I’m in The Big Blind holding A-A, the best starting hand in the game. With A-A, the goal is always to get my chips in Pre-Flop because it mathematically dominates all other hands. Post-Flop, it’s value diminishes because the Flop brings more cards into play. I’m deep in the tournament, with blinds and antes at $500/$2,500/$5,000. I have 19 big blinds in my stack ($93,964/$5000). Players at the table have mixed stack sizes so my play will be tailored to the individual. For example, I can’t make a wide rule about what I will do against all other players at the table, I’ll have to look more closely at each stack size and action to know what to do. Generally speaking, I’ll be calling any all-ins and be moving all-in to any raises because I have a small stack. If I just 3-bet to a raise, I’ll give away the strength of my hand because I’ll have so few chips left after the raise, committing myself to the hand and blowing my cover. Going all-in actually makes my hand look weaker because there is no guarantee of a call for that amount of chips.
The table folds around to The Small Blind. I’m not pleased with this because my opportunities to be all-in have just shrunk drastically. The Small Blind has four options: fold, call, raise or raise all-in. If Player 344 folds, then I’ll win the Pot. When all players fold around to The Big Blind in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop, it’s called a “walk”. When you get a walk holding bad cards, it’s a great thing, but when you get a walk holding the best hand in the game, it’s unlucky. Either way I’d move to the next hand without worry because I’m still in the game. I’ll state the obvious: if Player 344 goes all-in, I’ll call. If Player 344 raises, then I’ll move all-in as well. What should I do if Player 344 calls?
Player 344 calls and the action is on me. Well, he didn’t fold, that’s a good thing. He didn’t move all-in either, that would have been the best case scenario because then I can call with A-A and be all-in. After the call and for the first time in the hand, I have to look at Player 344’s stack size. He has 30 big blinds which is a medium stack. I’ll try to size my bet in such a way that induces him to either call or put me all-in.
My options where to check, raise or raise all-in. I don’t want to check here because checking keeps the Pot small and gives my opponent the opportunity to check/fold (he checks to me, I bet, he folds) on a poor flop for him. The only upside to checking is that he may connect slightly, leaving me in a dominant position on the Flop. For example, if he has 10-4 and I raise Pre-Flop, then he’ll fold. But if he has 10-4 Pre-Flop and I check, letting a flop of 10-7-2 show, then I’ll be able to go all-in now and get called by his top pair. That will require more things to happen that are out of my control, which is why my move should be raise or raise all-in now. If I raise all-in, there is a slight chance I’ll get called, probably by any ace, pocket pairs over 4 or maybe K-Q or K-J. However, I have an ace in my hand, which makes it very unlikely for him to have an ace. He’ll most likely fold if I go all-in. I choose to raise about 2.5x The Big Blind because there is one call in front and we are blind vs. blind. This raise puts the action back on him, where he can fold, call, raise or raise all-in. If he folds, then that’s fine; I can’t make him have a hand and I have no guarantees that I would have won more by checking. If he calls, then we’ll see a Flop and I’ll look to get all-in. A-A on any Flop when I have a small stack is considered good because Top Pair and Middle Pair on the board may go all-in against it. If he raises, then I’ll go all-in and be called by Player 344 because of the overwhelming pot odds. If he moves all-in, then I will call for obvious reasons. I’ve made this raise many times before, in many different games and it induced an all-in from a skeptical The Small Blind on a complete bluff.
Player 344 moves all-in over my inducing raise and I double up. To be fair, A-10 is a very good hand for him in this situation and I was lucky that he had it; A-10 falls in the category of any ace. We didn’t know it at the time, but this hand is considered a “cooler”. It’s a cooler because no matter what he did, call or raise (A-10 is too good to fold here), he was going to be all-in against aces. Even if I played poorly and checked here, he’ll make one pair on the Flop and I’ll still double up. It’s nice to be on the winning side of a cooler.
Today you saw an example of how to play A-A with a short stack, maximizing your potential to double up by inducing a raise. For the last 2 hours of this tournament I’d been a short stack folding, looking to double up; finally this spot came and now I’m back to 40 big blinds, a medium stack moving deeper into the money. Induction at it’s finest.