15 BEST strategies that will improve your online Texas Holdem Tournament play.

Online Texas Holdem tournament strategies are all over the web, here I lay out the basics and in laymen terms 15 of the strategies I use to place in the money in most of the tournaments I play.

Online Texas Holdem has become a mainstay in recent years due to the popularity of the World Series of Poker and other similar televised events.  I will share with you 15 strategies that will help improve your odds of placing higher than you have been.  Take a look below at each of these online Texas Holdem Poker strategies and you may improve your game play. 

I play a lot of poker online. Probably too much but it is something I enjoy.  These are strategies that I employ and they help me regularly place in the money.  So, let’s get down to it.

1. Play free tournaments first

If you are a beginner this is key, it will also help you get a feel for the website. Learn the table setup and where the bet, call, and check buttons are.

Players in a free Holdem Tournament typically play looser than in a paid tournament but it is always a smart move to play free when just joining a website.

Later in this blog I talk about labeling your opponents. I do not label people when playing free tournaments because they play too loose and have nothing to lose. In turn, they play differently in paid tournaments.  If you plan on playing only free tournaments then label away. 

Online Texas Holdem Tournament

2. Avoid Distractions

Choose a time and place when you are not likely to be disturbed during play.  Depending on the number of players in the tournament, it may last for a few hours but could go longer.  I have played online Holdem tournaments that have gone over 6 hours.  Make sure you have the time to commit.  Nothing is worse than playing a tournament, making it deep into the crowd, and having to leave because you did not plan right.

Calm female employee practicing yoga and meditating at workplace, ignoring multiracial colleagues shouting at her, blaming for business failure, woman relieving work stress. Emotion control concept

3. Don't get a PUI

Avoid drinking alcohol when playing in your tournaments.  There are a few reasons behind this and the first one is obvious; it clouds your judgment.

An article from Alcohol.org states “Alcohol also decreases some of the activity of the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is what helps you to think clearly and rationally, and it is involved in your decision-making abilities. When you drink, alcohol makes it harder for the prefrontal cortex to work as it should, disrupting decision-making and rational thought. In this way, alcohol prompts you to act without thinking about your actions.”

 If you act without thinking in online Texas Holdem tournaments, you are bound to lose the hand and the tournament.

An unseen and often overlooked effect of drinking alcohol while playing is a tournament is having to go to the bathroom.  Most tournaments have scheduled breaks on the hour, every hour. If you have to “go” you may be squirming in your seat or even worse, running to the restroom and missing a premium set of cards. 

Bottom line, laying off the alcohol while playing will improve your gameplay.



Cuban cigar based on poker chips. Whiskey bottle and glass with cubed ice on a wooden background

4. Know where the bubble is

The bubble is a term used in Texas Holdem tournaments that describes the next person to be eliminated and will not make the payouts but everyone else will.  If you enter a tournament with 1000 players and the top 99 get paid then the bubble is 100.

It is important to know where the bubble is so you can avoid fatal decisions.  I find when the bubble is getting closer, many of the players start to tighten up. When tightening up, some of the short stacks begin shoving all in attempting to eliminate a shorter stack so they can make the cut.

I watch my position in the tournaments, play very closely and always know where the bubble is.

This is one of the best online Texas Holdem tournament strategies.


soap bubble and a males hand with needle to let it pop

5. Take Advantage of "dead" players

Recently, I played a tournament which required registering days prior.  When the tournament started, I was put on a 9 handed table which included 7 dead players and one live player.  I eliminated the live player quickly, then pushed a small raise every hand and took all the chips of the dead 7 players.

How it works: When people register for a tournament, days or even weeks before the start time, they tend to forget about it.  The website starts everyone that has registered, even if the person is not logged in.  After the first round of betting, all players not logged in will have their ante and blinds forced in.  If you are in position and realize the players are “dead”, a small raise will automatically take the blinds. If there are any antes on the table, the raise will award these to you, also.

Be careful! You should only raise the minimum if you are employing this strategy, because if a “dead” person remembers about the tournament and logs in they may call that small raise. This has happened to me a few times but only costs a fraction of all the blinds I had already stolen from them.  Raise small and pay attention.


Poker player fell asleep

6. Don't hold grudges

When playing Texas Holdem tournaments, you will not win every hand you play.  If you take a “bad beat” with a hand you thought you should have won for a significant amount of your stack, do not hold a grudge against the player that took your chips.  You will end up trying to play only that person instead of paying attention to the rest of the table.  Remember, the goal is to get everyone’s chips not just get your chips back.  It is important to let it go and move on with the rest of the tournament play. 

This is one of the online Texas Holdem tournament strategies that I try to employ onine and live.

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7. NEVER show your cards

This one is all-important.

When playing online Texas Holdem tournaments, you do not have the same information about the other players as you do in a live game.  You cannot see their eyes, gestures, or get a feel for what they might be holding. The same is true for the other players at the table who are thinking the same about you.  They cannot see you so do not give them any more information about your playing style.

There are circumstances when you win a hand or where you are all in with other players that your cards will be automatically shown to all.  However, there are other times when you have the option to show or “muck”, always muck.  When you show your cards, you give your opponents a sense of how you play.  Even if it is a really good bluff and you are proud of it, keep it to yourself. You can lie about the cards, in the chatbox, if you have to.  Poker players are liars when at the table.  

Log in to your poker site and look for the Auto Muck setting, set it and forget it.

