My End Game

Over the several years I’ve been playing poker–almost exclusively on this site, I should add–I have made progress. My goal just a year ago was to make it to the final table in an MTT, and that happens now from time to time. (The longer the game, it seems, the better my chances.)

Play changes on the final table! Or is it that a higher concentration of skilled players made it to this table? Either way, the bets are more aggressive, and I generally fall out.

I’m looking specifically for help with my end game. Any tips or strategies for stayin’ alive?



Like many ppl, I break a MTT up into stages… I also play mostly 9max… So the last 3 of those sometimes overlap. ( cash bubble ) ( final table ) ( final 3 )
Its possible to play so you make the final table, but you might make it then be too shortstacked to do much good.

Always remember the final table is comprised of either the best players, or the luckiest players, or both. These aren’t the players to take lightly, and if you are too shortstacked, your stay here ( final table ) will be short-lived.

Be aware of when/who the blinds will be going up on. You want to stay in the top 50% of the chipstacks. Being @ the bottom invites ppl to bully you. You now must start winning hands here and there, or the blinds will eat you alive.

Its alot harder to pass on a good hand at this point, but situational awareness is still necessary. Yes play does change. Not only does it chg cause its final, but if relative stacks are low BB wise, then that as much as anything effects play.

If chipleader has 25bb and lowstack 3bb and median is 15bb, you can see there’s alot less wiggle room than if those 3 were … 100bb, 15bb, and 60bb.

All these ppl have “made it to the final table” therefore should have some sense of confidence, compared to normal.

Once you get to the point where, all the players you see on the table is all thats left and all thats left to get beyond… play becomes more focused. Whomever is “last” or next to last, will always have add’d pressure… as will anyone close to being eat’n by the blinds. Depending on T-pts concerns, some players are playing where every spot further counts, more than payout.

Does that help any ???


As you said: Aggression.

I don’t play much MTT but I remember a game I played a long time ago HU final table with chips lead. A hand like & possibly KQ. I played aggressively & raised pre flop & flopped a good hand bet again & got DONK call to lose. A bad/impatient call to gamble got lucky to win. I played good & got unlucky. That’s poker. I’m only disappointed if i play badly.

Results are not important. If you play good & aggressive HU, the best you can - better than your opponent then long term your winning. Identify hands played badly etc its all gravy. You will win a fair share of final tables HU simply by playing good poker bc opponents lose patience & play badly.

It always boggles my mind but its true. Patience & aggression is key.


Indeed it does! Thank you, Sarah!

If you want to work on your end game, you might want to play some SNGs. A 9 player SNG acts like the end of a MTT when you get down to 4 (the bubble). For me, patience is the key to my end game. Sometimes that means avoiding hands with an aggressive chip leader and/or letting the other players take each other out, especially if I have a decent chip stack. Be aggressive when you need to be, but don’t be afraid to fold either. Once you are heads up, as long as you are within range of the chip leader, one hand can put you in the lead. I see too many players play so aggressively that they take a giant stack and lose it all before they make it to the final 2. I hope this helps.


That would be me! I feel so confused at the end I just don’t know when to play. I have work to do here!

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I’ve used @bahia7’s famed Carrion Technique to great effect myself. It’s pretty good at floating upward a few positions at the end of a game. If I can reach the last three, I begin to switch over to my high aggression strategy for ≤3 opponents.

The key to our methodology is to carefully pick your spots for aggression. I named bahia’s strategy as such because like carrion birds, we wait patiently and scavenge from the dead and decaying stacks at the table.

Of further note, as @Sassy_Sarah mentioned in her post, a lot of us change gears at specific milestones in tournaments to take advantage or mitigate the disadvantages of the current phase. You can not and should not play the same way throughout the duration of a tournament. Doing so invites failure when everyone else rapidly flanks you with changes in range and aggression.


I find that once the final table hits, people tighten WAY up. Particularly if you’re a big stack, you can exploit this by opening up your preflop range while keeping your open size small. Often a min-bet is enough to fold out most competitors, and can often win you an uncontested pot.

What if you’re not a big stack? Considering the tournament structures here, chances are you’ll have 10BB or less. In that case, a solid understanding of push-fold ranges is key. When any raise will basically pot-commit you if someone re-raises you all in, beat them to the punch by putting your stack in the middle instead of limping or min-raising. The idea is to make sure you’re leveraging the chips you have in front of you to the best of your ability. Also, be aware of the other players’ tendencies. Are certain players opening or limping too wide, such that you could win their chips by jamming and garnering folds? Take advantage by (slightly!) widening your own range.


Yeah. I see people limp in with ~8BB deep into a tournament and I cringe. There’s just really no way to play post-flop poker with that small of a stack. It’s probably a byproduct of the limp bingo culture here. Just save everyone the time… shove your stack or get the hell out of the way.

Anyway, good post and good link… I bookmarked it.


Understanding the basics of push/fold theory is essential if you want to do well in tournaments. I’d rather see people use something like ICMIZER to figure this stuff out than use charts though. the chart you linked to is not optimal, even if other players are using optimal strategies. I don’t know why Jonathan Little still has it up because he himself acknowledged that the suggested ranges should not be used (especially for 12-15BB). Some of the push/fold apps are also dead wrong, as shown through solvers.

