Do your Homework!
- ICM - Independent Chip Model becomes very relevant in final table situations. Unfortunately, it's practically impossible to do ICM calculations on the fly so you have no other choice than to familiarize yourself with some training software like ICMIZER or ICM Trainer. This can pay off tremendously. Since ICM is also very important near the money bubble you'll be using the knowledge gained during Independent Chip Model training constantly.
- Deal making - Being a good negotiator can sometimes net you more money than your betting patterns could. Some tournaments end in a simple business discussion and you should be ready for that eventuality. Deals rarely look precisely like the ICM or chip-chop method would suggest. Sometimes players decide to take the good old fashioned Haggle 'n' Swindle route. Effective deal negotiation is a really broad subject deserving of its own article, but like with everything else in poker it's a good idea to be on the aggressive side of things (without losing control). Consider reading the classic called "How to Win Friends and Influence People" or any other book regarding business negotiation techniques.
- Heads Up play - MTT players don't get the chance to play heads up very often and you can gain an edge in this area relatively easily. Just play a lot of HU SNG games on the cheap and develop your skill that way. Learning about the HU strategy away from the poker table can't hurt either. Jumps between the second and first prize are usually fairly high in MTT tournaments and it's a good idea to make sure you're able to enjoy that jump more often than your opponents.
Pay Attention to the Opponents
Image Credit - JPhayWoods Photography
With 3 or 4 tables left in the game, you can easily observe all of them and make notes that could prove invaluable during the last stages of the game. A decision that would be close in a vacuum can become fairly trivial if you know that your opponent played almost no hands at his semi-final table.
Be Mindful of the Payout Structure
There's nothing wrong with turning into a nit because of the meaningful prize bump that's within your reach. It might also be correct to steal pots relentlessly if the table is full of people waiting for the aforementioned prize bumps. Combining the knowledge about your opponents with the information about payout structure will make it easier for you to come up with an optimal gameplan for the final table.
Steal, Steal, Steal!
Try to recognize those situations and pay attention to the stack sizes. You can make the life of short stacks behind you very unpleasant if you won't give them the chance to re-shove on you. If you're in a bad situation stack wise look for small mistakes that you can punish and rare situations with a bunch of dead money in the pot.
Keep Calm and…
As we stated before, the final table is not a common occurrence for most players. Top tournament prizes are also fairly large compared to the buy-ins and that can cause all kinds of mental discomfort. Lastly, multi-table tournaments are a really high variance form of poker and because of that it's possible to gain a considerable mental edge over your opponents.
Firstly, try to take care of your own mental state. I highly recommend mindful breathing as a tool to stay focused even during the most stressful situations. You can also use something a bit more invasive, wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it every time your mind starts to slip into a B or C game territory. Since you can't really take a break in the middle of a final table action, those two simple techniques can prove to be the most effective.
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