There comes a point in every Texas Holdem tournament when it comes time to change strategies. The early stages of the game are about building up your chip stack and learning your opponents’ idiosyncrasies. Towards the end game strategy phases of the game role around, the goal changes. Now it’s time to take as many opponents out as you can as fast as you can. However, you need to do this in an intelligent manner. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.
So what kinds of risks should you take and what kind should you not take? For starters, the prospect of going all in should get easier as the game goes on. Going all-in is a risky business, but in the latter part of the game it should become slightly more frequent. For example, if you hold a decent pair and a good position, an all-in bet can buy you the blinds without the trouble of playing any unnecessary betting rounds.
One thing to avoid is bluffing all-in. While it is possible and can be profitable, it is also a large risk. That brings us to the subject of calling all-in bets. First of all, if you have the opponent’s chips covered, the decision should be slightly easier, but not by very much. Calling an all-in opponent always entails some risk, and most of the decision should come from reading the tells you discovered in the earlier stages.
Also, in the latter parts of the game, relative pre-flop hand strength increases. For example, a pair of tens or low faces may not be worth very much in the beginning of a tournament, but in the latter stages with only a few players it may be the best hand pre-flop. Further, the final hand strengths change considerably. With less than five players on the table, a decent pair can often win the pot. However, higher hands such as straights and flushes do come up from time to time, and if you aren’t careful you’ll be caught off guard.
The most difficult part of the end game is commonly called the showdown. When the game is down to the last two players and they battle it out for the two highest money seats, things can get very strange very quickly. Checking all the way through betting rounds is ridiculously common at this stage, and most bets that are made are relatively high given the availability of chips.
The best chance you have of winning is a high pocket pair pre-flop. You bet the hand cautiously, and if a decent flop comes up, you go all-in. If your opponent has a decent enough hand, he should call and you should have him (unless he gets lucky, which you just can’t avoid sometimes.)
A few things to remember about this stage of the game and your end game strategy: draw hands are worth almost nothing, a decent two pair usually wins the pot, and most hands end in a fold. The best thing to do here is just relax and do the best that you can (in most tournaments second place is decent money anyway, so don’t be sweating bullets over this one). Play your best and you’ll come out in the money consistently.