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How to Beat Small Stakes MTTs – Playing the final table

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  • PG News February 21, 2011
  • 8 mins Read

This is the final part of my first article about playing the small stakes 180’s MTT SNG on Pokerstars. Previous parts can be found at www.pokerguru.in.


Reaching the final table

So, you managed to bully yourself through the bubble play and the last two tables, and here you are, facing the last nine players who once were 180. Now is the time to make some money using some of the best poker strategies .


Payout Structure



Winnings (%)

































As you can see, the payout structure is extremely top-heavy. When you win one tournament you’re basically freerolling the next 50. So first goal when entering a FT (Final Table) should always be to reach top three. When you’re there, you play to win. But lets start from the beginning.

Know your enemy

Knowledge is everything. If you can pinpoint those that are loose, tight, aggressive or just pure maniacs, then you have some valuable information and can adjust your poker strategy accordingly. When you’re down to the last nine players you should know a little about at least half the field since you had them on previous tables. So taking notes and being observant is truly important for your success on a final table.

I always try to figure out what type of player I’ve got to my right and to my left since many decisions will be based on these players. To elucidate this, let’s say you have an unknown or tight player to your right you might wanna narrow your calling range from the blinds when he’s trying to steal. If he is a “regular” you should do the opposite, open up your range since he will most likely jam with a very wide range of hands.

Same thing apply when it’s folded to you. If you’re in SB or on the BTN you should think twice before shoving a 15BB stack with Q7o trying to pick up the blinds from a loose/aggressive maniac. On the other hand, if the player to your left is tight and weak, then you might shove 72o profitable. It all comes down to the players involved and stack sizes.

Stack sizes

Knowing your opponent is of course a key factor for successfully assign a range of hands to a player, and with this information being able to adjust your play. But whats equally important for your decision is stack sizes and how to adjust your own aggression to different stacks. Here’s one scenario and how different stacks will dictate your play.

With five players left, blinds 2k/4k and everyone folds to you in SB. The player in BB is a decent regular with a somewhat wider range to call then most players. Lets assume he would call a shove from you with hands like A5s+, A7o+, 55+, KTs+ and KQo+, which is approximately top 17% of his hands. This is the range I’m putting him on when he got a stack size of 17BB (70k).


What range of hands can you profitable shove from SB if your stack is

a) 40k (10BB)

b) 60k (15BB)

c) 90k (20BB)

and the other players stacks are 30k, 60k and 70k?

If your stack is a) 40k (10BB) you can pretty much shove 100% of your hands from SB against this type of player.

With a stack of b) 60k (15BB) you have more to loose. So that would narrow your range down to about 25% but it’s still a pretty wide range you can shove with from SB.

As chip-leader with a c) 90k (20BB) stack i wouldn’t recommend open shoving any hand at all (if it’s not done for reasons discussed below) since effective stacks are to big. But for the arguments sake you can profitable shove about top 12% of your hands. In reality, a small raise would be better with these stack sizes unless you think he will play back at you with a lot of trash hands.

If we change the character in BB from being a decent regular to a super tight player, you can profitable shove any two cards with stacks of a) and b). With a 90k stack as of c) you might wanna narrow your range to about 40 or 50% of hands.

My best advice would be to download Sng Wizard and play around with different stacks, positions and ranges. Also, when you play, try to put others on a range of hands in spots were they are shoving or calling. Be observant when you play. Don’t watch videos or read forum threads while playing. There’s a lot to be learned by being observant of other players behavior.

To raise or to shove

In the small stakes you will see a lot of players just open shoving stacks of +20BB since they don’t wanna put them self in a spot were they have to fold to aggression or play there hand post flop. If a shove is made for these two reasons, I would say it’s a bad play and also an expensive one.

The main reasons for you to open shove your hand is to put maximum pressure on the players left to act and of course to prevent being abused by re-steals from aggressive players. But in the small stakes 180’s with a lot of unknown players, you really don’t need to worry about being abused. Very often a small raise would be good and unless you’re committed, you can fold to a re-raise and feel good about it.

But to every rule, there’s of course an exception. Sometimes an open shove for 20BB could be a profitable play. It could be for deception. Some players will see a shove as a sign of weakness so they will open up there range and make a bad call with a hand they otherwise would have folded.

Choosing the right strategy

At the final table, with eight or nine players left you should always let your stack size dictate your strategy. Remember, your first goal is to reach top three. That doesn’t mean you have to knock out six players by yourself. Let the other players help you with that.

With a large stack (+20BB) I will do what I can to maintain my stack until we’re down to four or five handed play. I’ll put pressure on the medium/small stacks and players that are acting weak/tight. I won’t raise from an early position unless i got a very strong hand and i will fold to aggression if necessary.

With a medium stack (13 to 18BB) it probably won’t be enough to just maintain your stack. If you do, you will have less then 10BB left when your down to five or four players. Try to steal blinds and get it in when you think you’re ahead, and remember, it’s always better to be the one that moves all in first, then it is to call a shove from someone else.

If you got a small stack (10BB or less) your first priority is to get it in while you still have some fold equity. Hopefully you will get dealt a decent hand and your able to double up. You can’t afford to wait for a good hand. If it’s folded to you in late position, get it in with any two cards. Aggression and position is your two best friends!

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