Poker Tournaments & SNG's

Poker Final Table Strategy - How to Adjust

6,868 Views 1 Comment on 17/12/15

Learn how to adjust your poker strategy at the final table - you will need to pay attention to your image and make adjustments based on stats and reads.

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Reaching the final table of a poker tournament can be both exciting and overwhelming. Those feelings can be further amplified if we managed to outlast most of the competition in a particularly important or lucrative tournament. In a game which top tournament pros reach the money in about 20% of the events they register to, playing on the final table isn't a common occurrence for most poker players and, as a result, many of them don't know how to adjust to this specific situation.

Do your Homework!

 Final Table Poker Strategy

You can start making your first steps towards the final table success long before you get the chance of posting your first tournament blind. There are some things that you can't do at the last minute and some things that you simply shouldn't. Here's a small list of areas you can improve in if you want to increase your final table success rate.
  • 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

 Final Table Strategy Opponents
Image Credit - JPhayWoods Photography

Unless you're having a particularly long or particularly successful poker session, the final table will often be the last window on your screen on any given day. Take advantage of that! If you're running deep and you know that there's a high chance you could end up on a final table don't limit yourself to the table that you're currently playing on.

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.
In the game of small edges, knowledge about a loose-passive player that would be impossible to gain if you paid attention solely to your own table, can be the difference between winning the entire tournament and finishing 7th.

Be Mindful of the Payout Structure

Payout Structure Final Table MTT Strategy

While extreme approaches like trying to wait out the opposition or conversely trying to put as much pressure as possible on your opponents won't work well when applied blindly, they can be very effective if you make an informed decision about using them based on 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!

Steal MTT Final Table Strategy

Late position opens are responsible for many tournament victories. With low stack to pot ratio caused by ante and ever-increasing blinds, taking down a bunch of small pots is one of the best strategies available. While some players know exactly how to defend their blinds, others will let you get away with very high steal frequencies.

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…

Keep Calm Final Table Poker Strategy

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. 
Don't try to put your opponents on tilt. Even if we forget about the morality of the issue this can often backfire by poisoning your mind with your own negative comments. Taking care of your own mental state is more than enough to gain an edge in a situation as stressful as the final table of a large tournament.
Playing at the final table of a multi-table tournament can be as difficult as it is exciting. In a game of small edges, minor adjustments that can look underwhelming on their own, add up really fast and you should make a habit of looking for every possible advantage! Know your game plan, know your opponents, stay calm and you'll put yourself in the best possible position to win the entire tournament.

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Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for his nobel-prize winning forum po ... Read More

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CycleVancouver

CycleVancouveron 28/12/15

Good call on the "observe other tables" advice. I usually only play small MTT (100+ runners, 15 paid), and I only close some of my cash games and observe when 1-2 off the bubble, but I'll now open the other table when we get down to 20 (2 tables 10-handed), so I can see a bit more about how people are playing.

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