Final Table Part Two: Why I didn't take it down

Strategy & Advice by Wes88 Posted

When we last left our hero he was sliding into the money short stacked. After watching a similarly short stacked player go out on a very reasonable shove from late position with QQ and lose a flip to AK, I counted my lucky stars that I wasn't dealt a hand that I was forced to play on the bubble. TD says we are about to go hand for hand, but before the dealer can toss us cards, someone from another table is out and all 27 remaining are in the money. Hooray! Two hands later I double up when from under the gun I casually announce all in as I am casually tossing in a chip into the pot and continuing my conversation with guy to my left. I remember complaining to a dealer at Aria, after getting crippled near the bubble with a hand in which I had tried unsuccessfully to get multiway action, about why I could get the second call that would have kept me alive. He let me know that I was much to deliberate in how I had announced my all in and that when you are trying to get a call you need to make yourself look ready to go home and just happy to have made it this far. I was worried that I oversold it here, but it worked. I got the required crying call from the button and my QQ held.

One other had I was really proud of: EP limper, SB calls, I check in BB with J x. Flop comes a beautiful J-4-J and I check neither to fast nor too slow. Checks around. Turn is an equally beautiful 4. SB bets. I call. EP calls. RIver K. SB waits a decent amount of time and bets. I wait almost the same amount of time and call, and just as I visualized it in my mind EP jams. SB blind insta folds and of course I call and knock out EP, win a big pot, and up my table image with anyone paying attention for being smart enough to check the river and collect maximum chips.

To get to the final table, aside from all the stuff in the earlier post that I thought I had been doing well and continued to do well, from a mental standpoint I had targeted 9th place in my mind once I saw the payouts. The jump from 10 to 9 was from 1000 to 1450 and I felt like that was the place where the payout increases starting to mean something to me. Throughout the day I told myself, just get to the dinner break and then re-evaluate, just get into the money and then re-evaluate, just get to 9th place and re-evaluate. Reminds me of Coach K's stepped goals for the evil Dukies in basket ball. First, qualify for the big dance. Then try to win the regular season. Then try to win the ACC tournament. Then try to make it to the sweet 16. Then final four. Then it all.

So I get to the final table with a series of late position pre-flop jams on which I don't get called. Seem like every orbit I would get a small pocket or suited mid connectors or unsuited broadway cards (never suited aces which I hate jamming) anywhere from the cutoff to the BB. I would jam and not get called, in part because I had just enough chips to damage the callers should they lose. The one time I called an EP minraise from the big blind with A-7 suited I got a 7 high flop and jammed the flop. EP "You hit that flop?" Me "Yes I did" He insta folds shaking his head. So I have a super solid image at the final table. Knock out the 10th place finisher with JJ that I jam over a MP raiser from the small blind which hold up in a race heads up with the BB who calls with AQ. MP takes a long time before folding pre-flop and claims he would have made a straight. No reason not believe him and again everyone sees that all my plays are working pretty well.

And then it all goes south . . .

8 left. All seem pretty solid and experienced. No super big stack I just jumped up into the reasonable range with 850K, blinds at 25K/50K (5K ante?). Under the gun +2 raises to 150K with 450K behind. Standard. I look down at AQ clubs. Think about my options and move all in. Folds back to villain who snaps me off with KK. and I am crippled.

Initially I thought it was fine play and others may think so too. Good money in the pot. Get it in with a strong hand. Nobody is going to fold their way to a win. You may even have some fold equity. But here's the problem with my play.

While I put him on an opening range against which I felt like I had good equity I forgot to ask myself the critical question that I have been so much better about remembering of late. What does he call me with? All those mid pairs that make up his opening range are right out of his calling a shove range. So the only hands that call me crush me. Seems obvious now, but apparently that is a really hard thing to remember with the adrenaline rushing and a big hand that you really want to play at a competitive final table where you feel like you edge may be thin to nonexistent. I am wondering if other people feel like they could have talked themselves into a float or a fold there, and if there is some piece of advice they could share to help others be more successful in these situations.

Also the other factor I think I don't pay enough attention to in situations like this is how the super solid table image I have worked hard to establish figures into the calculation of other players. Of course raiser ranges have got to be better since I have shown myself capable of using position and cards well. In this case it doesn't matter and raiser is hoping that I am actually the donk that I turn out to be, but you have to figure that opening out of position into a solid table means that this is a better than average opening hand that he is willing to go to the wall with.

So I cleverly manage to hang around long enough to watch the eventual winner knock out three player on one hand when he flops trips. Excellent strategy flawlessly executed by me.

And here's where I am out. EP minraise to 100K. One caller. I have 77 and jam to 250K from cutoff. Original raiser asks whether he can raise and of course he can and of course he does - all in. Good and bad for me, right? It does get there other player out, but I am 4 to 1 dog against AA and am out.

Again, not delighted with my play here. Yes its a pocket pair, yes I manage to get heads up here, but again I feel like I only gets heads up with hands where I flip or am dominated by, and so my EV in the hand is pretty piss poor. While in general 77 is fine hand to go out on, its only a good hand to go out on when you use it properly which I now think is 1) open jamming and getting called or 2) maybe calling a single all in who you are hoping has two big cards. Not the spot for it, in retrospect.

I will admit that by hour 12 I was physically tired. Losing the big pot earlier and feeling like I couldn't actually win it at that point did make me do that calculation of what's my probability of double up a few times at this table against this competition and get back into it, how many money spots can I move up if I do that, and what the resulting EV versus the value of going out on a good hand, collecting a big ticket at the cage, and driving home now feeling pretty good about the day.

Thanks for reading and I hope this is helpful to others. Going through it here has been very helpful to me as I try to lock in the learning gains from this experience. Good luck to all at the tables.

Last Edited:


  1. Ugh.... it happens to everyone. Definitely a good read and very helpful too. It is important to be resilient in poker, so keep up your confidence and always look to learn from your experiences....which you are obviously doing. GG

  2. Hard to find...and they take too long, but events with slower, deeper structures provide a little less variance than the shortstack play you reference with your AQ shove. You made a standard play and were on the bad side of variance.