Basic MTT Strategy
What is an MTT?
An MTT (Multi-Table Tournament) is a scheduled online tournament that will start regardless of how many runners register (this is different to a multi-table Sit 'n Go which starts as soon as all seats are filled).
MTTs can run from 10-10,000 players and will follow a strict blind structure. Full details can be found in the tournament lobby, including details of blinds and rebuys (if any); study it before you play just so you're clear on the payout system and how the blinds increase later on.
Most MTTs just pay out straight cash, but others give players the chance to win major live event packages or holidays.
With most MTTs, you will start with a huge stack compared to the blinds. You may start out with 10,000 chips and the blinds at 25/50, making your stack 200 big blinds. That can be a large stack to manage if you're used to Sit 'n Gos or micro-stakes cash games.
With the big stack-to-blinds ratio, it's important to play tight early on. More confident players will start MTTs the way they finish them: like a juggernaut. They will raise the majority of pots, steal blinds when they can, and very slowly build a stack. They might go through a lot of swings too, however, with their stacks fluctuating from chip leader to shortie.
Try to avoid the style: sticking to a tight, no-nonsense strategy early on is key. That means playing solid hands in good positions. When in Early Position (EP, seats 2-5), Middle Position (MP, seats 6-8) or Late Position (LP, seats 9-10), stick to big pairs like Q-Q, K-K and A-A. In LP, you can also raise unraised pots with K-Q, Q-J, J-10 suited etc. or even throw in some medium pairs like 8-8 or 9-9.
In the early and middle positions consider just calling with small and medium pairs like 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7, and you can comfortably raise in all positions with A-K.
As for raises, a raise of 2.5-3x the big blind is standard so as not to scare off too many opponents but also to attract at least one call.
As the blinds continue to rise, the average stack will also increase. However, the stacks will also become pretty small in comparison to the blinds.
Your strategy now changes depending on your stack size. If you're short, tighten up and pick your spots sensibly. Try to keep at or around the average stack if possible, and don't be afraid to go all-in if you think an opponent might bite.
At this stage, you may find yourself with a 're-shoving' stack, that is, a stack of around 20-30x the big blind.
Re-shoving can be a good strategy as it wins you valuable blinds and antes, and scares off marginal hands. If you're used to Sit n' Gos this will be a familiar play.
A re-shove is an all-in move over the top of an earlier 3x or 4x raise. With 20 or 30 big blinds you don't want to simply re-raise and lose valuable chips if your opponent calls and out-draws you on the flop. Re-shoves are great for stealing chips pre-flop at these vital middle stages.
On the Bubble
The bubble is the place just before the money places start. If you go out 'on the bubble', therefore, you were agonizingly one spot away from the money.
One thing you will notice at the bubble stage, especially if the lowest money payout is particularly generous, is that the play slows way down. This can be your chance to strike: as other players hold on and wait for the short stacks to go bust or blind themselves out, you can take advantage by pushing through a few select raises.
With little resistance, after all, bubble raises and all-in shoves can be good for stealing a few blinds and antes.
If you're the short stack yourself, there's little strategy involved: you're all-in or you're folding. Try to avoid other small stacks who may feel they have some value in trying to bust you themselves. Remember, the reward for busting a short stack is far greater than winning a pot off a big stack.
You're in the money: congratulations! Now your aim is to hit that final table and the first place.
You'll notice those short stacks who were so tight before the bubble will go all guns blazing now to accumulate chips themselves. Sit tight against the smaller stacks and don't be afraid to move all-in against them with very premium hands.
Remember, when there are just two or three tables left, you'll be short-handed (only 5 or 6 players per table) which means big pocket pairs and suited connectors are rarer and therefore hold more value.
At the final table, the remaining players join up and you'll be 9 or 10-handed again. This is the time to tighten up again. There may be a better spread of hands being dealt out and so you don't want to get outdrawn or suckered.
Consider avoiding the biggest stacks, unless you have a very solid starting hand, as they will be raising a big percentage of their hands. Instead, start eyeing up which short stacks you want to take out.
Position, as always, is key. If you're "down wind" from a short stack (i.e. you act after them) you can apply some well-timed pressure by setting them all-in and asking them the big questions.
The heads-up phase can be tricky for some players to grasp. After all, you may rarely get a chance to battle heads-up in a big MTT, especially in big fields.
Position is key when heads-up. The dealer button bets first, not last, and is at a distinct disadvantage as you're second to act. However, with some aggressive re-raises, you can get a lot of hands through.
If opening, consider raising with ANY picture card and any pair. If your opponent comes over the top and re-raises, you can let it go if you're not confident. Stack sizes are important in heads-up, of course. There's no point playing too many hands and allowing a short-stacked opponent to 'catch up' and quickly rebuild his stack
Find the Best MTTs Online
With our basic tips, you can attack those MTTs with more confidence and bring home the bacon. Online MTTs are an art form, and while we may not have turned you into Phil Ivey overnight, hopefully these simple strategies will see you OK in the lower-stakes games.
Top MTT Tips
1 - Set The Alarm Clock
Tournaments are all about patience and taking your time. The best MTTs on the web can take all night, so plan ahead and sleep in the day if your best games take place in the small hours.
2 - Hunt Out Overlay
Most big sites offer regular big-money MTTs with guaranteed prizepools. However, the more popular rooms will meet their guarantees (attract enough players). If the required player turnout isn't met, you'll get 'overlay'; effectively, free cash left over from the guarantee.
Start doing your homework and investigating where the best overlay MTTs are. They're key to helping you win lots of extra free cash.
3 - Learn Patience
MTTs are a marathon, not a sprint, so learn to sit tight and don't get bored if the hands aren't going your way.
It's also vital to pay attention to players around you. You may meet several players more than once as you're moved tables during the MTT, so study everyone and take notes on strong players in necessary.
4 - Learn to Multi-Table
A single MTT can be dull at times, so use that shiny, new monitor you just blew on and open up a few more tables. Having two or three cash games running behind an MTT are good for the slow periods and help you build up a bankroll faster at the same time.