8. Play premium hands

AA, KK, AKs, AKo, etc…

If it is worth playing, it is worth raising.  I typically launch the standard raise, which is a 3 bet (3x the big blind or 3x the latest raise), with premium hands.  Raising here, in a good position with good cards, pushes out the “fish”.  I really do not want to be playing someone who may be holding a 72o just in case the flop falls as 227 or 772 rainbow. If you raise, it is more likely the person holding 72 folded and the person that called you is holding a decent hand.  This gives you an easier decision when betting.

Online Texas Holdem Tournament
Casino Poker Blackjack Play Cards  - 6171862 / Pixabay

9. Try to double your chip stack early on

It never fails, early on in every tournament there is one person at every table that shoves all-in on every hand. Do not be that person, but look for the person shoving all in and get their chips.  Wait until you catch good cards in a good position and shove if they shove.  This is not ideal as you could lose your chip stack and be out of the tournament. On the other hand, if you do double up, you can sit back, wait for your good cards in a good position and make better plays.

Some tournaments offer Add-ons at the first break or after the first rebuy period is over. I cannot for the life of me figure out how some people do not take advantage of this.  If an Add-on is offered snag it.  The extra chips offered, in the Add-on, could be the difference between you making the bubble and being in the money or not.

stack of poker chips on a blue table on a black background

10. Patience pays

If you have taken my advice and doubled your stack or more, be very patient from here on out.  Holdem Tournaments can last hours and sometimes we just want to win it all quickly to be done with it.  Wait for your cards and for your opponents to make mistakes, they will eventually. 

11. Know your position

Betting and calling out of position can cost you but betting and calling in position means the person you are calling is out of position.  More than likely, you will be able to push them out if they have marginal cards.  See my blog on Positions. 

Close-up hands of a poker player checking cards in a casino.

12. Don't hang on to your favorite cards if they aren't good cards

When I first started playing poker, I won quite a few hands with J2o. This led me to playing every J2 that fell my way. Every once in a while, I would win with them, but after some time, I started to evaluate the hands I played with J2 and realized I lost way more hands than I had won.  Although I was winning sometimes, with that hand, I was still playing them.  I no longer play J2 unless I am in the big blind and the board is folded to me.  Even then, I am very cautious after the flop falls. 

One time, while playing a cash game, I had KK and raised the 3 bet to get one caller.  The flop fell 772 and he raised.  It felt like I was playing against a solid AK or maybe even AA so I called and, on the turn, a K fell giving me a set.  I pushed and he pushed.  Turns out he played his favorite hand out of position and I got burned when he turned over 72o.   I crushed him about an hour after that and he had the same cards.  I can assure you he loses more than he wins by playing his “favorite hand”.

The bottom line here is, if your favorite hand is AA then hold onto it.  If it is marginal cards, because of a win here and there, dump the cards and move on to the next hand.

Bad poker gamble or unlucky hand concept with player going all in with 2 and 7 (two and seven) offsuit also called unsuited, considered the worst hand in poker preflop (before the flop is revealed)

13. Label your opponents

Every poker player has a unique style. Most are either tight players with a good range, mid-range players with good to marginal cards, and then there are the fish.

Just like every poker player is unique so are the poker websites but almost all give you the option to click on the player and make notes about their playing style.  Some even give you the option to color code the player with a small red, yellow, or green marker. The color coding, for me, is ideal because I mark them accordingly when I watch them play.  Red is for the tight players, yellow for my mid-range opponents and green is for the pretty little fish that I love playing when I have cards in position.

You are the only one that can see your notes on a particular player, when you and the player are active at the same table. So, label away but make sure you watch closely and label accordingly.

Be honest with yourself when labeling and it will help you in the long run because if you play a lot of poker you are likely to run into most of the same people again at a table. 

I would love to see what people have me labeled as on the sites I play tournaments on.

14. Use the clock --- Or not

Depending on which site you are playing, on the clock may be different but most sites have a 30-second bet clock with an additional 30 to 45 seconds more time clock if you choose to use it.

Using the clock and all the time allowed for you during a Holdem tournament allows more time for other players at other tables to be eliminated.  That is the good side to using all of the clock.

The bad side to using all of the clock is that the more time you take the clock for the blinds to go up is still running.  Meaning you will have to pay a higher blind possibly every 2 to 3 times you see a set of cards in the blind. 

Watch your chip stack, the clock, and your tournament position in relation to the bubble and decide carefully.  If I have a sizeable chip stack and am close to the bubble, I will typically use all time allotted to me to make my decision to bet, call, or fold.

Hourglass on laptop computer concept for time management

15. Bluff cautiously but bluff none the less

A well-timed bluff in a good position can sometimes pay big dividends.  If you have read this entire blog post, you should have a good feeling about your opponents and your position.  Be careful not to bluff too often, as you will be called eventually, and just like you are watching your opponents, they are watching you. 

Bonus Thought

Poker is not charity. 

I sometimes get involved in freeroll tournaments that pay off a decent amount of cash to the final table.  With a free or cheap buy-in, I sometimes feel the people I am playing with may need the cash more than me.  That feeling only lasts a few seconds. I center myself and continue to crush them one by one.  If they cannot afford to be playing poker, then they should not be playing poker. I am in it to win it.


Online Holdem Poker tournaments are fun and the objective is to get all the chips.  Double up early, have patience, play good cards in a good position and you should see your placing in these tournaments going up and up as you get the hang of it.

Please do not ever play over your head.

Protect your chip stack, have fun, and win big.

I hope these online Texas Holdem tournament strategies help you place in many tournaments. 

If you really want to learn more about poker check out our friends at Upswing for all the poker training courses and tools you need and even some nice free resources.