Playing the Final Table - The Endgame
2006 Randy Saylor  

The stacks are now 201-56-23. With an M of 2.2, I’m in trouble. I’m happy about my $900 win, but that’s zero now. I want the extra $500 or $1400 that first or second place will bring.

Hand 33: I go all in from the small blind with KQ, and they fold.

Hand 35: A2 in the big blind. I see a free flop and make a small bet when I flop an ace. He folds, and I’m up to M=3.6.

Hand 36: I was in the small blind. Button raises to 13K, I fold 53o. The flop was 542, turn 6 (NO!), and river 9. I would have tripled up against 99 and 88.

Hand 37: A3 on the button, with an M of 3.3. I raise all in, they fold.

Hand 40: I raise all in from the button with A8, and they fold. M is up to 4.2. Now I have enough chips to back off of all in raises for now. This gives me an advantage, because smaller preflop raises are perceived by good players as asking to be called. Now I can make smaller raises with slightly marginal hands and drop it if I’m pushed back.

Hand 41: I pick up some chips in the big blind with K5 when I see a free flop. It’s checked through, and I catch a K on the river. He tries to buy the pot with a minimum bet. Since I have a weak kicker, I’ll merely call, and I win. He was representing the king, but fortunately, I had it. My M is up to 5.5, and the stacks are 143-83-55.

Hand 43: I raise to 3.5 big blinds with 77 on the button, and they fold. M=6.2.

Hands 44-46: With a better stack, I fold a few to restore a tight image. The middle stack is knocked out when his 55 is cracked by 76. I just picked up another $500!

Heads Up for $900

Hand 48: The blinds are up, so my M drops to 4. He has a 229-51 lead. I get a free play from the big blind. When my T4 catches a 4 on the flop, I push all in and he folds.

Hand 50: I’m in the big blind with K9. After the big stack completes, I push all in and he folds. He is up 221-59. I have an M of 4.7.

Hand 51: I go all in preflop with A4. Oops. He calls and shows KK. I have 3 outs. I start typing in the chat window: “AAA” “AA” “A”. Maybe it’s a cyber-kinetic thing, but I caught the ace on the river. His chip lead is now 162-119.

Hand 54: I am dealt A8, suited, in the big blind. He raises to 19,000 preflop, and I call. The flop comes AQA. I check, and he bets all in. It’s an easy call for me, of course, and even if he has an ace with a higher kicker, I still have three outs to the 8 (assuming his kicker is not the Q). I am only in trouble against AK, AQ, AJ, AT, A9, or QQ. We flip, and he shows the queen, but it’s matched with a jack. He made a major mistake on this hand. He overbet the pot (39,000) by more than three times without even probing to determine if I had an ace. He could have bet the pot and saved himself a lot of chips. If I call or raise, he has to know he’s beat. A-any card is almost always playable when heads up. I take a commanding chip lead at 246-35. Here is an important rule: never make an oversized bet that will only be called if you are beat. With two aces on the board, there is no way I end my tournament unless I have that ace!

Hands 55-59 are uneventful. We trade blinds and I pick up a small pot.

Hand 60: As promised, the last hand. I am dealt K6 and call his all in. He shows Q2. The board comes A977A, and my king kicker plays. It’s over, and my bankroll is up $2300.

Counting the Prize and Wrapping it Up

I was thrilled to finish in first, considering all the times I was against the ropes. I had some luck, and I capitalized on some mistakes by opponents. I made mistakes of my own, and hope to not repeat them.

My biggest advantage in the endgame is patience when I’m not a big stack. It is relatively easy to dominate when you are the big stack (I was aggressive with big stacks, but missed some flops.) It is difficult to remain very patient when in the endgame and shortstacked. Remember, it’s not always as urgent as it feels.

It’s sometimes difficult to decide how to approach endgame situations in tournaments when stacks are tiny compared to the blinds and the table has fewer players. One way to prepare for these difficult, big bet situations is to play (and carefully analyze) sit-and-go tournaments.

The two table sit-and-gos are especially good ways to practice the final two tables of an MTT. You must become more aggressive as the final table bubble is played through (and tables are short), then adjust after the final table is set. Even the best players might go many tournaments without hitting the top twenty, while you can regularly encounter the same phenomenon in SnGs.

One interesting note about playing in MTTs is that until the tournament is below 14 players, you will almost always be seated at a table of 8 or more. Many players that excel in full tables of 8-10 players might experience difficulty in the endgame (fewer than 14 players remaining) of an MTT, when the table is short-handed and the blinds are climbing. For this reason, I recommend that all aspiring MTT players regularly play sit-and-go tournaments (usually single table events) to develop their short-handed game. This could be the difference between small money wins and final table appearances. Experienced MTT players should spend time at 2-3 table sit-and-go tournaments. These closely simulate the activity of the final tables in a MTT.

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