We all love to make money from playing in a poker tournament – it’s why we play them! The variance can be a rollercoaster, busting on the bubble is colder than a shower in Winterfell and any exit from the final table hurts like dental surgery without the anaesthetic. But taking down tourneys is why we love the #sundaymajors.
In multi-table tournaments, many players lack a good ‘End Game’ strategy, so the leaps between latter-stage payments aren’t fully exploited. These players might frequently min-cash but they’re not finishing in the top three (where the bulk of the prize money generally is) or taking down tournaments. That’s no good for the bankroll, so we’ve come up with five ways to secure yourself a fine finish.
Go Through the Gears
Starting any tournament, you’ll often feel like you want to run a stack up quickly to do some damage and put yourself in a commanding position. Get too involved early on, however, and you’ll start to bleed chips. Many do the opposite, but you want to be fairly tight early on in tournament and loosen up the further you go into tournaments. Once antes kick in, you should be upping your aggression in stealing the blinds and pressurising your opponents. Avoiding massive pots unless you have a great hand in the early stages will put you in a better position to dominate the later levels. Take advantage of newbies who might give easy chips away at small blinds, and watch out for tell-tale signs like over-raising pre-flop and hesitating on the turn and river.
Adapt to Short-Handed Poker
Once you’re down to the last few tables, you’ll need to get used to tables where instead of nine players, you’re one of just six or seven. At the final table, you’re obviously hoping to be the only one left in their virtual seat. So be aware of the adaptations you need to make to your game when playing with empty seats to your left or right.
Aggression becomes a key factor the fewer players you share the felt with. You should be three-betting more, pressuring players and utilising position with more intensity. After all, you’ve gone from being in the big blind one in nine hands to one in six, for instance. Waiting for premium hands goes from being tight play to fools folly. But it is also worth taking your time over each hand. With just two tables left in an MTT, your plan should no longer be simply to make the final table, but the win itself. If you’re realistic about that aim, there are ways you can improve your chances. Open the other active table up in a viewer and get to know your potential key opponents better. All the greats have a strategy for winning tournaments, but how often in live poker can you watch what the other table is doing? Be one of the few to take advantage of this edge.
Don’t Be Predictable
Being in control of a poker table can feel great, especially when you’re running up a big stack. It’s much rarer to see that happen on a final table, however, as players lock down their games and spot every action others are displaying. You should be at the point of ultimate focus, and noticing traits of other players align, stepping your way through those patterns to the win. However, just as you’ll start to notice things about your opponents’ games the more you play them at this level of focus, the same is true about you.
Don’t let yourself fall into an ‘End Game’ pattern. Be aware of your betting patterns, three-betting frequency and, perhaps most crucially, how often and when you fold. One way of doing this is to focus on when you apply pressure and when you leave hands. Keep an eye on your ‘Stats’ and monitor how you play as well as others. Providing you are aware of how you are playing each opponent, as well as each one behaves in the company of player types, you should find the secret of their undoing. One mistake many players make in the ‘End Game’ is to believe that they have to do all the hard work. Let loose players damage themselves, and know which player combinations are most likely to lead to eliminations.
Heads-up, it’s hammer time.
Deal or No Deal?
Hit the Heads-Up Hard
If you make it to heads-up, then you should by now have a LOT of information about your opponent. Are they wild or tight? How have they played in pots against you in particular? Load up the hand replay function and scroll through to refresh yourself of their behaviour up to this point. While some players are able to kick into a different mode when the final duel is upon them, people by their very nature stick to their established patterns. Exploit that in your opponent, whatever it may be. You’ll also need to ramp up aggression once more. Heads-up is like no other part of poker. It’s all about pressurising your adversary until you have the edge in chips then wearing them down.
Use every weapon you have when it comes to the ‘End Game’ in poker, and you’ll be the only one left sitting!