Want To Win A Shoot Out? DON’T Play Poker!

Posted March 8, 2011 by Andrew in Tips

I’ve been playing some multi-stage Texas Hold’em shoot-out poker tournaments lately. More importantly, I’ve been winning many of them! It occurred to me that the reason I was doing so well at these tournaments was that I was employing different strategies and altering my game play accordingly to adjust to the new playing environment. I also have a strange warm-up regimen that ignores online poker altogether! Read on…

For those of you who don’t know, a “Shoot-out” tournament is a table of usually 6 or 10 players who play until there is one winner. As players lose out, the number of players dwindles at the table without being replaced. Once there is a winner for the table, the winner (or top two at the table) wins the tournament or moves on to “Round 2”. The Round 2 table follows the same format except that every player at the Round 2 table was a Round 1 winner at various shoot-out tables.

Again, the last player left either wins the whole thing (if it’s a 2-round tournament) or moves on to Round 3 (and so on). Some shoot-out tournaments are one round, while most are three or even five rounds. Usually, there is some sort of buy-in at Round 1 for the shoot-out tournament to secure your spot at the table. Players who lose all their money (set at the start of the shoot-out) are eliminated regardless of what round they are in.

There are several important aspects to a shoot-out that you must understand and master in order to do well and hopefully win your tourney! Let’s use the example of a 10-player, 3-round, shoot-out tournament.

Here would be some tips to keep in mind:

  • In multi-round shoot-outs, there is always a flow of “recklessness” to “caution” as you go from Round 1 to Round 3 (using our example). That means that in Round 1, you’ll see half the table or more go All-In on the very first hand with no correlation to the strength of their hands. It’s just a dumb luck play to win to have the biggest pot at the start of the game and coast to Round 2. You see this a lot in the free-money/play chips shoot-out tournaments. Prepare for this. As a rule, I NEVER go All-in, even if I have A A, since it’s inevitable that someone with a 2 3 will catch an unlikely straight or a flush and as quickly as I’ve entered the tournament I’m eliminated.
  • The only exception to the above would be if I was in the big blind position and of a 10 person table only 1 or 2 players called the All-in. If I have very strong pocket cards, then I might take the chance and go All-in as well. But if half the table or more are calling the All-in bet, it’s best to stay out. The advantage for you is that half the players or more will be immediately eliminated as there will likely be only one hand winner.
  • In later rounds, you won’t see a lot of players going All-in. Why? Because it’s harder to win Round 2 and Round 3. Use this knowledge to your advantage. I often correctly estimate that my Round 2/3 opponents are playing conservatively so I press them with higher bets on so-so hands only to watch them fold while I steal the pot. And when an opponent plays his/her hand strongly right out of the gate in later rounds, it’s extremely likely that it’s a powerful hand, so be cautious!
  • Finally, restraint is your friend. I often win at these because I’m intentionally slow. I play conservatively at first and let others get eliminated in the initial frenzy (seen in the beginning of all rounds really). Sometimes, when I’m at heads-up play (ie. only me and another player left at the table), I’ll play a really weak hand right to the end just to throw my opponent off that I’m a bluffer. Then I wallop him/her when a strong hand emerges.

Last, I mentioned my unorthodox prep for a shoot-out tournament. The pace of a shoot-out is pretty fast. I said it requires a different style of play. In order to adjust to and dominate shoot-outs, I almost never play poker immediately beforehand. It’s true. Instead, I’ll go to a favourite online casino sites like partycasino.com – a place with a ton of various casino games in addition to poker.  It’s critical to shift your mind away from the game right before you jump into it. I happen to love slots, so I’ll play some intense coin for awhile on online slots and maybe finish up with some Blackjack or other table games.

Then, I play the shoot-out. And I usually win.

About the Author


Andrew Keyes is a poker enthusiast, a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant. You can visit to get poker articles along with winning poker tips, tested poker strategies, the latest poker news, free poker tools, cool poker resources, and more! Visit today and you can download some of the best poker bots for automating your poker play!