Cool Runnings

Big chip stacks can fall and short stacks can rise. What’s important is that you keep your cool while playing. Instead of worrying about how many chips you have, remind yourself that there are only two places you can be in a tournament: in or out. In today’s article I’ll show you how a seemingly crushing blow can be mitigated a few short hands later.


I did everything right. I was patient until finally getting dealt the best starting hand in the game, A-A. I was able to get all of my chips in against a player with a shorter stack than me. I was 80% to win when the money went in and 95% before the last card came. But my opponent won on the River, leaving me with a short stack.

When dealt A-A, many players have unrealistic expectations. They think that the best starting hand will always be the best hand at the end, which is false. Play it like any other hand, correctly classifying it during all phases, but keep your cool if you don’t win because it will happen often.


On the very next hand I’m dealt 9-9, a strong starting hand especially with my short stack. But two players are all-in before it’s my turn to act. I choose to be patient and fold, not connecting my loss with A-A last hand to my decision making on this hand. I would have needed a premium hand to go all-in here like A-A, A-K, or K-K because these hands have the best shot at dominating the two previous all-ins. Many players would shove their chips in on this hand with 9-9 and be far behind. It turned out that one player had A-K and the other was holding J-J. I would have had a 17% chance to win the hand.


I folded and folded, patiently waiting for another opportunity until finally I was in the big blind holding 2-3, a very poor starting hand. Every player in front of me called the blind, building a large pot. Most players do not expect to make a big hand holding 2-3, but 2-3 (or any two starting cards) can become very strong on the right flop. A-A, 2-3, it doesn’t matter. Both hands have the potential to win big or lose big. I check and see a free flop because I’m in the big blind and no previous player had raised. I would fold if facing a raise with 2-3, even in the big blind.


I make a Straight on the flop and get my money in against two other players, one with a Set and the other with Top Pair. I got to this point by checking, where one opponent bet and the other raised. When the action was back on me I moved all-in and was called by both. My measly 2-3 pre-flop turned into a monster on the flop with about a 70% chance of winning. After winning the hand, I have more chips than I did before losing with A-A a short time ago.

It’s important that you see every hand as independent from the last one. Often times, big hands come when you least expect it. Remember the golden rule; you are either in or out.


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