Close Out the Win with
Late Stage Tournament Strategy
Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive
First of all, congratulations on making it to this point
in the tournament. You’ve outlasted a good number of
opponents, and you’re in the money. At this point, you
need to make a push for the final table and eventually
first prize. What you do at this point will largely
depend on the size of your chip stack in comparison to
the blinds, and the type of players at your table.
Generally, you should take advantage of your chip lead
by putting pressure on the short stacks and if you are
the short stack, you should be looking for the best
opportunity to shove it all in.
As the tournament winds down and players fight for
higher positions in the payout ladder, the blinds
usually become astronomical. Not only is this the case
with small-stakes online poker tournaments, but it is
becoming increasingly standard in casino events as well.
This low number of chips in play in relation to the size
of the blinds increases the luck element of the game, as
it forces players to gamble on hands that they wouldn’t
normally incorporate into their strategy.
At all times, you should be aware of how many rounds of
blinds you’ll be to able play before you go broke. If
you have 4,000 chips left and the blinds are 500/1,000
you’re in a dangerous situation. You can only play 2 or
3 more rounds without improving your chip count.
Whenever you’re down to 5 or 6 or less times the big
blind, you should be looking for opportunities to go
You can’t wait much longer for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, you want to have enough left to put pressure on
your opponents with your all-in. If they all fold to you
preflop, you’ve bought yourself another round of play.
Secondly, if you just call, you won’t have much left on
the flop and you’ll be faced with a tough decision if
you don’t connect. Since you’ll already be committed to
the pot, save yourself the trouble and go all-in – you
won’t have to make any more decisions in the hand. Hands
you should consider going all-in with include any pocket
pair, a decent Ace, King, or two face cards. Even suited
connectors aren’t big underdogs to overcards, so
consider making a move. The key is to be aggressive and
put pressure on the rest of the table when you’re the
However, what if you find yourself in the fortunate
position of being the chip leader or one of the bigger
stacks left in the tourney? You shouldn’t sit back and
rely on those chips to coast you to the final table.
You’re playing to win, so keep building your stack and
allow yourself to remain aggressive. Because you have so
many chips, you can afford to gamble a bit with some of
the shorter stacks. In tournaments, drawing to straights
and flushes too often usually spells disaster. However,
I recommend that you bet aggressively when you pick up a
draw as a chip leader. If you’re heads-up on the flop
and you greatly outnumber your opponent in chips,
consider putting him all in with middle pair or a draw.
He’ll have to have a very strong hand to risk his
tournament life, and most of the time you’ll pick up the
pot with your large bet.
Also, you can call all-in gambles from short stacks if
you have any pocket pair and you suspect they have
something like A-K. You can afford to lose those
coin-flip hands, but you’ll be in great position if you
come out ahead. The worst thing you can do with a chip
lead is to sit on it and allow the blinds to peck away
at you. Maintain your lead and at least pick up the
blinds every round if possible.
As you work your way to the final table, play usually
becomes increasingly sophisticated and tight. If the
rest of the table won’t put any chips into the pot and
everyone is too timid to risk going out before the final
table, punish them. Throw in big raises preflop against
weak opponents until someone fights back. Reaching the
final table is an imaginary boundary, and since you’re
playing to win the whole thing why not exploit their
timid play and pick up a few extra blinds?
Once you do reach the final table, you can probably
advance a few places just by allowing the maniacs to do
their bidding. Many players are content with their final
table finish, and will get “chip happy” for a couple of
rounds. As the table becomes shorthanded, you should
realize that starting hands go way up in value, and
you’ll need to play your opponents more than your cards.
With less opponents left at the table, the blinds will
be coming around much faster.
Now more than ever, you’ll need to open up your play,
steal the blinds at opportune times, and look for
weaknesses in your opponents. You might consider
slowplaying your monster hands, as it is more unlikely
that you will be outdrawn in shorthanded play. Study
your opponents and the cards they show since you’ll be
seeing them in almost every pot. Finally, if you make it
to heads-up play, you’ll have to stay aggressive and
raise most hands from the small blind to take control.
Don’t be afraid to get all your chips in the pot with
any Ace, a decent King, face cards, or any pocket pair.
The end of the tournament is all about maintaining your
chip lead and taking risks when you need to. Exploit a
tight table, wait for stronger cards at a looser table,
and never reserve yourself to anything less than first
prize. My my, you didn’t think that vampires could be so
competitive, did you?
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