Part #1 and part #2 of this series of
articles looked at the start and the mid to end stages of multi-table
tournaments. This article focuses on the final table. Final tables are
characterized by 3 things, short stacks in comparison to the blinds and antes, a
mix of stack sizes among the remaining players – and most important of all
significant prizes and gaps between the prizes of each place.
All of these affect your multi-table tournament final table strategy – yet it is the inter-relationship between all three which is the most significant factor of all.
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Firstly the relationship between stack sizes and the blinds and antes affects
what hands you can play and how they should be played. If you have less than 10
big blinds in your stack then it often becomes incorrect to raise and then fold
to a re-raise, this is because of the pot odds being offered to call the
re-raise are so high. If this is the case then it makes more sense to move
all-in with many of your raising hands. This maximizes the chance of winning the
blinds (pre-flop) or current pot after the flop. Your own stack size is only one
aspect of this – for example you may have 20 blinds but the players yet to act
only 8 each, in this case you would be forced to call any re-raise by the
pot-odds (mathematically speaking) so move in first!
The mix of stack sizes at a multi-table tournament final table often means that players have different strategy objectives in their play. For example the presence of a very short stack will tend to cause those players with medium-small stacks to tighten up. They would rather wait for the micro-stack to bust. Conversely, a player with a big stack may be happy to push the table around in order to accumulate chips – however this player would tend to avoid confrontations with other large stacks as these carry a bigger risk of busting out early.
Your own play should center on the objectives and stack sizes of your opponents. Your objective is to reach the final few places and there will often be many opportunities to accumulate chips with minimal risk from those players simply wanting to move up in the prize money.
The gaps in the prize structure are important, especially when you get down to the last few players. As you get to the last few players the ‘gap concept’ (requirement for a stronger hand to call a raise than to raise with yourself) becomes very important. For example if there were a $1000 jump from 3rd to 2nd you should only call a large raise with a hand that is likely to be well ahead of your opponent’s raising range. This is due to the large amount of ‘prize pool equity’ you are risking by taking a close positive expectation gamble.
Once you reach the final two players an understanding of how relative hand strength changes when heads-up is an important factor. Since blinds will be very large as a percentage of your stacks aggressive and positive play should be employed.
To summarize, final table strategy involves three inter-related strategy adjustments. Firstly you need to adjust your play for the short-stacked environment, secondly you must take advantage of the stack size constraints and objectives of your opponents and finally you must adjust again for the jumps in payouts as you reach the final few players.