Final Table Poker Play

My name is Pete Giordano, but those who know me best, know me only by the name “TheBeat”. I make my living playing on-line poker. I am very unique in that I don’t play ring games; I only play tournaments. I will use this column to cover intermediate and advanced strategies for playing online tournaments, looking to unveil some of the method to my madness in certain situations … not all mind you as some secrets will go to the grave with me!

To make a living by just playing tournaments, you need to play a lot of them. I average at least 4 tournaments a day. Any given night, it would not be unusual to find me at a final table. In fact, last year alone, I made over 100 final table appearances. What I have found is that there are a lot of online players who just don’t know how to play a final table. They continue to play the same game that got them there. For some reason most players don’t understand that once you reach a final table, your strategy needs to change. The main reason for this is simple, you’re in the money. Once you reach this point, the value of your chips takes second place to the value of moving up in place.

Final Table Poker Play

I could never cover final table strategy in one article. There are so many factors that need to be considered including stack size, average chip count, blind structure, position with regards to other stacks, table image and most importantly payout structure. In this article I would like to write about the most common misplay that occurs at the final table.
Many players worry more about gathering chips, then eliminating a player. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a player go all-in with a small bet (lets say double the big blind). Then another player raises the pot to isolate himself and the all-in player. Invariably the player who raised the pot shows an A-J or a pair of three’s.
Normally what happens is the all-in player wins the pot, because the player, who raised the pot, scared out a player who would have called and would have eliminated the all-in player. They always use the same excuse: “I was trying to isolate myself with the all-in player.” They just don’t understand that the chips they are trying to win are less important than the elimination of a player. I can’t tell you how many times a player who should have been eliminated comes back and wins the tournament. I must admit I get a great satisfaction when that all-in player, who should have been eliminated, comes back and eliminates the player whose bad play allowed him to live. That said, I still would rather see them play correct.

TheBeat’s Rule #1 – If a player goes all-in at the final table for a small amount, you should never raise the bet, unless you have Aces or Kings.

TheBeat’s Rule #2 – If there are a couple of callers, don’t bet after the flop, unless you have the nuts– this does not mean top pair with bad kicker.

One last thing, when a player goes all-in for a small amount and you’re in the blinds and it would be a minimal amount to call. Don’t tell me how you had a 2-3 and it was not worth it to call another 3,000 when there is already 12,000 in the pot. You have a chance to eliminate a player, which is more important than those 3000 chips (unless you are extremely low yourself). Many times I have seen the small and big blinds fold when it would be minimal amount to make the call. Bottom line, even if the all-in player has an A-K and you have 2-3, he is only a 65% to 35% favorite. Most of the time you will be getting great Pot odds to make the call. The fact that you can eliminate a player and move up a spot dictates that you MUST call.