The game starts before the first hand is dealt. Many variables must be taken into consideration in order to be a successful MTT player. From the time you glance at the tournament schedule to the time you sit down at the table, several considerable +EV and -EV decisions have already been made. It’s important to understand how this decision-making matrix plays out. Today I’m going to discuss some of the things I take into consideration before I sit down at the table.

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”  -Sun Tzu

The first thing you have to do is find a tournament schedule. Nowadays, there are so many different poker tours that this may seem like a daunting task. You’ve got the WSOPc, WPT, HPT, MSPT, and a ton of local events to choose from. In my opinion, provides the most detailed list of tournaments worldwide. It shouldn’t be hard to find something you like.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” -Sun Tzu

Now take a look at the structure. Does it skip levels? If so, does it provide longer levels and/or deeper starting stacks to compensate? Is it a reentry tournament or a freeze-out? What is the payout structure? What is the player pool distribution? How large is the buy-in? Do you need to sell or swap action?

Sun Tzu Poker Quote

I rarely play tournaments with buy-ins that add up to more than 1% of my bankroll. I never sell action. I rarely buy action because the only people worth staking are the ones that don’t need backers. I only swap with people that are capable of winning the tournament. I always get a text confirmation for a written record and I always get tax info before I square up with someone. Many poker players are lazy, unreliable, untrustworthy people and I treat them as such until proven otherwise. But when I find a top-notch, trustworthy player, I do everything I can to solidify the relationship because…

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”  -Sun Tzu

Next, you have to consider logistics. Take an Uber to the airport when possible. Find an economy parking lot when Uber isn’t an option. Find dirt cheap flights by using Use for booking last minute flights and hotels. Use for extended stay options. Use for finding local dining. Use for local entertainment. Then consider the expenses.

“Raising a host of a hundred thousand men and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people and a drain on the resources of the State.” -Sun Tzu

I always fly to my location a day early to make sure I get a good night’s sleep before a big event. Then I wake up early, eat a good breakfast, and review my game plan for the event. I always show up on time because the early stages of the tournament have the highest number of weak players for me to exploit. I also never stand in line with a distribution of top-notch players because contrary to popular belief, seating assignments aren’t random.

“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” -Sun Tzu

I have a friend that takes this belief a step further. This summer he registered for all of the WSOP events 30 minutes late, walked in, took a look at his table, and unregistered if he didn’t like the lineup. He’s the same guy that will find his table, initiate a conversation with someone nearby, and chat until the button passes his seat to make sure he gets as many free hands as possible. Say what you want about his methods, but his results speak for themselves.

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”  -Sun Tzu

These are just a handful of things you can do to boost your ROI. If you’d like more tips and tricks, head over to One last thing, keep in mind that you will still experience a tremendous amount of variance playing MTT’s competitively, even if you employ all of these tactics flawlessly. It’s simply the nature of the beast. Just never forget that…

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” -Sun Tzu

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