Come play a couple hands with me.
Here’s the setup: we’re in a small stakes no limit Hold’em tournament. (I know, I know… what the hell am I doing in a tournament? Perhaps I’ll explain in a future post.)
Six players remain from the original 34 entries. Only the top four will get paid.
With blinds of 3,000 / 6,000 plus another 6,000 Big Blind ante, we are the chip leader with approx. 330,000 in chips.
In the cutoff seat, we peek at A♠ K♠. The players in front of us fold, and we raise to 27,000.
(In hindsight, the bet-sizing here is all wrong. I had a reason for raising this much but cannot recall what I was thinking at the time. This ain’t no bet-sizing quiz, so we’re moving along.)
The button and Small Blind both fold. The Big Blind is a very aggressive player who, for purposes of this blog, I’ll call “Mike.”
Mike looks at his cards, says something to the effect of “well, I gotta do this,” and announces all-in.
We ask for a count and he has approx. 280,000 in chips.
What should we do? Leave your answer and reasoning in the comments.
This seems at first like an insta-call.
In a tournament, however, there are other considerations.
- We are two spots away from the money. We would like to get some of it.
- We have the chip lead. We can afford to fold and wait for a better spot.
- A lot of the power from AKs comes via fold equity. You can bet or raise aggressively knowing that your opponent often will fold, knowing you’ll rarely be in terrible shape if called.
Here, however, Mike is already all-in. There’s no fold equity available for me.
What’s his range? I don’t have a lot of experience with Mike, but definitely label him as aggressive and willing to gamble. Let’s look at our equity against several possible ranges:
- The tightest imaginable range is AA, KK, AKs. Against that range (just 9 combinations), our equity is 32.1%. Folding would be correct.
- Against a still-very-tight range of JJ+, AQs+, AKo (44 combos), my equity goes up to 45.6%. Still not excited.
- Double the range to 88+, ATs+, KJs+, AQo+ (90 combos) and my equity jumps to 54.3%. Calling is profitable from a strictly math standpoint. But is it the best play this close to the tournament bubble, when folding leaves me with ~ 50 big blinds?
- The hands I dominate the most are off-suit A9, A8, A7 and A6. These combos cannot work together to make a straight, and I dominate them at approx. 75%-to-25% equity.
- Heck, even 72o has over 30% equity against by “monster,” with two live cards.
It pained me greatly, but I folded. Calling presented an awful lot of risk of going from chip leader to bubble boy over a coin flip, and completely unnecessary with 50 BBs available to continue.
With a much smaller stack, or further from (or past) the bubble… maybe and probably or definitely a call.
Same tournament. We’re down to five players and reached an agreement to take a few dollars out of each prize to make the bubble player whole.
The blinds are up to 4,000 / 8,000 plus an 8,000 Big Blind ante.
On the button, we peel back A♥ A♦. (About damn time!).
Mike limps in and the next player folds. While deciding how much to raise, the Big Blind attempts to raise to 42,000 out of turn. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Will.”
Like Mike, Will is an aggressive player and prone to attacking perceived weakness with wide ranges. If I simply call, he won’t be bound to his raise and there’s no guarantee he won’t slow down.
Let’s not overthink this. We’re raising! Hopefully he’ll try to blast us with a re-raise.
We make it 32,000.
Nope. Will calls and Mike also calls.
The flop is Q-J-5, rainbow.
Will open jams all-in.
Mike also goes all-in.
Gulp! This just got weird. Or did it?
We still have AA… what should we do? Again, leave your answer and reasoning in the comments.
I folded. It feels like somebody has a two-pair+ hand. It really doesn’t matter if it’s two pair or a set. Mike could have a hand like QJ or 55. Will could have these same hands or be a strong as QQ or JJ.
In the moment, I considered Mike to be much more likely to be the player I needed to worry about, as he went all-in rather enthusiastically over the top of Will’s bet.
And I still had plenty of chips to maneuver with.
To finish the hand, Will turned over QTo and Mike eliminated Will with Q5s and the turn and river cards didn’t change anything.
I was right about my AA not being good anymore, and gained additional insight into just how wide Mike’s limping and limp-calling ranges might be, even at this stage of the tournament.
After shooting myself in the foot multiple time when playing too aggressively close to the bubble, my tendency is to fold the AK in the first instance.
That 2nd hand? It would have become a learning experience as I would have called.