All in just ahead of the bubble

Strategy & Advice by mattbob77 Posted

I was playing in a multi-table tournament and got to the final table with seven players left. The top four places were getting paid, and I was 3rd largest stack at the table with 70K in the small blind. Blinds were 1,500-3,000, antes of 400. We were in the last hand before a break, and I picked up AsQh.

The cutoff is the only caller, and the button folds. The villain is an older man who has me covered. He's been fairly active, though I haven't seen him show a hand down yet.

I raise to 10K, the big blind folds and the villain calls. The flop comes Ks9sQd. I'm thinking even though the K is a concern, I'm probably good here. He hasn't seen me play a hand, we are down to seven players, and I have some big draws. So I bet 20K. The villain goes into the tank for what seems like a long time, but was probably just 45-60 seconds, then shoves all in.

Here is my thinking for a call:

1) he wouldn't have shoved with a K that he'd call a pre-flop raise with in that spot
2) we're short handed, which further reduces the possibility of a K
3) if he does have K, I have a lot of outs: any A, Q or running spades, plus straight draws
4) Blinds are going up after this hand

My thinking for a fold:
1) I still have about 40K to work with if I fold
2) there are smaller stacks that should be more desperate than me after the break
3) he would shove with a smallish K he's trying to protect, so I'm probably behind

So do I call or fold? And were my earlier bets mistakes? I'll post the results after I get a few comments. Thanks!

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  1. For the situation you describe, its best to play small pots against anyone that has you covered unless you have a monster hand.

    you have 23 BB so you are okay, but if you loose a decent pot you could be in trouble. half your stack (35k) is only 11 BB but will drop you by half, also loosing your position.

    Here I would probably hide the strength of the hand in the SB. Knowing he has you covered , being active, he probably won't fold in position to a mid bet. so either you are going to have to get a HUGE pot going pre-flop, or risk him calling with a bunch of hands. And, no matter how active somebody is, doesn't mean they don't have a good hand.

    So, keeping the pot small AND disguising your hand pre-flop is probably the best thing to do here, if you don't hit a monster, you can keep it small or fold (remember this is for this situation not necessarily earlier or later in the tournament).

    by just calling the pot will be 14,800 but it only cost you 1500 to get in to see a flop. If the BB ends up having a monster hand, you can easily fold AQ if the late position guy re-raises or goes all in.

    on the flop

    heads up middle pair is a pretty good hand, BUT, you are covered, and not loosing a bunch of chips should be a priority at this point. You really don't know what he has, he could have anything at this point. so lets see how dangerous this flop is


    You hold the As, so he has to be at least a little worried if he has a spade draw without the A as you raised pre-flop. Since you act first you can't narrow his hand down to anything at this point, so, we have to decide what information to extract.

    If he has a flush draw, is he going to fold? If he holds the Qs there is no way he is folding a spade draw and will probably get it all in. if he has two pair, he should be raising you possibly all in. if he has a K he is pretty confident, even with a weak king, that he is good (same reason you think your Q is good).

    Ask yourself these things first:

    1) Should I fold here? - obvious no
    2) Should I bet here?
    a) are there hands better than mine that will fold? - NO
    b) are there hands worse than mine that will call? - YES (flush draw, weaker Q, 9's, JJ and down
    if the answers were both NO or both YES you would be all set, but now you have to check a third question before you decide.
    3) Should I check here? - if you check you give a free card to any drawing hands, you hide the strength of your own hand, you keep the pot small but you gain no further information about his hand, even if he bets after your check, he could do that with any 2 cards. so checking is probably not a good idea, but there is a little merit here if you want the pot to remain very small, if he bets huge, you could unhappily fold, if he bets small you call and he thinks you are on a draw or maybe hold a 9 - increasing the chance he makes an error later in the hand.

    So, its looking like a little leaning to betting. so then, how much should you bet?

    the pot has 2800+3000+10000+10000 = 25,800

    if you bet small, what will he do? (5,000 - 10,000)
    if he has a K he will either call or raise depending on what he thinks you have (he would probably put you on a K or Q)
    if he has a Q, 9, JJ TT or a draw he will probably just call unless his draw is paired on the board which then he may call, raise or shove depending on his thinking and mood/style
    if he has anything worse, he will probably fold to a small bet unless he thinks he can steal the hand from you if a flush card comes later.

    if you bet medium what will he do? (10000 - 18000)
    probably close to the same as a small bet, though me might also fold 9's JJ or TT, he will be less likely to bluff call hoping to bluff a made flush.

    if you large what will he do? (18,000 - 26,000)
    he will probably fold Q's and down, he might fold a straight draw and possibly a flush draw. if he has AQ, K, or better he will call, raise or shove.
    *note that you will be pot committed if you bet this much, so you might as well shove if you are going to bet big.

    if you shove what will he do?
    he will fold a worse hand with the exception of flush or flush-straight draws and call with a better hand, any K or better.

    your real value in better here is in hopes of getting a fold, but he's not going to be folding anything but the worst hands no matter how much you bet, you only have middle pair and you are out of position, so its best to keep the pot small (especially with where you are in the tournament), so betting somewhere around 30% of the pot will allow him to define his hand, giving you more information while minimizing information you give to him. I would go with around $9000 or so and see what he does.

    one thing to keep in mind, when you are deciding if somebody has a hand pre-flop, you can say, hey we are short handed, unlikely he has such and such. but after the flop, you have to throw all of that out, because now he is telling you what his hand is by his actions (or non-action) anyone can have to cards pre-flop, but after the flop is when you can determine if they have or don't have cards. if he says he has a king and you don't have a reason to think he doesn't, he probably does regardless of the chances.

    He shoves over the top.

    you bet 20k out of your remaining 60k, that's 1/3 of your stack, pot committing you - if you were going to bet 1/3 of your stack on the flop into a 26,000 pot (now 46k and you have 40k) then you should have just shoved all in because no matter what he does you are committed (he calls the 20k and raises your remaining 40k = 106k and you have to call 40k thats about 40%), he could be bluffing you as your big bet screams of being weak or he could have a better hand, either way you are in trouble because you can't know at this point. This bet was way over price to get the information you needed while still loosing the minimum amount. at this point he could still have any hand but most likely has Kx better or a flush / flush-straight draw.

    even though you are pot committed, I think you have to fold here, you will have 40k which is 13BB - still fine and you can come back to win it, you are in the SB so you have 5 hands until BB again. you've got time. its true he could be bluffing, but why take that risk at this point in the tournament? save your remaining chips and fold. next time, think about keeping the pot small so that you loose the minimum, and if you hit big, you can get it all in.

    good luck!

  2. @ShadowPoker forgot to factor in that after this hand the blinds increase, so you will actually have fewer BB's, even so, you should have about 8-10BB, now you are in fold or shove territory but can still hold out against the lower guys. with that said, I would still fold in this situation. but, its not the last play that cost you, it was the bet pre-flop and the large bet on the flop.

  3. @ShadowPoker Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I called and he showed KJo, which held up to win the hand. I really thought that if he had a K he wouldn't have shoved, and that he was trying to get me to fold to a draw. I think (as you said) , my biggest mistake was the flop bet. Out of position and with my stack, there was no reason to risk my tournament life on that hand. I think I'd still raise pre-flop, but the next bet was definitely a mistake. Once again, I learn the power of position.....