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Push Them Around At The Final Table

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Nov 03, 2021

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Jonathan LittleI recently witnessed an interesting hand from a $1,000 buy-in final table that illustrates how you can use a big stack to push around your opponents. It also shows why middle stacks should actively avoid playing significant pots against the big stack when there are numerous shallow stacks at the table.

Here were the stack sizes at the final table. As you can see, the button had a big chip advantage and was in a good position to apply pressure as players tried to ladder up the payouts.

Hijack: 50 big blinds
Cutoff: 10 big blinds
Button: 80 big blinds
Small Blind: 15 big blinds
Big Blind: 20 big blinds

The player in the hijack (HJ) seat, who just happened to be one of the best players in world, raised to two big blinds out of his 50-bb stack with A-Q offsuit.

A-Q offsuit is a perfectly fine hand that should be raised in essentially all normal circumstances. Folding it, fearing aggression from the big stack or an all-in from a short stack (which A-Q would call) would be much too tight.

The cutoff folded, and the generally loose, aggressive big stack on the button three-bet to seven bbs with KClub Suit 3Club Suit.

This is a great spot for the button to three-bet with a wide range, including many bluffs, because the initial raiser has to make a point to not go broke before the short stacks. As the big stack, you should actively look to apply immense pressure to the middle stacks who have an extra incentive to wait until the shorter stacks have been eliminated.

The best hands to three-bet with as a bluff are the hands that are not quite good enough to call that also contain an ace, king, or queen blocker. When you have a blocker in your hand, it makes it more difficult for your opponent to have a premium hand due to there being one less strong card available. While K-3 suited is nowhere near good enough to call, it is a fine choice to use as a bluff due to the stack dynamics and the blocker.

Everyone folded back to the initial raiser, who thought for a bit and then folded.
This fold initially seemed quite tight to me, and it might seem that way to you as well, but after thinking it through, it makes sense. If the hijack calls, the pot will be about 16 bbs with 43 bbs remaining in the effective stacks.

This means that if the big stack makes reasonable bets on the flop, turn, and river, all the money will eventually be in the pot. Even if the flop comes A-X-X or Q-X-X, the hijack cannot be thrilled to put all his money in because he could easily be crushed by a premium made hand.

Sometimes it makes sense to take the cautious approach.

So, when you are at the final table as the big stack, look to apply pressure, and as the middle stack, look to avoid playing big pots. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.