How to make the Final Table in Poker Tournaments

How to Make the Final Table in Your Next Tournament

When most players sit down at a poker tournament, they immediately start thinking about making it to the money. That’s the wrong kind of thinking.

What they should be thinking about is making the final table. In most online poker tournaments, making it to the money barely gets you your buy-in back. At the final table, however, your winnings increase exponentially. You might money less often, but you’ll win more money overall.

Here’s how to make the final table in your next poker tournament:

Play Tight Early

Chip conservation is the name of the game when the blinds are low. Your stack is large compared to the blinds and you can afford to wait for premium hands. You should be playing only premium cards for a raise and calling with quality speculative hands in late position when there are a lot of limpers.

Avoid marginal situations at all costs. Even top pair/top kicker isn’t good enough to stack off with a solid player (but it could be against a poor player). Your goal is to conserve as many chips as possible and double up when you hold a monster.

Avoid Coin Flips When the Blinds Are Low

Here’s a common situation in online tournaments:

The player UTG limps and is called by two mid position players. The button puts in a big raise and it folds back to the second middle position player who thinks for a minute, then goes all-in. The button calls and both players show their cards: AK vs. 88. It’s a race.

Coin flips are okay later in a tournament because the pot is usually laying you much better than 2 to 1 odds. However stacking off like this when the blinds are low is unnecessary and will add a lot of variance to your game.

Ramp Up Your Aggression When the Blinds Are 50/100+

Lots of players clam up when the blinds get large and this is the time you be should stealing. Some players will steal with any two cards when they’re in position, but I like to steal with hands that stand a chance of hitting a good flop.

Hands that were unplayable when the blinds where low like KJ, QJ, JTs, small pocket pairs and suited connecters become solid stealing hands. Steal as frequently as your opponents will let you so you can build your stack for the endgame.

Shove When Your M is 5 or Less

The concept of “M” in relation to poker tournament chip stack sizes is covered in depth by poker pro Dan Harrington, in the first of his series of books, Harrington on Holdem. Check for new and used copies, then read through the series and your tourney results will show major improvement!

New tournament players make a big mistake when they think in terms of big blinds near the end of a tournament. When the blinds and antes are large, you have to think in terms of M [M= Your Stack/(big blind+small blind+antes)] If your M is 5 or less, you can no longer make a standard raise. You have to fold or push all-in with any two reasonable cards. You have to make sure you don’t get blinded out.

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It takes a versatile player to make the final table at poker tournaments. Tight, conservative play is right early on, but loose-aggressive play should take over when the blinds are high. If you can master this transition, you can make the final table.