit loose.

With this stack, you’re in an in-between spot. The goal should of course be to increase your chips, but be careful of seeing too many flops without a strong hand.

Playing a big stack (>30BBs)

This is the best place to be. You can afford to open a wider range of hands because you can comfortably fold if someone plays back.

However, you have enough chips to use your big stack as leverage and put pressure on your shorter stacked opponents. The ideal situation to be in during a poker tournament is being a big stack against a table full of tight shorter stacks, stealing the blinds every hand.

Practice makes perfect: NJ online poker tournaments

It’s really tough to give a comprehensive guide to poker tournament strategy in one short article, but this has covered the absolute basics.

The best way to get better at playing poker tournaments is, well, to play poker tournaments. Fortunately for you, legal online poker in New Jersey makes it easier than ever to get a taste of poker tournament action, and players in New Jersey are among the lucky few to have regulated US online poker.

You can start out small, risking just a few dollars until you have a feel for the basics. After that, you can continue to build up an online bankroll and play progressively larger tournaments, or take your talents to the live arena.

Good luck!

Image credit: gary718 /

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Matt Perry

A veteran of the online gambling industry, Matt Perry has worn a number of hats since he first began working in online poker and iGaming in 2007. He currently writes for a variety of publications focused on legal online gambling, and in the past has served as an editor, copywriter, content manager and reporter.

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