Late stage tournament play
It’s in the late stages of a tournament when the men are separated from the boys. Players who consistently win on the poker circuit do so by taking full advantage of the opportunities available to them at this time.
One particularly important tactic they use to reach the final table is focusing on opponents who tighten up their play.
Playing tight late in a tournament turns out to be a fairly common mistake even among skilled players. Yes, adjustments need to be made in terms of hand selection in later rounds. But too often players take it to the extreme and fold hands they should be playing.
While a hand like 6-h-7-h is well suited for early rounds when blinds are low and chipstacks are still high, don’t automatically abandon this type of hand late in the game just because the blinds and the cost of playing are more substantial.
For example, if the players in the blinds are tight and you’re in late position with no other players entering the pot, it would be a mistake to fold a hand like Ju-9-h. Recognize the fact that many players tend to tighten up late in a tournament. As that happens, your success rate at stealing blinds will increase. This is simply not the time to reduce the number of hands you attempt to steal blinds with.
On the contrary, this situation frequently presents a raising opportunity specifically designed to exploit tight players.
If you do elect to raise, the small ball approach will be most effective against tight opponents. These players will often neglect to focus on the amount of your raise. Instead, they’ll zero in on the fact that they just don’t have a strong hand themselves.
Let’s look at another example.
With blinds at 400-800 and a 100 ante, most players will fold a hand like 9-7 offsuit regardless if you make it 2,000, 2,200, or 2,400 to go. With that in mind, you can safely reduce your risk by choosing to raise the lower amount.
For the most part, if you continue to use the same game strategy late in tournaments as you would early on, the adjustments your opponents make will actually render the small ball approach even more effective. Why? Because winning blinds and antes becomes increasingly more valuable as a tournament progresses.
That’s not only because the value of blinds and antes continue to escalate. It’s also because stack sizes in relation to the blinds decrease.
The blinds in a typical big buy-in event may start out at 25-50 with a 10,000 stack. By the second level, however, blinds would increase to 50-100 whereas the average stack would be much less than 20,000 — probably closer to 12,000.
The deeper you get into the tournament, the more extreme this imbalance becomes. So, when the blinds get to 500-1,000, the average stack will likely be around 50,000. On a percentage basis, that’s a significant increase when compared to early stage conditions.
Here’s the bottom line: Paranoia is likely to set in among tight players late in a tournament when blinds escalate to a point where they represent a large percentage of their stack. These players will tend to sit on their hands while more aggressive players rob them blind by relentlessly attacking the blinds with a barrage of small raises.
Tight players simply get gun shy late in a tournament. Don’t make that mistake. Instead, be the player who takes advantage of opponents who play not to lose. Playing to win is the name of the game.
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