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David Sklansky's Tournament System



David Sklansky's Tournament System for Beginners - A while back I read Tournament Poker for Advanced Players, by David Sklansky. There was a system or strategy for people who are totally new to tournament play that he suggested in the book that I thought was pretty interested. I describe and discuss the David Sklansky system here.

David Sklansky's Tournament System for Beginners

One of the criticisms I sometimes see of no limit holdem being the game of choice for many tournaments is the ability of players to negate a lot of the "poker-playing" my moving all-in preflop. Since this eliminates stuff like reading the texture of the board, reading your opponents, and making decisions on the flop, the turn, and the river, some poker players think that no limit is less of a "pure" poker game than pot limit holdem.

One example of an all-in or fold preflop strategy in a tournament is David Sklansky's tournament system that he outlines in his book Tournament Poker for Advanced Players. (Which is an excellent read, by the way.)

How the System Works

This system is entirely focused on preflop play.

If there is a raise in front of you, then you go all-in if you have any of the following hands:

  • A pair of aces
  • A pair of kings
  • Ace king suited

If you have anything else in your hand, and someone has raised in front of you, then you're supposed to fold.

If no one has raised in front of you, then you play a little bit looser. You're going to go all in with any pair, any suited connector bigger than 34 suited, and ace - little card suited, and any ace king.

Otherwise you're going to fold preflop.

The goal for this system is to level the playing field against the player who have the experience and know-how to out-maneuver you at other points in the tournament. Many tournament players will fold hands as good as pocket jacks in the face of an all-in raise.

Some Thoughts on This System

I don't remember exactly what the guidelines for playing the blinds were, but there were guidelines for that in the book, but I think that this system is possibly as good a way as any for a brand new player to attack a multi table no limit or maybe even a single table no limit tournament. On the other hand, I don't think it takes much practice or skill to improve upon this basic system quite a bit.

In terms of simplicity, in fact, I can't think of a better strategy for a beginning tournament player. (And I mean a total beginner.) The reason the system works is that it forces other players to make very hard decisions before the flop, and eliminates a lot of the more strategic decisions where an experienced player can just plain out-play a newbie.

In terms of expected value, I think that other tournament guidelines are definitely a good idea. The strategy for sit and go tournaments that I've outlined on this site, for example, are not much more complicated than this beginner system of Sklansky's, but I think it's probably more effective.

The Refined System

Sklansky actually presents a more refined version of this system that takes into account the size of the blinds which is pretty good, but is also not nearly as simple to follow through with. It involved calculating how many people had limped in before you and scoring your hand strength versus the size of the blinds versus the number of people who limped in. I tried using the "advanced" version of the system, and I didn't like it.

In fact, it was easier for me to just learn how to play poker for real.

If you like this article, then you'll probably also be interested in the following:

How to Play Sit and Go Tournaments - A guide to this popular new form of poker tournaments.

Where to Play Poker Tournaments Online - A guide to some of the best places for poker tournaments on the internet.

Texas Holdem SnG (Sit and Go) Strategy - Learn how to win a consistently high percentage of the SnG tournaments you play online.

This page was last updated on January 5, 2006.