Only One Person Wins a Poker Tournament
The title of this article may just win the obvious statement of the year award but the fact is that most players overlook the depth of meaning behind it. If you buy into a tournament and receive 1500 in chips and there are 1000 players then there are 1.5 million in chips in circulation. If there are ten players on the final table then this means that the average stack on that final table will have 150k in chips. This is 100 times your starting stack and so with rapid blind increases like what you get with online poker tournaments then it is clear that getting to the final table cannot be achieved merely by getting good hands.
Waiting for good hands is not a strong strategy if you want to win the event or get to the final table. There are two main reasons for this and it is because strong hands do not come often enough and when you get them then you may not even get the pay off. So players who play this way rarely reach final tables in large field events and the best they can hope for is a few cashes that serve nothing more than to keep them interested. Then once in a while they go deeper and maybe come 30th when their luck is really in but these are extremes.
However it is a finish like this that keeps this player still playing in this style. If you want to win the event then you will need 1.5 million in chips at the end and 150k as an average to reach the final table. This is not as severe as it sounds because you chip stack can really snowball the bigger it gets. For instance if you have say 20k and then get a triple up against two other similar stacks then you could be sitting on 60k. Another hand later on where you have aces against kings against another big stack could take you to 120k and then a few steals gives you an average sized stack for the final table.
So even though 150k is one hundred times your starting stack, you do not have to win one hundred pots to do it. However though the critical phase is getting your stack moving in the right direction and I believe that the better and more successful tournament players try to do this as quickly as possible. A player who can get to 20k faster has numerous advantages. Firstly he can get a really big stack far faster and also he can get access to dead money with big stacks faster as well. Another advantage is that they can then ride the increasing blind levels during the crucial middle stages of the tournament far better.
There is a huge and ongoing debate about the optimal tournament style but that kind of depends on what you are trying to achieve. If your goal is to win an event then you are going to need to risk your stack more frequently than you otherwise would if you were happy with just cashing.