August 5, 2023 Poker Strategy, Poker News Lars Liedtke

How to play a final table in online poker tournaments

In our latest poker strategy article, tournament crusher John Bradley explains how to play a final table in a poker tournament depending on if you are are short, medium or big stack.

How to play a final table in online poker tournaments

One of the most prized experiences of playing tournament poker, is reaching the Final Table of a big tournament.

It is an exhilarating experience, but, with the lion’s share of the prize pool on the line, it is very important to play well at this stage of the tournament.

You will also learn all about the ICM considerations, which play a major role on a Final Table.

Final Table ICM

ICM is a very important consideration when at the Final Table. One of the most costly mistakes you can make, in any tournament, is to play too loosely, as a big or medium stack, and bust the tournament in 8th or 9th.

It was commonly thought, that ICM pressure increased as the Final Table progressed, and as players got knocked out.

Recent computer simulations have discovered, however, that ICM is actually a bigger concern at the start of the Final Table, and becomes less of a concern as players bust, until heads-up where it is not a consideration at all.

It is important to note that, ICM pressure does not mean that you must always play extremely tight, however.

It depends on the stack sizes, and what decision is under scrutiny.

If the average stack is very large (say, 100bb), then you can certainly open raise a normal range of hands.

Conversely, if you are considering calling a triple barrel all-in for your tournament life, you should certainly play tighter than usual, and be very respectful of the ICM situation you find yourself in.

Being the Big Stack at a final table

The best situation to be in, at the final table, is of course, to be the big stack.

As the big stack, you should look to play more loosely and aggressively. You cannot be busted in any single hand, but your opponents can.

Therefore, you should:

  • Open more
  • 3bet more
  • Cold call more
  • Cbet more
  • Check-raise more
  • Stab more
  • Use bigger sizings

Essentially, you can be far more aggressive, especially versus medium stacks.

These players have the most to lose, and so you should leverage this fact, by applying a large amount of pressure.

How to play a final table in online poker tournaments

In the hand above, I am chip leader 5-handed, and so will 3bet a lot wider versus the cutoff, who is positioned 3rd of 5, with two fairly short stacks in play.

The opponent here, is somewhat ‘handcuffed’ and cannot 4bet too wide, call 3bets too wide or play back too much in any way.

Playing as the Mid Stack

As a medium stack, you have the most ICM pressure on you of any player at the table.

This is particularly true when in pots with the larger stacks, and so you should look to avoid these types of confrontations.

The adjustments that you should make are:

  • Open tighter
  • Cold call and 3bet less
  • Pot