Late play in a poker tournament is very different than early tournament play. A player that has achieved a large chip stack over the course of the tournament may find that other players now seated at their table have an even bigger stack. As players are eliminated from the tournament, the total number of tables decrease and players are moved from table to table to maintain optimal play.
Staying alive through one set of competitors will lead to another until there are only eight to ten players left. These players have won a seat at the final table and a chance to win the main purse.
To make it to the final table in a poker tournament a player must have well rounded and versatile poker skills. Playing one game strategy throughout a tournament rarely works, as players are able to figure out your play and counter it. When this happens, it is important to change your strategy and keep your opponents guessing. Mixing up your play and staying one step ahead of the competition can exploit an opponent who thinks they have you figured out.
It is typical for the blinds, or forced bets, in Texas Hold’em tournaments to rise at set increments thought the event. Because of this, the bets are very large at the final table and one must have a significant amount of chips if one hopes to compete. If a player finds their chip stack quickly dwindling as they wait for a good hand, a good strategy is to steal blinds when able.
Stealing blinds can be risky, especially when the blinds are so high, as a bet must be made at the pot to make others fold. If this bluff is called and caught by a monster hand, than the player has little hope of retrieving the bet and must fold. Blind stealing attempts are best made in late position when there are a few number of people in the pot and no one has bet. In last position one can tell when opponents are sheepishly limping into pots with no hand, and a well-timed bet can make these players fold. The blinds stolen this way will pay for one full rotation around the table, and so can keep a player alive through droughts of horrible hands.
Once the game has progressed until only two players remain, the game becomes a “heads-up” game and they face off one-on-one. Strategies can drastically change at this point and players that have been playing tight will suddenly loosen up and play mediocre hands. If a player is lucky and skillful enough to make it to the heads-up round, there are a few things to consider.
Any ace becomes a great hand and should be bet as soon as soon as possible. Also, any pocket pair is a premium hand during a heads-up match. In fact, many hands that would be unwise to play early in a tournament become much better late in the event. This is because each player only has to beat one hand. Pocket twos, for example, have a 60/40 chance to beat AK heads-up and start the hand with a pair. Against multiple players in a pot, it can be assured that someone will get a pair better than twos during the course of the hand.
Making it to the final stages of a Texas Hold’em (or any other type of poker) tournament takes a talented player with strong mental conditioning. Breaking down for just a moment and making a bad decision can end a player’s tournament and send them home with nothing. Keeping ones head while calculating and utilizing all the advantages available to a player can assure that player a spot at the final table.