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OTB #019: Where should you start when learning MTT strategy?

Updated: Mar 25

If you were building a house, you would start by constructing a solid foundation. This helps provide a stable base that you can then build the rest of the house on.

When it comes to learning tournament poker strategy, it's exactly the same.

At first, you should develop excellent foundations (or fundamentals) that you can then add to as you build out the rest of your strategy.

And that starts with learning, understanding and implementing solid preflop ranges.

Today I want to discuss two preflop areas that every serious MTT player should focus on regardless of skill level:

1. Raise first in

2. BB defence

Raise first in

The opportunity to open the pot happens very frequently, so you should know exactly what your opening ranges look like:

  • at all stack sizes

  • from all positions

  • all the different stages of the tournament

Most of the recreational players that I start working with either raise too much from the earlier positions or not enough from the later positions.

And sometimes they do both.

There should be a very obvious pattern of opening less in earlier position and much more in late position and the trend should go upwards as you move from EP round to the BTN.

Take a look at your BTN raise first in percentage right now. If it's less than 47% then you're opening too tight.

If you don't have access to a database to analyse your stats, pull up any tool like Flopzilla or Equilab where you can visualise ranges and take a look at what 47% of hands looks like.

Does your opening range from the BTN look anything like that? Or are you missing quite a few of the hands in that range?

Similarly, your EP RFI shouldn't be much higher than 17%.

And if you see that there's no clear trend of opening more and more hands as you get closer to the BTN, then you know you've got some work to do.

If you want to learn more about how to identify other preflop (and postflop) leaks quickly so you can focus on fixing things, join Train & Play Like The Pros.

BB defence

After raise first in, facing an open is another area you should work on and, more specifically, when you're in the BB.

Again, most of the recreational players I start working with have a very clear leak in this area: they fold way too much facing late position opens.

And the way they should fix this is by calling more and 3-betting more.

Here are the cEV frequencies for folding, calling and 3-betting vs a BTN open at 10bb-100bb:

Check your own BB vs BTN open stats. If you're folding more than 23% of the time then you're folding too much.

Facing a minraise at 30bb and under you can see how little folding happens in a cEV world.


Raise first in and facing an open are the two preflop spots you should focus on first because they happen most frequently.

If you're a newer player, focus on identifying the leak and then drilling the spot to fix.

If you're a more advanced player, focus on understanding the adjustments you need to make as you progress through the tournament so you know how to play a big stack, medium stack and shortstack at important points like the bubble and the final table.

Good luck.


Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:

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Poker On The Mind: Listen to my podcast with Dr Tricia Cardner as we discuss peak poker performance and tournament poker strategy.

Train & Play Like The Pros: Join the next cohort of my flagship program that will take you from amateur to training and playing like the pros in the next 8 weeks. There are only 12 spots for each cohort, and when they're gone, they're gone and I close enrolment until the next one.

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