Final table poker has
its own set of methods and tactics, and a good player knows that things
are going to change after each player is knocked out. After a couple of
final table showings, you quickly learn that a few adjustments to your
game will be the difference between eighth place and third or better.
When you find yourself
sitting at a final table you need to realize that this moment is a very
crucial one. It's a moment where you should pause and readjust your
game. The game is going to change again and again until the tournament
is over. Don't get wrapped up in the thrill of the moment. The next few
decisions are the most important ones you will make all day. There are
a couple of things that should be on your mind at this time.
The first thing to look
for is the big stack. This player will look to push you around. If you
get head to head against the big stack, you want to have some good
cards; then you will likely have the best of it. And expect to get some
If you are the big
stack, you should try and force your opponents to commit early to their
hands. Push them around with big bets.
Next is your stack. If
you are below the average stack, you may need to decide to
“play for third place”. Playing for third place
means that you're are going to try and make it as far as possible in
the tournament, without getting involved heavily. You let the blinds
dictate how aggressive you have to be, and hope that enough of your
opponents get knocked out before you. This method is profitable, but
not exactly fun.
If you decide that you
are going to try and win it, you will be betting into any signs of
weakness, and playing your big cards very aggressively. Ideally, you
want to make back the blinds each round. Late tournament poker has very
high blinds, and just making the blinds back will keep you alive while
less disciplined players take their chances and get busted out. This is
why the button and the blinds usually play out the hand. Blinds are
defended fiercely, and the button looks to push out the normally weak
blind hands. This blind recovery method also keeps you in the game
until your monster comes along, and you double up on a big stack, or
you knock an opponent out.
As in any poker game
it's important to study your opponents. You know that the table is not
going to get broken up and you'll suddenly be sitting with new
opponents. The only way someone can leave this table is to get knocked
out, so watch everything each opponent does when it's their turn to
act. I would also recommend that you try and establish a table image
within the first 15 hands or so. If I plan on playing tight, I will try
and make it seem like I'm a loose player, and vice versa. If you keep
your opponents guessing about what you're up to, you should find
The most important tip I
can give someone about final table poker is that you need to exercise
your skills at putting down hands. This is not the time to call large
bets that you think may be a bluff when you have a mediocre hand. Each
opponent that gets knocked out puts money in your pocket. This is your
focus – surviving as long as possible and only putting your
chips at risk when you figure you have 75% of it or better.
Final table lessons are
difficult to learn because we don't get to practice them enough. Small
buy-in tourneys are a great place to practice these important tactics.
Getting there is only half of the job, what you do when you get there
is what really pays.