How to Play No-Limit Hold’em Multi-Table Tournaments For The Win

Sitting down at a final table is always a fun experience. You have invested a ton of time, outlasted a good majority of the entire tournament field, and now you are in a position to maximize your return on investment. If you are not an experienced MTT (multi-table tournament) player, making a final table can be quite nerve-racking. I am here to guide you through this opportunity to expand your bankroll.

phil ivey wsop poker

Not a guy you want at your final table.

At almost every final table, you will be surrounded by complete sharks, with maybe one or two inexperienced fish who got lucky along the way. Not to worry, you are simply playing a Sit-n-Go 1 table tournament with various stacks sizes and experience levels to which you can adjust to accordingly. With my hyper-aggressive playing style, you will either find me at a final table with a majority of all the chips in play, or eliminated before we even make the money. I want to have a majority of the chips in play at the final table because I will be the one dictating the action.

An Overview of MTT’s

Tournaments are basically a lottery. Highly skilled poker professionals might have 3-4 tickets, while the amateur players are lucky if they even find a ticket. You will need to get lucky to accumulate a lot of chips, however chips can be slowly accumulated depending on your style of play. If skill and luck are both on your side, you don’t want the opportunity to go to waste.

As I said before, I am willing and almost certainly going to gamble for a big stack in a tournament if I have the chance. I want to have a lot of chips so I can bully other players around for their chips. I want to keep accumulating chips as I go along without any kind of resistance. When resistance is met, I can lose a few chips or, win A LOT of chips if I am holding a stronger hand and play it correctly. I can fold away small pots without the nuts, but put an opponent at a decision for EVERY chip when I hit my big hand. I can also put an opponent at a decision for everything in front of him if I know he can’t possibly call when I don’t have a hand.

This type of reading ability is only acquired from playing thousands of tournaments. Thanks to online poker, I can play a thousand tournaments in a few months if I choose. Live, I would be lucky if I could squeeze out two events in a month with my hectic life schedule. Either way, I am going to play each and every tournament to win, and nothing else matters. If the money matters to you, you are playing way above your head.

wsop poker room vegas

Started with multiple, down to one.

What Do We Do At The Final Table?

The power of having more chips than anyone else means that you will never be all-in while simultaneously having the ability to put any other opponent at a decision for their entire tournament life. Because of this dynamic, I get involved in almost every single hand knowing a majority of my opponents are simply interested in moving up the money ladder. They want other players to lose so they earn more money. The flaw in this strategy is that the biggest prize is reserved for first place. In a tournament, my only objective is to have all the chips in play at the conclusion. Anything else is secondary.

In a standard multi-table tournament, you will be lucky to make the final table with maybe 10-20bb (big-blinds.) At this stage, you are pushing all-in/3-betting pre-flop all in, or folding if you have any fundamental grasp of poker. Having more, or significantly more big blinds than this is a situation you can exploit. You don’t need cards to play. You are playing the other opponent, and his skill level at poker.

Getting dealt a premium hand in no-limit hold’em is a rarity. You can not simply sit and wait around for good cards, you must get in there and gamble effectively. Because of the fact that it is hard to get dealt a premium holding, I can feel comfortable open raising almost every single pot pre-flop with a big cheap lead. The only opponents who will test my raises usually show up with a good hand, unless they are highly skilled and understand what I am doing. Even if they are skilled, do they want to pick on me? Or do they want to pick on easier spots? Some will challenge, most will wait for a better spot.

viktor blom isildur1 poker

Viktor Blom has played a final table or two.

Survival of The Fittest

Tournament poker is all about survival. If you are the last person to survive, you win the biggest prize. If you knock out second, you still win a good portion of the prize pool, but you failed to maximize your return on investment. Many players are simply satisfied with reaching the money bubble, and if “lucky”, the final table. They have no problem folding and hoping to move up pay jumps. The best opportunity to accumulate chips arises when there is a player at your table hoping to simply survive.

Having a big stack, I can raise an overwhelming majority of hands I am dealt, and expect folds almost all the time, barring someone gets dealt 8-8/AK+. When I fold, I lose the minimum because I raise the minimum, knowing I am risking as few chips as possible to achieve my desired outcome. One noticeable flaw in a lot of players tournament game is they feel the need to open raise 3-4x the BB. I raise 2.01 the BB, and if I need to fold, I save a few BB. Every BB is crucial in each tournament, wasting chips is a mistake.

When raising almost every hand, it is almost impossible for my opponents to put me on a “range of hands.” My range of hands consists of almost the entire deck of cards, and I can play each and every one profitably. I know when I am beat, and I know when I am ahead. When I am beat, I fold. When I am ahead, I figure out the most possible chips I can squeeze out of you without betting too much, based on your range of hands. Since you are playing the “guessing game” against me, you are put at the ultimate decision to call or fold, not me. You might be good, but you are probably beat. A lot of players simply just can’t fold when they really need to.

dan smith poker

Dan Smith recognizes opportunity for maximum profit.

Closing The Final Table

The action gets exciting when we get down to 3 players. When 3 players remain, it is a cat fight for the heads-up match. If you still have maintained the chip lead, you can sit back and enjoy the action, while still accumulating chips. There is no reason to get too involved, you can steal a few blinds, and hope to hit a big hand. There is no reason to play speculative hands, especially out of position. You want to play safe, yet still aggressive poker when the situation calls for it. Take note of your opponents and how often they are raising/folding based on their stack sizes. Exploiting these weaknesses is crucial, so pay close attention.

Complications arise when we reach the final table. For example, in a $1,000 buy-in WSOP event, first-place can reach close to $500,000 depending how many players participate. $500,000 is a disgusting amount of money for a majority of players who enter this event. Because it is only a $1,000 event at the WSOP, you can expect a few “recreational” players at your final table.

These players are most likely playing poker for fun, have other 9-5 jobs, and care about the money way more than the professionals do. Knowing this, professionals strike deals that earn them additional profit for simply making a deal. I have seen top pros online/live tell all players there will be no deal unless they receive an extra %. Most recreational players oblige, and the pro guarantees himself additional equity just based on his skill level. Players get a good deal, lock up a lot of money, and get to play for additional money as well. Poker pro Dan Smith won more than the first place prize in the Sunday Million using this method. 

greg merson 2012 wsop main event poker champ

Greg Merson: 2012 WSOP Main Event Champ.

The Heads-Up Match

You made it! It is just you and your opponent for the title, and the top prize/return on investment. Most smaller online/live tournaments don’t have very long of a heads-up match, especially if a deal has been struck between the players. A typical heads-up match won’t last long, but there is still strategy involved. You want to get your money in ahead, and hope for a good result. If it is your “lucky” day and you win, congrats! Take the win with pride, but understand you more than likely made a few mistakes along the way. Don’t be satisfied with the win, figure out what you did and get better. Doing this will see you setting yourself up for the win more, and more often. 🙂

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