I've noticed this a few times (mostly on low stakes SNG games); when you get to the final table people start shoving, a lot! - It'll be every hand someone is shoving, it becomes the exception that a hand is actually played out on all streets. So my question to you is ...

What is the best strategy to combat these types of players if:

  1. I'm the chip leader.
  2. If i'm somewhere in the middle.

I don't want to play too cautiously as the blinds are increasing but I don't want to risk it being quite close to a nice payout, thanks!

  • 1
    Are you asking for a EV-maximizing strategy? Or are you trying to get into the money? Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 4:27
  • @BrandonDuRette - I'm trying to get into the money (usually about 4 places are paid these smaller matches).
    – Crizly
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 13:50

8 Answers 8


On the final table short stacks will always shove looking for that double up they need. I tend to call if i have any pocket pair and big hands like AK - A10. Anything that might flop well basically.

If the same person keeps shoving i might loosen up. If they aren't doing it everytime then i will try and decide if its worth making the call or not.

So to answer your questions:

  1. Call with any pair or big hand that will flop well. Including suited connectors (If they are shoving a lot)

  2. Only call with good hands and leave someone else to take them out.

  • Hmm, see i'm often too cautious to call with suited connectors, I might try it on a few really loose players who seem to be shoving a lot. Thanks.
    – Crizly
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 13:51
  • 3
    Don't call shoves with suited connectors outside of very special value circumstances. This is a losing proposition in normal play for sure. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 14:00

They're shoving because they have less than 10BB and in that regimen it's usually best pre-flop to just shove or fold. You should be calling with hands that have good equity vs their shoving hands. This will always be AQ+ and TT+, and sometimes much wider, depending on what position they're shoving from. For example, if they're shoving from the small blind, you should be calling very very wide, even with hands like 96s (see here). On the other hand, if the shover is UTG in a 9-handed table and has 10BB, you should probably be calling with AK,AQ,TT+, maybe a tiny bit wider. There is software like SnG wizard that lets you practice these situations. You should also play with pokerstove a lot: put a reasonable range that villain might shove with, and see what hands you have equity to call with.

Oh, and one of the commenters suggested calling with suited connectors. by no means you should be doing this: calling with QT is typically way better than calling with 76s: just put these in poker stove vs typical ranges and see.


This is one of those situations that is more complicated than you would think in some ways, and simpler than you would think in others. There is actually a mathematical formula for these kind of push/fold decisions. It is called the Independent Chip Model (ICM). Here's the best article I could find explaining it:


And linked from there is a good article on how to use it to make good decisions in Sit and Gos and final table situations:


As long as you can calculate an accurate range for your opponents, you can make perfect decisions against them using this knowledge.


I have a rather weird strategy in this situation. I kinda let people eliminate themselves and try to basically get to the top 3 under the radar. A nice example was Antoine Saout who became 3rd at the main event at the 2009 WSOP. He basically played only one hand or something and became 3rd. If you want to go for first place though, you should be a chip leader to be able to do this. I believe that calling with any pair against these people is not a good strategy because if you have a low pocket pair, in the best case scenario, you will only have a coin flip, else, it'll be worse...

In general I would only call if I really have a good hand and let others slaughter each other. Obviously, it all depends on position, how the villains around you play, ... The other way around then: if I am short stacked and I have about 15 blinds and I receive a QT or something on my button, I would rather wait an extra round to have 9 more hands to push. And always remember: the less people are at the table, the stronger your hands get!

  • A search of "Antoine Saout" on YouTube shows that he played at least 8 hands.
    – user1934
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 1:06

The OP seems to have a limited understanding of correct high blind i.e late stage sitngo play. He asks why there is such a high prevalence of open shoving as opposed to street by street play. I think the answer to this is fairly obvious, and is the fundamental difference between sitngoes and cash games and that is stack to blind ratio. In a cash game you are playing every hand ( or should be) with a 100 big blind stack and you can therefore play every hand that you play in a street by street fashion. However this is simply not possible in a sitngo where effective stacks are in the 10 to 15 big blind range. You simply dont have enough chips to chunk your bets to play three streets when the big blind is say 150-200. Hope this helps the OP.

