Tournaments are much different than regular ring games and so is the strategy. I wrote a few detailed guides about razz poker tournament strategy guide and strategy for razz poker sit and go games but I will go through a short summary of these here on the blog. Basically, a sit and go tournament works much the same way as a regular tournament. The only difference is that sit and go tourneys are inherently smaller scale contests while a regular tournament may accept 10,000 players or even more than 100,000 at a single time as you will find at Pokerstars. Also, regular tournaments start at a scheduled date and time whereas a sit and go starts immediately once the require number of people have registered and joined the event.
This page is about razz strategy when playing in these tournaments. The first thing you will notice is the very aggressive and reckless players betting away everything they have. One of the strategies you should do at the beginning of the round is to become a tight player and let these other reckless players drop out like flies for awhile. This happens in every single tournament where tons of people will drop out within the first few minutes of the game.
After about a half hour or so, many of the weak players are gone and players are warmed up and ready to loosen up a bit. Now there are two main goals in a tournament and the most important one is to make it to the bubble, which is where you “make it into the money”. Usually a tournament might pay out money to the top 100 people in a 1000 player tournament or so. This top 100 places is known as the bubble and these players will win enough money to recover their buy-in costs plus a small profit. The top 75 players may win twice as much money and the higher up you climb in the ladder, the more money you make.
So in razz poker or in any other type of poker tournament, the strategy is to become more conservative as you near the bubble. Tables will run extremely slowly as everyone wants to hang around long enough to make it into the money, then you can lose and still profit a little. It is always good to play when you have nothing to lose. A few things to take advantage of during this time of the game is to bluff and be more aggressive. Players are more concerned about not taking risks and risking being kicked out right before reaching the bubble, so they will fold. The goal is to steal the antes and blinds much easier. Note that you should do this when you have a decent amount of chips. If you have a short stack, the larger players will purposely attack you in order to “push you off the hill” and get closer to the bubble.
Once you reach the bubble, players obviously become much looser since they all make guaranteed money. You should still stay conservative and make it higher up the ladder once people become loose. There will be many players hanging on by a thread trying to get into the bubble and many of them will suddenly drop out soon after.
Eventually, you should make it to the final table. If you are playing razz and make it to the table in a large tournament, that is an impressive and amazing feat, specially if there are 10,000 players. I’ve done this before and it took over 5 hours to do! When you get to the final table, you will want to call only when you get the wheel cards (A-2-3-4-5) as starting hands. Be conservative until more people drop out. If you are losing and do not have many chips left, wait until you get these powerful hands and attack aggressively. Again, if the table is really tight and you are the chip leader, it might be wise to bluff and steal the antes. It just depends on what kind of players are there.
Once players drop out and you are nearly heads up, it may be wise to start bluffing again. Your chances of winning hands are best when there are fewer people playing. If there are tight players, keep being aggressive but not all the time though in case they finally do get that good hand. In a heads up situation, even sub-par starting hands and final hands can be good since there are only two people and the chances are higher that no one has a good hand. This happens a lot during heads up where people can become much looser. Still, you should stay smart and at least get some kind of hand before betting a ton of money. In the end, both players are going to win big.