elite player final table hand

What an Elite Player Thinks During a Big Final Table (Analysis)

Many tournament players love to talk about their bust out hands.

They might play dozens of interesting hands over a 10-hour span, yet that final one is usually all you’ll hear about.

We’ve all done it, but this really misses the bigger picture.

What separates the tournament crushers from the bad regs isn’t just how they play their bust out hands. It’s the thought process that goes into every decision, no matter how simple some may seem.

You’re about to improve your own thought process by examining a hand played by Nick Petrangelo at the final table of a $1k buy-in tournament with $36k going to the winner.

If you’re a member of Nick’s High Stakes MTT Sessions course, you can watch every hand from this $1k tournament in the Hand History Review section. Not a member yet? Learn more about the end boss MTT course here.

Nick doesn’t run a sick bluff or make a crazy hero call in this hand, but he does demonstrate the level of consideration that should go into every decision.

Final Table Details

Any final table hand analysis wouldn’t be complete without considering the ICM conditions.

The payouts look like this with 8 players remaining:

  • 1st – $36,249
  • 2nd – $27,403
  • 3rd – $21,484
  • 4th – $16,623
  • 5th – $12,862
  • 6th – $9,951
  • 7th – $7,700
  • 8th – $5,958

Going into this hand there is a 95bb chip leader, two stacks around 50bb, a 34bb stack, and four 21-24bb short stacks (including Nick with 24bb).

As is often the case in these smaller field, high buy-in tournaments, the pay jumps aren’t that significant until the final three. Additionally, since there isn’t one short stack who has a lot less chips than the others, and Nick is in the group of short stacks, there isn’t much ICM pressure on him.

Due to both of these factors, Nick doesn’t have to worry too much about preserving his stack and can instead play to win the tournament.


Nick is dealt 6 6♠ in middle position and raises to 2bb off of a 24bb stack. The hijack 3-bets to 5bb leaving 45bb behind. The action folds back to Nick who calls.


With 12.5bb in the pot, the flop comes 2♣ 6 5.

Nick checks, his opponent bets 2.75bb, and Nick calls.


The turn is the (2♣ 6 5) J♣ and the pot is 18bb.

Nick checks and his opponent checks behind.


The river is the A making the final board 2♣ 6 5 J♣ A. The pot is 18bb and Nick has ~16bb remaining in his stack.

Nick checks, his opponent goes all-in, and Nick calls. His set of sixes is good enough for a double-up versus AQo.

Final Thoughts

I once heard a tournament player say,

The more boring a spot is, the more often it comes up, and therefore the more important it is.

They’re right. Even though we all lose sleep at night thinking about the hand we busted, it’s the little decisions, like Nick’s decision to just call the preflop 3-bet, that will have the greatest impact on our win-rate.

So, stop worrying about your bust out hands and get in the lab!

Note: You’re a few clicks away from accessing a wealth of poker knowledge. Get winning strategies explained to you in detail when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more!
lab banner


Related Posts

Home > What an Elite Player Thinks During a Big Final Table (Analysis)
Home > What an Elite Player Thinks During a Big Final Table (Analysis)
About the Author
Ernest Gorham

Ernest Gorham

California bred writer and poker player you can now find frequenting the London MTT scene.

Put Your Skills to the Test with Quick Poker Quizzes!