Now that we’ve laid out your general late-stage goals, it’s time to get specific about the best way to see them through to the end. Your ‘in the money’ strategy is not complex, but it does demand focus and determination so be sure to not only take note of each step, but to thoroughly understand it and commit it to memory. By the time you make it to late-stage play, you don’t want to be fumbling with cheat sheets or struggling to remember your plan; you want your strategy to be so firmly and seamlessly entrenched into your psyche that it’s second nature. The only thing you want to be focused on is the cards and players in front of you. You’re going to do this by transitioning into CLOSING MODE.
Once you’ve made it this far you want to be in control of the tournament, driving the action. Be willing to take profitable gambles for small portions of your stack, but try not to take big risks that will diminish your flexibility and leverage.
Here’s how you’re going to achieve this:
Strategy # 1: Evaluate. Always evaluate before taking a gamble. Consider your odds of closing the tourney out if you pass up on this spot, ask yourself how much those odds will increase if you go for it and win. How much will they decrease if you lose? If you stand to gain more, go for it. If you’re going to be much worse off then pass it over. It’s critical to be able to identify where and when to not gamble at this stage of the tournament since the impact of each decision is magnified when you actually have a decent shot of winning. For example, the odds of winning a tournament with 2000 people left (even if you are in 1st place) vs. the odds of winning with 20 left (even if you are in 15-17th place) are very different – and these differences must be accounted for before you act.
You are likewise going to want to evaluate your odds when someone shoves into your blinds or shoves on your open. What are your chances of winning against their range?
Strategy #2: Thieve and Police. Steal from the weak, police the thieves, but BE AWARE OF YOUR IMAGE and BE AWARE OF WHO IS GETTING FED UP AND READY TO ADJUST. You want to be taking a few pots per orbit if you can get away with it, but you don’t want to become the guy that everyone wants to go after, unless of course you play a ‘if you’re not first, your last’ Ricky Bobby approach and are looking to engage in confrontation even against the biggest remaining stacks. This strategy can have its upside because if you’re 1st and take out the 2nd place player, you now have a runaway chip lead. Once you’re in this position opponents may just sit back and let you steal and bust out other players so that they can move up the payout structure. It’s not such an awful position to be in; being the only one playing for first while everyone else is playing for second. However, whether or not the risk of targeting the other big stack is worthwhile really depends on the payout structure and the type of players remaining in the field. It depends on how significant the money is to them and how much they care about moving up.
Word to the wise: be careful about attacking the smallest stacks. If a player is in last or near last at this stage, they may feel it’s unlikely they’ll make the final table and thereby implement a nothing-to-lose approach. If you think someone is ready to take their chances and take a stand, that’s when you actually need a decent holding.
Strategy #3: Go Big on the final table Bubble. Your goal, if possible, is to make it to the final table with a big stack. This is the single greatest opportunity to put yourself in a position to win. Here’s why:
a) you’re playing shorthanded, so there are more opportunities to play pots and outplay opponents.
b) the final table is close, pay jumps are looming, people want to make it and many will be much more intent on moving up than risk elimination so close to their goal.
c) the bigger someone’s stack, the better their position in the field, the less likely they will want to bust, so leverage your stack and apply pressure to the players you can bust but can’t bust you; put their tournament life on the line and instill a bit of good old fashioned fear in them!
Remember that you’re trying to maximize your ROI, and this is your chance to set yourself up for a highly positive one. You may not need to be first, (like in the case of flatter payout structures where getting a stack that can place you 3-5 will give you a solid payday too), but you always want to aim for the max.
Now that you know what you need to do and how you’re going to do it, I want to give you a closer look at the mechanics of the strategies we’ve been discussing by showing you why and when to use them. We’ll start with our defensive tactics.