C8C #8 – When To Go “All In”

Thank you once again for joining me. This week I want to discuss the decision on when to risk our tournament life in an event. I found myself in an interesting spot earlier this week and think there are good points to be made for both arguments.

I ask my readers, if you have poker questions about hands, general strategy, or anything else poker you’d like answered, send me an e-mail and I will incorporate those inquiries into future newsletters. I look forward to the responses.

Today’s Poker Advice:

When should we go all in preflop in a tournament? Well, this decision is usually made when we are short-stacked, or the pot has ballooned to a size nearing or over our stack size. Most of the time we will be short-stacked when faced with “all-in” choices. Sometimes 25bbs can be enough to move in over a raise. Other times, we will want to be the all-in-initiator when we are 15bbs or below. But how exactly do we know when to do what?

Like most answers to tough poker questions, it depends. If we have a very strong hand and can induce someone to give us more chips with a weak holding, a smaller raise can be most profitable.

Example to raise (strong range): We look down at KK on the button with 14bbs. We raise to 2.2x the big blind, because the small blind or big blind might move all in or call our raise and give us more chips if they connect.

Example to shove (weaker range): We look down at JsTs on the button with 14bbs. We move all in, because we will win the blinds and antes (~2.5x bbs or nearly 20% our stack size) often, and if we are called we will have good equity against hands that call us. Smaller pairs, Ax, AQ/AK. It’s not worth it for us to raise and fold, if our equity plays well against a calling range, and we don’t have a made hand.

The situation I encountered today went like this:
A new player with 60k in chips limps for 1600 in second position.
I raise to 6500 with AdKh and 25k remaining.
Everyone folds, the limper calls.
Flop 6d 7d 4c (~17k in the pot)
We both check.
Turn Td
We both check again.
River 7c
Opponent bets 5.5k, I call.

Now I don’t think the results of this hand matter much, in terms of if I won or lost. I like how I played it. Of course I could have bet/shoved the flop, but I didn’t think that was the best play at the time against an unknown limp calling range. On the river, I am 50/50 as to call with my ace high (and ace high flush blocker) or fold my ace high. I believe my hand is fairly “face up” and I can be bluffed or value bet here. Moving all in also went through my mind, which is likely unnecessary since my hand can beat a lot of bluffs. Calling is player / situation dependent and I don’t have enough info to determine the best play. Also, I am getting a good price to call and me having 20k or 25k in chips doesn’t make a huge difference to my tournament. What is important is determining if I should have moved all in preflop or not at the beginning of this hand.

The fact that I was able to see five cards, in position, and still had a chance to lose the hand gives merit to moving all in preflop. What if more people called behind me? How often will I win enough chips post flop to make my raise profitable, or how often will I lose chips? Is that worth the money that can be immediately won if I win the pot now, or the full double up against weaker ranges I might get if I shove and someone calls me?

When the pot is limped to me there is 5800 in the middle. I had ~30k in chips. If I move all in and win, I increase my stack by 20% with no risk. If I raise, I might have to play a pot in or out of position, with my stack nearing close to the size of the pot.

I raised to 6500 because I had a top of the range hand and I wanted to get value from the weaker range of my opponent, or opponents left to act. This is fine reasoning, but my hand is vulnerable to missing the flop. Maybe if I had AK suited, or a pair like JJ+ I would be comfortable with more callers or seeing a flop against one player. Therefore, I think this was a better spot for me to move all in. Even though I am playing almost 20bbs, there is enough money in the middle to pick up, coupled with the fact I will be out of position against half of the table moving forward. Also, my opponent limped in earlier position, which might make his range stronger than a late position limp.

The lesson to be learned here is that if we can be all-in and not at risk in a tournament, we don’t ever have to worry about losing the event. Sometimes it is best to risk our whole stack to apply the most pressure to others around us, since we won’t have the best circumstances to play flops moving forward. It is beneficial to survive in a tournament, regardless of stack size. If we have chips, we always have a possibility to win.

In this specific example, my opponent had 8d9d, for the straight flush! There was no chance of me making him fold after we saw the flop. This hand plays quite well against my holding, and shows why it is best to move all in preflop in some of these situations. We can either push the action to the maximum, and force strong ranges to call us and weak ranges to fold, or raise and allow the weak ranges come in. Be careful with which holdings you choose to do either or. Calculating risk is what makes poker great!!!