Hearts of a Lion

How could he play it that way? Does he have any clue? I would never have done that. When you are a winning player, thoughts like this enter and exit your awareness at light speed. You understand that the bad plays made by others are the bread that feeds your family. Playing against bad players will not always be easy, however. In today’s example, we’ll see why.

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I’m in the Small Blind with 34 big blinds and blinds at $75/$150 holding Ah-Kh. As seen in “The Value of Ace King”, Ah-Kh is a premium hand pre-Flop because so few hands are mathematically dominating it, while it dominates many. For example, Ah-Kh vs. any other A-X hand (excluding A-K) is approximately 70% in favor of Ah-Kh. In a post-Flop situation, however, A-K becomes less valuable because any made pair is now a 75% to win against A-K. This is why The Poker Model stresses to try and get all-in pre-Flop with A-K in almost all scenarios. An exception would be when we have a super stack and multiple players and 3 and 4-betting. In these cases, it would appear that the unlikely hands A-A or K-K may be in play, which dominate A-K.

Players 7 and 27 both have around 20 big blinds. With A-K we will move all-in over the top of their open raises in an effort to be all-in and in a dominating position to knock one or both of them out. While the odds will be more in our favor against one opponent, we’ll still want to be all-in against both because having even a slight edge in a three-way pot will be majorly profitable in the long run. All of the other players at the table are hovering between 30-55 big blinds. If any of these players open raise, then we’ll 3-bet hoping to induce an all-in and again calling to be in a dominating position.

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The action folds to Player 29, a large stack (52 big blinds), and he raises to $450 which is 3x the Big Blind. We then have a call behind from Player 42, a medium stack (28 big blinds), and the action folds to me in the Small Blind.

This is a tough pre-Flop situation because we have the goal of getting all-in against our opponents, but we don’t want to over bet the Pot. If we make an overbet and move-all in for our 34 big blinds, then it is unlikely that we will get called unless our opponents have J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, or A-K. We’ll be about 50% against J-J and Q-Q, dominated by K-K and A-A, and tied against A-K. Remember that our goal is to be all-in and dominating. If our opponents fold to our all-in, then we’ll win a small Pot which is fine, but we may have scared away a hand like A-Q that A-K dominates.  

Another equally tough option is to make a 3-bet. This is hard because we have to choose an appropriate size, leaving ourselves with enough chips to make a continuation bet if called. The benefits of making a 3-bet are that we may induce a player to move over the top against us with a hand that A-K dominates, like A-Q or A-J.

We can never fold A-K in this situation. Always make a 3-bet or move all-in.

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I choose to make a 3-bet to $1,600. 3-bets can be made similarly to our formula for raising based on the number of callers in front of us discussed in “King of Queens” (2x with no callers, 3x with 1 caller, 4x with 2 callers, ect.). The formula for 3-bets is approximately 2.5x the initial raise + the size of the call for each additional caller behind. In this example, the open raiser went to $450 with one player calling $450 behind. 2.5*$450 (2.5*initial raise) = $1,125 +$450 (size of call behind) = $1575. Remember that nothing is exact ($1,600 is close enough to $1,575, especially with other tables in play) and there are many exceptions to this rule depending heavily on stack sizes. More on this in future posts.   

The ultimate goal for making this bet is to induce hands like A-Q and A-J to move all-in against us. The reason we want this action is because we are 70% favorites. The bet is designed to make Player 23 to my left fold and put Players 29 and 42 to the test.  If Player 23 moves all-in, then I’d call no matter what action occurs afterwards. If he calls, then I’ll need to see what other players do before making my move. I’m never folding A-K here pre-Flop, however. It’s more likely that Player 23 will fold and the action will be on Player 29.

Take a moment to consider how The Poker Model would recommend playing from Player 29’s seat. First off, Player 29 open raised $450, which is 3x the blind. The Poker Model recommends min-raising or 2x-ing the blind. When facing a 3-bet, there are 0 hands that The Poker Model would recommend calling with. We’d move all-in with A-A, K-K, or A-K, and fold the rest, including Q-Q. We have built a large pot at this point and are hoping that all players either fold or move all-in over the top against us. If our opponents make bad calls (which can be expected at times), we’ll be in an even larger pot. On a missed Flop, we may have to break our short stack rules and fire a continuation bet regardless. Let’s see how the hand plays out.

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Player 29 calls, Player 42 folds, the Flop comes 4h-9s-3c, and the action is on me. This is a prime example of a bad player making a bad pre-Flop call. If Player 29 had a monster hand, like A-A, K-K, or A-K, then he should have moved all-in pre-Flop. All other hands should have folded because they would be facing continuation bets on the Flop and need to fold if missed (which is likely). Now we are in a very tough spot, mainly because of our stack size. We didn’t connect on the Flop then we’ll be forced to either check/fold or attempt a continuation bet that will put our stack below the 20 big blind threshold.  

To review, we picked up a monster hand pre-Flop that we wanted to get all-in pre-Flop. The large open raise (3x) and call behind left us in a position where moving all-in would be an overbet. We chose to 3-bet in hopes of getting all folds or induce an all-in that we are dominating. Instead, one player flat called our 3-bet and we are now in a situation with a huge pot, short stack, and no hand. What to do?

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Never make a bet that puts me below 20 big blinds and then fold aftwards. But can I really check/fold and give up on such a huge pot? If he’s bad enough to call my raise pre-Flop, maybe he is bad enough to fold post-Flop. If I bet 1/3rd pot then how much will I have left?

In “Bending our Rules”, we discuss certain spots where it’s okay to go outside of a Poker Model rule. This is one of them. I decide to make a continuation bet even though it will put me below 20 big blinds because the Pot is so large. I adjust and tell myself that I won’t go below 15 big blinds because of specific situation I’m in. There are still no scenarios where I’m risking my tournament life after the bad Flop.   

I bet $1,200 in hopes of getting a fold. If Player 29 calls, then I will check/fold the hand unless I hit a King or an Ace on the Turn in which case I would move all-in. With such a huge pot and short stack, an Ace or a King may be the best hand and get called by worse, like 5-5,6-6,7-7,8-8,10-10, or J-J. Unfortunately if Player 29 puts me all-in, I will have to fold and keep my tournament life. It takes supreme discipline to make this fold after putting so much in the middle with a chance of winning on the Turn or River, but fold! When you are an expert on how to move all-in with stacks of <20 big blinds, you’ll find a better spot to get your money in later.

Player 29 folds and we win a huge pot without putting our tournament at risk. It’s hard to say what Player 29 had, but now we are the chip leader at the table. We’ve navigated a tough pre-Flop situation and bent our rules on the Flop for the win.

In order to bend the rules like we did today, it’s critical that you have an above average understanding of what the rules are in the first place. Don’t go around getting tricky with <50 big blinds or making continuation bets with <20 big blinds if you haven’t mastered and grinded using the basics of The Poker Model. Get comfortable having the heart to fold.

Brett

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