One of the best experiences you can get is an online poker game that is making it to the Final Table of a major tournament. Whether you paid for it or made it to the end of a freeroll, you know you have the money, and many cases you could afford. You have a couple of problems:
1) Dealing with quality players (almost by definition the players know how to play Holdem) qq online.
2) Ensuring that however big your chipstack is, you make it to a top 3 position.
The second point may seem rather obvious, but it’s worth remembering that at some point in the prize increases, the difference between the 1st and 10th is likely to be higher.
One problem a lot of players have when they find themselves on the final table is that they have no real master plan, but know that being aggressive has been a successful strategy. If you have not played the sections of the tournament aggressively up to this point then you are very lucky to have made it this far. Mistake number 1 is then misplaced over-aggression. When you are down to the last 10, the blinds will be huge. These forces players will gamble and stay in contention far more than they would have in the earlier stages. Play aggressively with weak hole cards and you will find yourself with a 50/50 chance at best.
The Final Table at The Next Problem is a dominating chipstack that you will see. Holdem poker players often worry about the size of these people and lead them to the challenge. My advice would not be so. OK now you have some idea what to do – how should you play?
The first thing to do is recognize that the game has entered a final and most dangerous phase. At this stage in the game you will see lots of bluffing, aggression (mostly by the chip leader) and less than perfect cards with play. Assess your position relative to the others on your table. If you are on the short stack then you must take the risk. Do not blind yourself to a point where even if you do not win you will doubtless benefit from it. Go all-in with ace anything or any pair to double the chance. If you are not short-stacked then sit back, relax and only play premium hands. By premium we are talking about 1010 or higher pair and Ace King, Ace Queen. By playing this part of your tour slowly you will be able to watch as others put themselves out there. Obviously if you have a premium hand you can expect someone to try and bluff you, but even if they do, they all end up with some sizeable blinds.
If you are the dominant chip leader then be careful not to lose it by picking your opponents one by one, and throwing plenty of chips around when the middle stacked players try to dip into the water. Always be on guard for the high cards on the flop because these will most likely be matched, especially so by the all-in-one short stack.
Monitoring your opponents’ position relative to yours (the small stacks that are) should be central to your Texas Holdem Strategy. Once you get down to the final five you need to take the risk, and not before. This way you have little or no chance of being put out of the game at a lower position – the phrase “you’ve got to be in it to win it” simply doesn’t apply. Why take a 50/50 chance at double up when you can take the same 50/50 in 5th position after half the table knocked out by yourself? At least if you follow this strategy you will finish 5th if you’re not unlucky enough.
The Final Table of the Beginning of the End, rather than the End of the War. Quiet play, even for this short period of time, will gain you a reputation as a “rock”. Once you get down to the 5th place you’ll be running low on chips or even a short stack because you’ve been out for a while. Always step back into the game with all-in-one poor quality hole cards. Other players will be quiet for such a long time (or if you have played with Aces, Kings or Queens). After that you’re on your own. I firmly believe that anyone who plays the right Texas Holdem strategy at each stage of the tournament will do well and regularly. You can play to the top 5 with skill, progressing beyond that point on the rewards of luck and circumstance.
Graham Easton is the author of this article, webmaster at, and successful Tournament Texas Holdem player. He has a record of making heads up in 5 of his last 20 major online poker tournaments with less than $ 33 per individual buy-ins.