Finishing the Job – The Final Table of a Poker Tournament

Poker Final TableWell congratulations, you’ve reached the bright lights and TV cameras of the Final Table.

It’s a great feeling isn’t it? You’ve achieved one of your sub goals, which was to reach the final table. Now it is time to keep your next sub-goal of a top 3 finish in focus.

It’s important to note that in some small tournaments or Sit&Go tournaments you may not be in the money when you have reached the final table and you may still have the money bubble to play through which we talked about in the late stage section.

Of course in a big tournament all the players who have made the final table will already have secured a good cash and this section will assume that the final table is well past the money bubble.

If the Final Table any different?

Well in my opinion yes, I notice a distinct switch in a lot of players style of play at the start of the final table.

Usually the prize money jumps between positions get a lot steeper once you reach the final table, and hanging on one extra position to finish 6th instead of 7th can mean a lot of extra prize money.

For some players this has a similar effect to the bubble and you will see them tighten up and try and scrape through while they wait for other players to be eliminated. These players are not playing for the win, but looking to scrape an extra position or two.

Some other players you will see an increase in aggression and they look to manoeuvre into position for the tournament win. You should certainly be of this second mindset at a final table.

How to Play the Final Table

I think deciding how you are going to play at the final table depends on your chip stack size. Its not too dissimilar to the final stage of the tournament and you must always know you key performance indicators, Time to Play and Average Stack to know where you stand and at what point you need to change gears.

If you are the short stack, or close to it, you have to become aggressive and use all of your fold equity and push with a relatively strong hand.  The blinds are high at this stage of the tournament so you don’t have the luxury to wait for premium or high strength hands.  You have to be pushing with any ace, pairs, even connectors in a good position will do.

I have seen players with a short stack just call at the final table.  Thinking like that usually leads to you being blinded right out of the tournament.  If your at the final table with the short stack your only 2 options are to push or fold, it’s as simple as that.  Your last shot at a pot should be with a shot gun not a toy gun!

If your chip stack is average at the final table you might try to steal a few blinds given that your on the button or in the cutoff positions and everyone has folded to you.  I think with an average stack you can take a shot or two at the blinds or entering a pot to try and hit the flop, but always consider the impact to your stack of playing.

Aggression and fold equity is really important at the final table. With the blinds so high, there is big value in the pot before the hand has even started, so I would never be limping into a hand at a final table. I want to be the aggressor, taking full advantage of the gap concept, and the principle of fold equity giving myself that second option to win the pot.

At this Point Position is Vital

We’ve talked about Position throughout the tournament, but now it is Vital. the action is hotting up at the final table, and players are making all sorts of moves and using all sorts of aggression. It is vital that you allow yourself every opportunity to make correct decisions and you do this by playing in position so that all information is presented to you before you make a decision.

I am definitely folding everything in early or middle position unless it is a premium hand.  Why?  Because with an average stack I don’t want to take a chance on K-Q from middle position and have a short stack acting after me push all in with A-rag.  With an average stack you want to minimize your risk at all costs.  Maintaining your fold equity is paramount.

Its different in late position as most players have acted and you have the luxury of playing more hands and attempting to steal a blind or two with marginal hands. If you have a strong chip position then chances are that if the blinds are medium stacks they will not want to risk any chips to go up against you unless they hold very strong hands.

In poker things can change quickly and this can be especially true at the final table. You can very quickly go from being the chip leader to a short stack. Constantly monitor where you stand in the tournament and change gears accordingly.

If you are Chip Leader remember you have 100% fold equity.  If your going into a pot with a raise, the other players are thinking twice about calling because they know it could be the end of their tournament! Use that fold equity wisely and put pressure on your opponents.

How you play at the final table is mostly dictated by the size of your chip stack.  Remember that and use it to your advantage!

Select the first article from the section contents below to get started.

Section Contents: Finishing the Job – The Final Table of a Poker Tournament

Poker Finder Mascot
  • Trust & Security

    I'll only recommend Safe & Trusted sites with a proven track record

  • By Game Type

    Different rooms are better for different game types & stakes

  • Beginner Friendly

    I'll find you a site with players of a similar skill level

  • Promotions

    I'll find you the best value Promotions, Bonus & Freebies!