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
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
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.