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Poker Scool Online presents... Pro Tips, with TJ Cloutier.
Keep Your Mind Where It Belongs
by TJ Cloutier
Playing the Final Table Tip
Before you read this next sentence, keep in mind that my point of view on playing the final table is that getting there is the hardest part. After you make it to the championship table, you can relax and have some fun. That's right, playing the final table can be a lot of fun so long as you keep your mind where it belongs ... in the game.
There's no need to get the jitters and break into a sweat thinking about how much money you can win Ö or lose. Let the money youíre playing for be in your thoughts, but keep it on the sideline. Play for the enjoyment of the game and youíll reap your reward as you get through it. Obviously you have to think ahead and formulate a plan before you get there. You want to move up the ladder as far as you can, being careful as youíre moving up it, yet still enjoying yourself.
No matter what bad things happen to your good hands, you still want to play your best poker. That means coming in with decent hands, playing the quality of hands you played at the start of the tournament. Youíre playing at a full table again, not at a short table like you were just before the final table began. And even though the antes and blinds are higher now, if you have an average to large stack, your stack is higher too. Itís all relative.
Just be sure to keep your mind in the game. Donít let any outside distractions bother you. Nowadays with thousands of fans watching the final-table play on television, some players feel like they have to show off a little bit here and there, playing to the audience. And they make bad plays, sometimes just to be able to say, ďI made the bluff, see what a great player I am?Ē Big deal! All you should be thinking about is, ďHow can I win that big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?Ē With that thought planted in your mind, you only think about playing your best game. Anything good that comes from TV or the fans will come to you anyway if you win it, so why worry about things when itís going on?
Donít make the mistake of thinking that you have to pick up the blinds all the time. Suppose youíre not successful in doing that. Maybe youíre on the button, itís passed to you, and you raise with a bad hand. The blind calls and you lose the pot. That loss can put you in a bad frame of mind. ďWhy did I do that?Ē you wonder. ďThat was stupid. Why should I try to win X-amount of money and sacrifice more than what I could win to do it?Ē If youíre in a bad or negative mood, youíre more likely to make another mistake.
The idea is not to make the first mistake. Let the other guys make the mistakes. Of course itís hard not to make mistakes playing holdíem, and I understand that clearly. I realize that you want to be aggressive, and you want to take this pot and take that pot. There are times to do that, but when youíre playing nine-handed at the final table is not the time to do it. Youíre playing at a full table, just like you were at the start of the tournament, and that requires more caution.
Remember this important fact: The more hands dealt out, the bigger hand it takes to win a pot. When 18 cards are coming off the deck versus only 10 cards coming off, more cards are out to make more big hands possible. Thatís why, when we used to play 11-handed in Dallas in the old days, it took a helluva hand to win a pot because there were a lot of cards in play. After you get to short-handed play, and especially when you get to head-up play, you can understand why certain hands have a lot more value than they do when youíre playing nine-handed. But at the start of the championship table, youíre playing in a full ring game. Youíre no longer playing short-handed like you were at two tables, when the hand values were different. So you have to readjust your play when you start out at the final table.
Bad beats are just a part of poker, and thereís nothing you can do about them. My main advice is that if you take a beat, bad or otherwise, do not let it affect your play for the rest of the tournament. Say that you had $200,000 and you lose $50,000 in a hand, leaving you with $150,000 in chips. You still have enough chips to play with so donít let the beat affect your play. Donít sizzle. Players these days are good enough that they will test you after you lose a pot to see whether youíre sizzling or getting out of line.
Just play your game. Youíll find that this approach works; it does for me. I also stay away from going crazy after I lose a hand or take a beat. I may be feeling a lot of turmoil inside, but Iím not going to show it on my face. And Iím not going to show it in my play, that's for damn sure. Look at the glass as being half full rather than half empty. A touch of optimism, some skill, and a bit of luck go a long way at the final table.
This weekend at PSO!
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