When you approach the final table in any tournaments, you need to ask yourself one simple question: what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to get in the money and walk away without too many scars or do you want to dive in there and work your way to the final pot, risking it all to get the chips you need? Personally, I believe that players that are new to the final table experience should use their first time there to educate themselves and aim for the middle of the pack.
In The Beginning, Stay Out Of The Action
Unless you have cards that are truly worth the risk, play tight. It’s not uncommon to find that most final players follow this philosophy, but it’s possible that you may run across someone who believes that once they’re in the money, it’s time to go to the wire each and every time, opening up and actually gambling a bit. One or two players are generally knocked out very quickly when the final table gets underway and if you’re looking to move to the middle of the pack, it’s a good idea to wait it out for a few hands and watch how everything’s shaking down.
Don’t Bleed Chips, Though
Players that don’t have a dominating chip lead can’t fold too many hands before they’re in trouble and nobody wants to be the guy who’s killed by the blinds. We’ve all seen it happen but somehow we’re all vulnerable to the trap: you fold and you fold and you fold and suddenly you don’t have enough to make the next round of blinds in your stack. If you’re dipping too low, loosen up a bit and play, especially if pot odds are in your favor. Don’t leave the game to other people, even if you want to be careful about what you play and when.
Aggressiveness Has Its Place
Taking the top spot in a tournament means pushing a bit and it’s possible to do it without feeling like you’re putting it all on the line. Watch how your opposites compete in the game and take note of their strategies. Are they always aggressive until they’re raised, for example, or are they a chip bleeder looking to have their throat slit? If you have the cards that can push them back into their corner, go for it.
The Real Key
The real key in playing successful tournament poker is to maximize your position and power over opponents at the final table. If you have a significant chip advantage on the blinds and you’re playing late, dive in with suited connectors, face cards and pairs if you feel comfortable. Whenever you can, steal the blinds and use those to enrich your stack while bleeding others. Time your risks well and you can do better than just being in the money.