  • I'm interested in what you said about cash games. Is it your strategy to see the flop as cheaply as you can as often as you can and then play the flop from there?
    – Evan Welch
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 21:12

The rule of thumb is if the table is lose then play tight.

Remember you don't have to be the one to take them out to move up.
You still have to beat a random hand.
Even a pusher can pick up a premium hand.

Don't take heads up with a bad player. Wait for a good spot.

One player at the table could very well have a hand.
Two players could have hands.

Be aware of your position. If there is no post flop play then the BB has position.

If you call from mid the problem is you have 3 hands behind the could have a hand and they are getting 2:1 on their money.

I know you want to open up but play tight. Don't put your stack at risk just because they are willing to.

The BB is the spot to take a stand. No one behind to re-raise you. If you want to play lose any Ace, any pair, and any two cards 8 or bigger. I will wait for pairs 8 or better and any two cards 10 or better and suited connectors down to J8. Why put your stack at risk to someone that is likely to go out before you?

Once you get down to 20 BB you need to start playing a bigger range. At 10 BB you need to play a big range. But remember you don't have to have to play until the BB gets to you. No reason to play 85 from mid if you are going to see two more hands before the BB get to you.

Collusion is not legal but it is a common practice to check down when someone is all in. You don't want to force out a hand that can take someone out.

A really good practice is free sites. You get a lot of pushers and I just play tight and do very well. It is boring.


I think at the final table the most important thing becomes something called ICM, independent chip model. However, as was revealed recently by word renowned pros and prodigy like Fedor Holz in a recent podcast, it not a great approximation in tournament poker. To take all the emotion out of decision making as those other players do, just take all the decision making out and leave it to pre-computed Nash equilibrium solutions, like in my Nash push fold charts. I made them for this particular purpose :)


I find that often in low stakes, these are silly players who read one snippet of a strategy in a forum somewhere and think it's the best way to play.

In situations like the one you describe, I have two possible ways that you can play it to share with you.

The first, is a longer-than-one-hand-play to trap your foolhardy and predictable opponent.

Strategy #1 - "Enjoy my blinds, I'll be taking every last one of yours soon"

If you can afford to lose a few blinds, flat call or min-raise out of position against your opponent, while they are seated somewhere near the button (regardless of your cards, just look for a good moment when there isn't lots of drama).

If they shove all in and you have air, take a moment to imply it's a bit of a decision and then fold. If they don't shove but do call, play the hand as you normally would, perhaps a bit weaker (check, check, ?). Sometimes you can take these pots down anyway through cards or actions.

After you've let them have maybe 3 or 4 pots this way, they'll be ripe for the taking. All you have to do is find a decent hand (KQ+), play it weakly, and then come over the top - by checking or calling and then re-raising their bet, preflop or on later streets - or just call their all in when they aren't expecting it.

If they're bad/tilting they'll call or reraise with a poor hand; if they just happened to get lucky with nice cards this time they'll do the same. If they're a bit better they'll either call [a less than all in raise] or just plain fold. After doing this to them a few times they'll soon either learn a lesson and change their play, get knocked out by you, or in unlucky circumstances, knock you out/down.

My second strategy is sometimes useful when you want to see the flop with a decent hand like JT, but you don't want to inflate the pot too early:

Strategy #2 - Fight Fire With Fire

Raise to an arbitrarily odd amount (like 2.85 BBs) preflop and out of position, before it gets to them. Often they'll fold, sometimes they'll call, yet rarely will they re-raise over the top.

If they do re-raise over the top, and it's -EV to call, give it up and wait a few rounds. This will contribute to them gaining a false sense of security against you. You will be looking weak; but isn't that quite when you're actually quite strong?

In conclusion, my attitude and strategy towards these types of players is make them think you're weak, and then look for an opportunity to punish them. Often the weaker they think you are, the more outrageously bold they'll get, and it soon becomes obvious that you can continuously shove back over them or call their shoves with a wider range of cards. Enable them to become over confident, and then pounce on their newly revealed weaknesses.

P.S. As a side note, you should mostly be analysing the play with at least crude mathematics, regardless of stack sizes or closeness to victory i.e. if they've just shoved all in four times in six hands, and it's not the first flurry, it's about time to make the brave QJ/JT/QT/etc. call.

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