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Playing the Final Table in MTTs

The final table is your chance to finally win a tournament that you have been playing for hours. It might take you days, weeks, or even months of play before you ever reach a single final table, so you need to take advantage of these rare opportunities. There are a number of different ways to approach final table strategy, but they all revolve around your relative stack size and the opponents you are facing.

A short stack is going to play very differently than a big stack at a table. While your stack size is vital in determining how you should play, you should also consider how many players are left as well as the playing styles of any other players left in the event. There are innumerable variables that will also come into play, but these are the three main aspects that you should be focusing on at all times.

Final table play is usually very fast. Before you know it the tournament will go from 9 or 10 players to just a few. Some tournaments will have blind structures that allow for a decent amount of play even when you reach the final table, but for the most part, final tables will force you to be all in on a very regular basis.

This is something that naturally makes a lot of players uncomfortable. No one really enjoys getting all of their money in the middle hand after hand, but it is an absolute necessity if you want to succeed at final table play. Aggressive play is what wins tournaments, but reckless play is what will lose a tournament.

Deciphering the difference between aggressive and reckless is one of the biggest obstacles that you will face in a tournament. You can get away with a mistake here or there when a tournament is just starting out, but once things start to get more serious, each and every mistake is going to be punished.

Every single final table is going to be different from the next. Adjustments will make or break your chances of winning. Spotting who is too loose and who is too aggressive will make it a lot easier to take down pots with relative ease. There is no final table manual that you can follow. This is why tournaments are so much different than cash games or even sit and gos. Sit and gos and cash games can be played pretty much the same way over and over again, but this couldn’t be further from the truth with final tables at tournaments.

If you try to adhere to a certain strategy at each final table you play, it is a near guarantee that you will fail more often than you will succeed. Don’t be afraid to make changes if they will increase your odds of winning a tournament.

The Beginning of the Final Table

The beginning of a final table is when you can start to plot out your end game plan. Look for a few players who will be able to steal and re steal from. Aside from the players who you do want to attack, you should also consider who you are going to try and avoid. There is merit to avoiding players who can destroy your chances of a win. Anyone who has your stack covered is an immediate threat. The players who have you covered will either be your best friend (when they double you up) or your worst enemy (when they knock you out).

If you have a small stack, try to double up as quickly as possible. Small stacks don’t even have time to try and move up into a higher payout. If you sit around and wait in hopes of earning a little bit more than a min cash, you may very well go out first anyway when the blinds eat away at your stack. Passive players seldom make it far at the final table unless they are able to catch an incredible run of cards.

If you have a big stack, however, you should be picking on the small stacks. There isn’t a need to aim for the stacks who are average or could otherwise harm you. Go after the easy targets, the guys who will either give up without a fight or the players who will give up when you re raise or go all in. The big stack is not a time to coast along, instead it is your chance to ensure that you can earn a win.

The End (Heads Up)

Heads up play will ultimately decide whether you win or lose. Second place will pay a good amount, but first place might pay close to double what second place is worth. Aside from all of this, think about how many chances you will have to actually win a tournament. It is an accomplishment to make a final table, it is even more of an accomplishment to make it to heads up, but none of that matters if you can’t seal the deal with a win.

Heads up play will be affected by the relative stack sizes. If you have a big edge, be prepared to shove around the other player. You can either try and get them all in whenever you have a random ace (or better) or you can simply try to steal whenever the opportunity arises. What you don’t want to do is wait for a big hand. Your opponent should be making their own moves, so you can’t let a small stack dictate what you do.

If you are left with the short stack in heads up play, there will be no other choice but to go all in over and over again. Ideally you will have a strong hand when you put all of your chips in the middle, but the odds are against you. Each hand could cost you 10%, 20%, even 30% of your stack from the price of the blinds alone. There is no time whatsoever to wait for solid hands, so get the money all in even when you have the most mediocre of hands. Hope for the best, and with a little bit of luck, you just might turn the tables in your favor.

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