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Tips For Making the Most of a Final Table Appearance
There are few things as exciting in poker as reaching the final table of a multi-table tournament. You battled for hours to reach the final table, and the huge payouts will reward your skill and dedication. However, reaching a final table is something of a rarity, even if you are one of the best players in the world. This means it is important to do everything you can to maximize your value when you reach one.
Final table appearances are rare. Let us assume you are in a 400 player tournament where everyone is equally skilled. You would expect to reach the finale 2.25% of the time, which is the nine seats at the last table divided by 400 entrants. However, MTTs are not full of equally skilled players. Some players are weaker or stronger than you, which affects your chances of going all the way. In addition, some tournaments have several thousand runners, vastly reducing your chances of a final table finish.
Practice For a Final Table By Playing Sit & Go Tournaments
Table tables are similar to sit & go tournaments with one clear difference: everyone sits down with different stack sizes. Sit & Go games see everyone start with the same number of chips, but are still great to practice at. Why? Because you only have eight opponents to worry about.
In addition, there are ICM implications in SNG tournaments. Three places are traditionally paid at a nine-man sit & go, meaning your shoves and calls of all-ins have chip values attached to them. This is the same as an MTT final table where the prizes increase with each bust out, making a seemingly standard all-in bet no longer the optimal strategy.
Be aware of the different stack sizes and your position in relation to them. Obviously, having a big stack puts you in a favorable position. Nursing a short stack, not so much. Try targetting players who have more to lose by making a mistake. These tend to be players with a similar stack to yours. Big stacks can afford to call and lose. Short stacks are desperate to double up. However, medium stacks hope to ladder up the payouts.
Be Aware of the Payouts
The payouts at a typical final table are very top-heavy. Most of the prize money is reserved for the top three finishers. For example, a recent $215 buy-in Big10 at Americas Cardroom had a $96,600 prize pool. The nine finalists shared $57,202 of that $96,600 prize pool; that is 59.2% of the pot. Furthermore, the top three finishers netted $36,310, which is 37.6% of the total prize money! Ninth place scooped $1,333 but the champion took home $16,373. First place was almost double the third-place prize, $8,307.
These differences are massive and show how skewed final table payouts are. It is imperative to finish in the top three places once you navigate your way to a final table. This is your chance to win a massive prize in relation to your buy-in. Grab the chance with both hands.
Players Often Play Tighter
Players often play tighter at a final table because of the reasons mentioned above. Large pay jumps deter players from making moves and bluffs because they do not want to be wrong.
Conserve chips by seeing fewer flops from the big blind. Of course, you receive great odds to call a small raise, but are out of position for the rest of the hand. Slowly leaking chips is not conducive to reaching the top three payout places.
The strength of small pairs falls at the business end of a tournament. Players are less likely to call a shove with high cards, meaning calling with larger pairs is more likely. Set mining is a good strategy for small pairs. Flopping a set gives you a strong hand, but you can dump your hand if you miss.
Broadway cards and strong suited aces go up in value. This means it is best to play them strongly. They perform well against most holdings except the dreaded aces and kings, especially if you are all-in and get to see all five community cards.
Overall, your time at the final table is primarily about surviving. Taking a more passive approach is often correct, allowing opponents to make mistakes and fall by the wayside.