Tips for Final Table Play in Poker Tournaments

Trophy, Cards, Poker, Poker Table

Making the final table at a poker tournament can be wonderful and nerve-racking at the same time. How do you avoid making mistakes and also optimize your strategy? The truth is you have to make adjustments when the stakes are extremely high.

In this guide, I provide you with my final table poker strategy and offer you tips that’ll help improve your performance. The important thing to remember is that you’re not just trying to survive, you want to win that thing!

Follow Stack Sizes and Prize Pool Distribution

You should be aware of everyone else’s stack size at all times. As any poker tournament progresses, the players will acquire larger stacks, which means that a lot’s more at stake with every hand.

Large pay jumps will impact the decision-making process in a big way. You’ll always have to be selective with your hands and know when to fold. However, the situation itself can also dictate your actions and strategy.

Here are examples of how stack size can impact your strategy:

  • Small Stacks – Players often become desperate when their stack size continues to diminish. However, a lot of people at final tables with small stacks will also remain passive. The hope here is that they’ll move up and earn a higher payout without having to do much.
  • Medium Stacks – Anyone with a medium stack will often force someone with a smaller stack to go all-in after they already entered the pot. The logic here is that players who are expected to be called out won’t enter the pot with bad hands. In other words, the person with the medium stack usually has a solid hand that can potentially knock out the other player.
  • Big Stacks – People with big stacks will often raise players with medium or small stacks. They can essentially bully the rest of the table, even if their hand sucks. Most players are often reluctant to bust in these types of situations.

Prize pool distribution is another huge factor. The longer you can hang around in the tournament, the more money you’ll take home. You never want to leave any money on the table.

Don’t Be Too Passive

In other words, don’t just try to survive for as long as possible. Instead, get more aggressive and challenge your opponents when necessary. Taking risks at the right time can be extremely rewarding.


Being patient is important, but you also don’t want to be overcautious. You should take any opportunity you can to seize control of the final table. If you have a healthy stack of chips, you shouldn’t be afraid to take chances.

You should also gauge the players and determine who will and won’t defend their blinds. In other words, try to recognize situations when other players are vulnerable and capitalize on their weakness.

Furthermore, the fear of busting is a very real thing. I understand that you want to avoid exiting the final table at all costs. Many players prefer to go on as long as they can because when they bust, the dream is dead. However, this type of mindset can also cause you to play passively and kill your chance of winning the tournament.

Determine Each Player’s Approach to the Final Table

Your poker final table strategy should also account for any players who’re passive or ultra-aggressive. I advise that you follow their actions and make adjustments accordingly.

The truth is that you can’t stick to the same strategy throughout the entire tournament. You’ll encounter opponents at the final table who know what they’re doing. The best thing you can do is figure out their tactics and strategize around their style of play.

Using the Power of Position

The power of position deals with the chip advantage that people have at the final table. It gives you the opportunity to put everyone else under pressure, so use it.

The most consistent players have a poker tournament final table strategy that often revolves around very aggressive play from good positions. Remember, you don’t play the cards most of the time, you play the opponents and the table context.

Be Careful with Small Pocket Pairs

Here’s one of my best tips for the poker tournament final tables: Don’t go all-in on small pocket pairs, unless you absolutely have to. This is usually a bad idea, especially since players are likely to call you even if their hands are only marginally better.

When you have pocket pairs to start your hand in Texas Hold‘em, the best approach is to play it safe and don’t overbet. You could end up with a very strong hand depending on what the flop reveals. However, if your hand misses, you won’t lose a lot of chips either.

Avoid Making the Big Mistake

The “big mistake” refers to situations where you risk way too man chips for little reward. Big bluffs or big calls when the pot is small are excellent examples of that.

One such error could eat your stack and put you in a fold or all-in position. It’s tough to recover from that, so be careful.

Capitalize on Your Opponents’ Mistakes

Every veteran player has a poker tournament final table strategy where they exploit their opponents’ weaknesses. In high-pressure situations where a lot of money is at stake, players are going to slip up. It’s inevitable that someone will commit a few errors.

When your opponents make a mistake, make sure you’re taking advantage of the opportunity. Also, try to force your opponents to commit errors through bluffing or by creating situations where mistakes can occur.

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Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.