Stealing, re-stealing, jamming and re-jamming are all key elements of tournament strategy. If anyone wants to do better in these games, I advise them to get familiar with the concepts and not just follow charts. If you understand why these strategies are effective, then you can tailor your own ranges to the population you are facing.

As a general rule, you cannot commit more than 33% of your stack to an open raise and fold to a 3-bet. If your raise is going to be for more than 1/3rd your stack, just shove. The same goes for 3 and 4 bet sizes. If you are committing more than 1/3rd your stack to whatever raise, just get it in and maximize fold equity.


I think alot of final table play becomes posistional , both by seating and by chipstack… especially if there still is a cash bubble. If you are gonna go up against one of the stacks, you better have something… where-as you can push around players on the margains, with a wider range.

Before your stack is irrelevant, you will need to make a move. WannabeCoder and Warlock are right about proper shove/fold ranges. As the number of players dwindle, certainly @ 4 or less, usually you will be isolated against 1 person so I think of this as a modified HU situation. So then you’re playing the player, more than the cards.

Bahia7 was right, in that playing 1 table SnGs, approximate a final table, but there is no varience in stacks to start with. There are no other tables, these are the ppl you need to beat or outlast.



Agreed, 100%. For me, the button becomes more powerful , the smaller the table gets.

My biggest challenge is hand strength.
10 left, I’m on a table with 4 others. Someone goes bust, and I’m at a table with all 9 seats filled. Hand strengths varies a lot between those scenarios, such as 88, UTG, vs 4 people, or vs 8 people. I don’t think I have a real grip on that yet.

Only tourney i played this past week, I answered an A5s shove with QQ, and a slightly smaller stack, I lost the coin toss, for 2nd.
That’s OK. I got a brief escape from the nightmare of a UI, they’re using in rings, now.


This is what surprises me at the end of a tournament. These players that get to the final table & throw it all away with pretty weak hands. I know its in part bc of the stack sizes & bad blind structures, but how often is A5s the best hand? TBF its much better to shove with A5s than call in most situations.

Bad luck. Its not really a coin toss but yeah you certainly cant play any better than this. Thats poker.

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I’d mention that Little does have some nice content, and his material is worth viewing, even if this might not have been a very impressive example.


I also think this is really a key point to doing well in tournaments. Even if you’re not a big stack, I think being more aggressive than usual at a final table is mandatory if you really are aiming to do well. I’m not suggesting 3 betting with a 10bb stack with 72, but if there’s been no action in front of you, I do think that you really need to broaden your normal range, especially if your normal play doesn’t include a high percentage of raises pre-flop.

Also, don’t be afraid to 3 bet over a min bet from the big stack. Sure, that might be the end of your tournament, but were are you likely to get better odds to double up?

And if there is ever a time to never limp, it’s at the final table when stacks are shallow relative to the blinds, and you have no implied odds to speak of to provide a lifeline for speculative hands. I’m not saying you have to reduce limping to 0% to be successful at the final table, but I do think that getting it quite close to that is optimal, and you won’t be losing much value if you do take it all the way to zero.


You’ll get no argument from me. I spent some time on his PCP training site and still interact with him and his coaches regularly. There are GTO-purists who hate him and loyalists who swear by him. I’m in neither camp and simply recognize the benefits and limitations of any 1 source of information and training. IMO, if people used his training materials, they would probably be better than 95% of live players out there. They would certainly be able to beat live cash games in most places at reasonable stakes and live tournaments up to $1500 or so.

As to this specific example, I can’t post the link to the webinar where it was discussed (behind a paywall) but Mr. Little himself described the flaws in this chart. There are levels of wrong and this chart isn’t wrong in terms of giving -EV advice. It is simply outdated and following it will give up substantial EV compared to more optimal strategies. The point I was trying to make (and Little agrees) is that knowing why we do something is more important than memorizing any chart.


“…knowing why we do something is more important than memorizing any chart.”

I’m grateful for that because I can’t even memorize what I did five minutes ago these days! lol


I hear what you’re saying. I have to remember that’s this is HU, tho, and I’ve bet the farm on weaker aces, often winning with A high. Don’t think I’d push with it, so maybe half the farm.
It goes back to hand strength, and stack size.

I resemble that remark. lol
that’s why I wish I could black out my folded hands, and concentrate on how the other players are playing the hand, instead of watching my folded 72o turn into 2s full of 7s. I probably wouldn’t remember what i folded 5 seconds after they turned black, and it’s not like i’m gonna suddenly start opening 72o.

edit…Of course I forget all those times my 2s over 7s would have lost all my chips to 7s over 2s. (Anyone know why that got changed, somewhere along the line? The way of expressing a full house, that is.)


Absolutely! When I fold, I tend to turn my focus to knitting a few stitches to avoid the agony of having to watch the best possible hand I ever could have made open before me on the board, and me (STILL!) with no UNFOLD button. (I keep asking for that feature.)