Dominating the Late Stage of a Poker Tournament

Poker Money WinningsWhen you are in the late stages of a tournament you are usually feeling a sense of achievement because you are very close to making the money and getting a return for your investment.

The late stage of the tournament can be defined as the period leading up to the money bubble and after the money bubble up until the final table.

Exactly how long the period before the bubble will vary from tournament to tournament, but in general it will be from whenever there is a change in play from a number of players to being more conservative as they approach the bubble.

Keep Focus

At this point you have been playing in the tournament for a number of hours and it is important to maintain your focus and concentrate on the task at hand … and that is winning the whole tournament!

Remember what I said at the start of this guide, a good tournament player does not play to just scrape into the money, but is playing to win the tournament, or finish in the top 3 at the very least. This focus on the goal in hand will play a big part in how you approach the late stages of a tournament and in particular the bubble.

I’ve been playing Sit&Go’s and Multi-table Tournaments since 2005 and from experience the late stages always boils down to the same things for me.  They are, maintaining my focus, patience and aggression.

By this stage in the tournament you’ve been playing for sometime.  Of course that time depends on the number of players you started with but either way this is the latter part of the tournament.  Some players tend to tire a little, some might start to play very aggressive to ‘finish’ the tournament and some might tighten right up.  Its very important at this point to maintain your focus and play the cards you are dealt.

It is also probably the most important time in the tournament to accurately observe your opponents and how they are playing. This is the key time to notice patterns and weaknesses as they change their style now money is at stake and to exploit it.

Focus on your Key Performance Indicators

Just like in the middle stage of the tournament, it is very important to keep calculating your key performance indicators, Time to Play and Average Stack, to know exactly where you stand and for it to drive the way you play.

In the late stages blinds can start to really grow and it is very easy to go from a comfortable position to a critical chip stack in a short space of time. You have to recognise this quickly and change gears quickly before it is too late.

Shift the Pressure onto your Opponents

The gap concept is huge at this stage of the tournament. It takes a much better hand to call a bet than it does to raise or push with. Just like we talked about in the last article about putting good players under pressure to make them do all the thinking, the same can be said for all opponents in the late stages of a tournament.

You must be the player that is putting your opponent under pressure and forcing him/her to work things out and make decisions. The more decisions and pressure put on an opponent, the more likely it is for them to make a mistake.

From experience there is usually a lot of all in bets and folding at this point.  Why all in? Well firstly it’s because a number of players will be at a short or critical stack level and enter a pot with an all in because they would probably be pot committed anyhow and they may as well get maximum fold equity from the all-in bet.

The other reason is that it is always better to put your opponents to the test than to let them put you to the test. An all in bet cannot be topped, they cannot come back over the top and put you to an even bigger decision, the decision is firmly put on them.  Do they want to call for most or all of their chips? Even if they think they are in the lead, are they really sure? Confident enough to stake their whole tournament on it?

I follow this principle during the late stage of any tournament I play.  Key to this though is knowing your opponents but not underestimating their ability to shift gears as well.  Most of the time, by the time you get to the later stages you’ve eliminated most of the gamblers and weaker players so you should assume the players left wont be falling for any ‘tricks’ and that they are players with at least some skill.

When the stacks at this point are relatively even it has been my experience that playing in the late stage of any tournament is all about focus and patience and ‘picking your spots’ which will provide you the best opportunities to win.

Remembering the gap concept will help you to pick your spots and perhaps steal some valuable blinds.  If you double up at this point in the tournament your usually eliminating someone else getting you one step closer to the lights of the final table.

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

Section Contents: Dominating the Late Stage 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!