Good Move, Bad Outcome

 

I’m on The Button with 26 big blinds holding 9-9. The level is $30/$150/$300 (Antes/Small Blind/Big Blind). The Button is valuable because I get to see what all players to my right do before having to make a decision. There are a plethora of potential action options available to my opponents, so I’ll wait until the action is on me to make a decision.  

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Player 412 folds, Player 131 moves all-in for $3,555 and all other players to my right fold leaving the action on me. The process of understanding what to do with 9-9 here starts with calculating the number of big blinds of the all-in. To calculate the number of big blinds, use this formula:

# of big blinds = (stack size) ÷ (1 big blind)

In this example, Player 131 has a stack size of $3,555 and 1 big blind is $300. Plug in these variables to calculate Player 131’s number of big blinds:

# of big blinds = ($3,555) ÷ ($300)

# of big blinds = 12 big blinds

The next step is to be conscious of where the all-in is coming from. In this example, Player 131 moves all-in from early table position. Remember The Poker Model Principle:

Players tend to raise with stronger hands from early position and weaker hands from late position

The last step is to input the variables into The Poker Model and see what range of hands the all-in may be:

Stack Size: 12 big blinds

Table Position: Early

The Poker Model Estimated Range of the All-in: 22-QQ, A6-AK, KJ, KQ

*KK and AA are more likely to raise for value rather than go all-in here

Now I’m able to compare my hand (9-9) to my opponent’s range and determine if I should call, raise, or fold. As a reminder, see the odds of these potential Pre-Flop all-in match ups:

Group #1: Coin Flip (~50/50)

  • Two overcards vs. a pocket pair
    • Ex: A-K(~50%) vs. 9-9(~50%)

Group #2: Non-Matching Cards (~60/40)

  • Two overcards vs. two undercards
    • Ex: A-K(~60%) vs. Q-J(~40%)
  • One overcard + one undercard vs. two middle cards
    • Ex: A-J(~60%) vs. K-Q(~40%)
  • One overcard + one middle card vs. one middle card + one undercard
    • Ex: A-Q(~60%) vs. K-J(~40%)

Group #3: Matching Cards (~70/30)

  • One overcard + one matching card vs. one matching card + one undercard
    • Ex: A-K(~70%) vs. A-Q(~30%)
    • Ex: A-K(~70%) vs. K-Q(~30%)
  • One matching pocket pair vs. one overcard + one matching card
    • Ex: 9-9(~70%) vs. A-9(~30%)
  • One pocket pair vs. one overcard + one undercard
    • Ex: 9-9(~70%) vs. A-2(~30%)

Group #4: Overpairs (~80/20)

  • One over pair vs. One under pair
    • Ex: 9-9(~80%) vs. 8-8(~20%)

Group #5: Ideal (~90/10)

  • One matching pocket pair vs. one matching card + one undercard
    • Ex: A-A(~90%) vs. A-K(~10%)
  • One over pair vs. two undercards
    • Ex: A-A(~90%) vs. K-Q(~10%)

If I get all-in and am ahead of my opponent (60% or better) then I did my job, the rest will work itself out in the long run. Now I’ll compare 9-9 to my opponent’s hand range (22-QQ, A6-AK, KJ, KQ) using the above odds as an indicator on what hands I’ll be beating vs. what hands I’ll be losing to.

Group #1: Coin Flip (~50/50)

  • Two overcards vs. a pocket pair
    • 9-9 is ~50% against A-10, A-J, A-Q, A-K, K-J, and K-Q
  • This is a wash, if my opponent has one of these hands then I’ll win some and lose some. It’s an okay outcome for me but not above 60% in my favor

Group #2: Non-Matching Cards (~60/40)

  • Two overcards vs. two undercards
    • Ex: A-K(~60%) vs. Q-J(~40%)
  • One overcard + one undercard vs. two middle cards
    • Ex: A-J(~60%) vs. K-Q(~40%)
  • One overcard + one middle card vs. one middle card + one undercard
    • Ex: A-Q(~60%) vs. K-J(~40%)
  • This entire group does not apply, 9-9 doesn’t fall into any of these categories

Group #3: Matching Cards (~70/30)

  • One overcard + one matching card vs. one matching card + one undercard
    • Ex: A-K(~70%) vs. A-Q(~30%)
    • Ex: A-K(~70%) vs. K-Q(~30%)
    • Does not apply
  • One matching pocket pair vs. one overcard + one matching card
    • Ex: 9-9(~70%) vs. A-9(~30%)
    • 9-9 is ~70% against A-9
    • This is a win, I want to be 70% ahead as much as possible
  • One pocket pair vs. one overcard + one undercard
    • Ex: 9-9(~70%) vs. A-2(~30%)
    • 9-9 is ~70% against A-6, A-7, A-8
    • This is a win, I want to be 70% ahead as much as possible

Group #4: Overpairs (~80/20)

  • One over pair vs. One under pair
    • Ex: 9-9(~80%) vs. 8-8(~20%)
    • 9-9 is (~80%) against 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8
    • 9-9 is (~20%) against 10-10, J-J, and Q-Q
    • Because there are 7 hands that 9-9 is dominating in this category and only 3 hands that dominate 9-9, I want to be in the hand because, in the long run, I’ll be an 80% favorite more often than a 20% underdog.

Group #5: Ideal (~90/10)

  • One matching pocket pair vs. one matching card + one undercard
    • Ex: A-A(~90%) vs. A-K(~10%)
  • One over pair vs. two undercards
    • Ex: A-A(~90%) vs. K-Q(~10%)
  • Does not apply

After working through this process it becomes clear that I should make the call. There will be times when I’m dominating, times when I’m dominated, and times when it’s a tie. In the long run, however, I will be ahead because there are many more hands that I’m dominating. I’d be hesitant to make this call with any pocket pair worse than 9-9, mainly because it would add more hands that I’m 50% and 20% against. The Poker Model is aimed around being a bit tighter with my calls, mainly because an unexpected all in with Q-J, J-10, AA, or KK is always a possibility, even though outside of the official range.

Because I do not want any other players in the hand potentially skewing my odds, I’ll move all-in instead of just calling. If I just call, then I’ll only have 14 big blinds left and be vulnerable to a three-way pot. Moving all-in here will force the players on my left to need KK or AA in order to call. That would be unlucky for me.

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I move all-in and both players to my left fold, creating isolation. Player 131 and I will now flip our cards over to determine a winner. I’ve come from a methodical, calculated place to get this isolation. Whether ahead, behind, or tied, I’ve played this hand how I wanted to.

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Player 131 turns over Q-Q, which dominates my 9-9 and I’m only 20% to win the hand. After the runout, Player 131’s QQ holds up and I lose about half of my chips. I still have my tournament life, but I’m a short stack now and will need to find the right spot to move all-in.

Although I’ve made a seemingly bad call, remember that this is only one event on a much wider scale. For example, if I were able to run this scenario 100 times, my opponent would have Q-Q (or another hand that dominates me) way less often then say, 8-8 or 7-7, a hand that I dominate. Perhaps one of the greatest advantages that the pro has over the amateur is his ability to step back and see the big picture.   

Today’s hand is an example of some of the variability that comes with No Limit Texas Hold’em. I always need to play for first place because that’s where the most money is. To fold 9-9 here is not a profitable play in the long run because you will be dominating your opponent more than she will be dominating you. Remember to keep your cool and run through the process over and over, until you win big.

Brett

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