The first time the author, Amanda Botfeld, ever entered a poker tournament, she won first place.

“It was the rush of a lifetime – and you can experience it, too.”

Her rapid success included landing a book deal for A Girl’s Guide to Poker one year later. This achievement was due to hunting down the best poker strategy tips for beginners.

A few effective changes highlighted in this 888poker article below transformed her game overnight.

1) Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Dominate

If you're new to the game, you might even be unclear on cash game vs tournament poker. There are crucial differences in gameplay and temperament (poker tourneys are not for the faint-hearted!)

Poker tournaments are an elimination game. You play down to a winner. Typically, a late registration phase allows for rebuys if you run out of chips, but it eventually closes.

After that point, “getting stacked” (poker term for “eliminated”) is final.

It’s a fierce battle of survival –

  • Can you secure a spot at the coveted final table?
  • Will you emerge victorious as the sole survivor?

That’s the ultimate goal – outlast the opposition.

Since the events are more competitive by nature, you need a strong stomach and a steely demeanour.

Poker tournaments are much more aggressive than cash games.

Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Dominate ALL-IN
Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Dominate ALL-IN

You need to be ready to dominate – very seldom will enough good poker hands fall into your lap for you to coast to the final table.

Top of the list for poker tournament strategy tips for beginners is - Go all-in!

You need to constantly push the envelope even with weaker hands. The best way to apply pressure is to shove all your chips in the middle, regardless of your cards.

Before Amanda entered that first fateful poker tourney (and a long time before writing her poker book), she picked up a series of novels and how-to guides to find other poker tournament strategy tips for beginners.

Most of the books were complicated and underwhelming. But one stood out and upped Amanda's game–

Kill Phil: The Fast Track to Success in No-Limit Hold 'em Poker Tournaments.

Basically, it said to go all-in… A LOT.

It is better to be over-aggressive than under-aggressive.

  • Tactically, you’ll jam your chip stack constantly.
  • Temperamentally, you need to relish the power play.

This strategy becomes more nuanced as you evolve. You’ll temper the general aggression into a few well-timed postflop bluffs and preflop shoves.

But the personality requirement remains the same – you must enjoy applying pressure.

2) Poker Tournament Strategy Tips for Beginners – Hand Selection

Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Hand Selection
Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Hand Selection

The fastest way to accelerate your poker career is through preflop raise first in (RFI) charts. You can find them on 888Poker here.

The author, Amanda, used to study this 888poker tool before clinching her first tournament win! Believe it or not, she converted these charts into over 180 color-coded flashcards.

The cards indicated which hands to play in and which seats at the table.

The most critical of the poker tournament strategy tips for beginners is this:


In most cases, you don’t want to look down at Ace-Three or King-Seven of diamonds and think these are playable hands. That thinking is a losing proposition.

Unless you are in late position when most of the other players have already folded, these weaker poker combos are asking for trouble. You’re going broke with King-Seven when your opponent has a hand like King-Queen.

(Note: there is a difference between going all-in with these hands as a semi-bluff vs calling raises with these hands for value.)

Overall, you should only play around 15-20% of the hands you are dealt.

That means you can expect to fold at least 80% of the time!

Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Fold More!
Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Fold More!

The key to winning is to be more disciplined than your opponents.

Most people won’t be able to resist two suited cards and will play way too many hands.

The secret to success is playing very few hands very aggressively.

Start by mastering the preflop RFI charts. They will tell you exactly which cards to play at every seat at the table (because it makes an enormous difference).

You should play a different range of hands when you are one of the first players to act vs one of the last to act.

It is a huge advantage to go last in poker.

You get to see what your opponents have done in front of you – revealing more information about their hand strength on the poker board. So, you are less likely to be surprised by someone waking up with a better hand.

The concept of “position” can be confusing initially and takes time to master. Adjusting the cards you play based on preflop RFI charts will help in the long run.

Lay a solid foundation now for advanced manoeuvres later.

3) Poker Tournament Strategy Tips for Beginners – Payouts

Most of the time, you will walk away with zero dollars when you enter a poker tournament. Don’t fret; this result is typical – only the top 10-15% of players get paid.

But when you win, you win big. You can even make 100x your investment!

The final poker tournament strategy tip for beginners is money management.

Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Payouts
Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Payouts

We’re not limiting this section to bankroll management. Play what you can afford and recognise that the more players you face, the less likely you are to win.

Even highly skilled players succumb to this variance. It is much easier to beat 100 players than 1,000.

  • The larger your average tournament field, the more buy-ins you need to have handy.
  • Focus on maximising your winnings.

Amanda was incredibly lucky in her first poker tournament because the guy who took second place was stubborn. it’s common to “make a deal” or, in poker lingo a “chop” - splitting the money proportionately rather than battling it out to a final winner.

Sometimes, people will chop three, four, or five ways! Don’t get into the habit of doing this. It was a godsend that her heads-up opponent was short-sighted and discouraged Amanda from falling into this trap.

The big money in poker tournaments is always at the top. You need to place first, second, or third to realise a significant profit. Otherwise, you may cash but still not be in the green.

  • You’ll be eliminated nearly 80% of the time you play poker tournaments.
  • Your wins must be at a high enough margin to compensate for the losses.

Let’s say you play a $20 tournament. A minimum cash (“min-cash”) might be in the vicinity of $30-$40. Play this event for a week, and your one min-cash won’t withstand the times you are eliminated before the payouts.

  • You need to shoot for victory.
  • Winning $2,000 once will go much further than winning even $40 ten times.

This calculation is why you should avoid making deals and chops generally.

Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Chops
Poker Tournament Strategy for Beginners –  Chops

Other players might criticise you for this – many local tournament players think chops are automatic. They don’t want to spend all day and night playing. Tournaments take hours and are uncomfortable at a short-handed table with fewer opponents.

Perhaps they have little or no experience battling one-on-one (“heads up”).

Instead, they’ll propose splitting the winnings based on current chip stacks.

Only take the deal if you are earning near second-place money or more.

Chops are never decided by majority rule. If one player refuses, it’s game on, and the tournament continues. So, you have room to negotiate, however.

The author was once in a poker tournament where all the players were desperate to chop. They offered Amanda fifth-place money, commensurate with her chip stack. She refused.

She insisted she would only take a deal for a second-place payout. Eventually, they agreed!

Never be afraid to leverage your negotiating skills to engineer a more favourable outcome.

The real jewel of poker tournament strategy tips for beginners is to always strive for victory.

Go for gold, and don’t hold back.

Amanda is the author of the book A Girl's Guide to Poker, dedicated to making poker friendly and accessible to everyone. In 2021, she was a World Series of Poker final-tablist where she and her father took third place in the WSOP tag team event.