POKER

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY COMICS - Jonathan Lit­tle Lit­tle is a pro­fes­sional poker player and coach.

Near the money bub­ble in a $500-buy-in tour­na­ment, a short-stacked player pushed all in for 5.5 big blinds from mid­dle po­si­tion. Ev­ery­one folded to Hero, who was sit­ting in the small blind with 9♣ 9♥. Hero had a 30 big blind stack, as did the big blind.

This was an in­ter­est­ing spot, be­cause 9-9 is cer­tainly good enough to call the small all-in bet, but it is not good enough to get all in for 30 big blinds. In gen­eral, when an all-in bet is five big blinds or less, the pre­ferred tac­tic is a min­i­mum reraise to en­sure that the player yet to act only continues with his best hands.

When the all-in bet is for more than five big blinds, I sug­gest that you just call. This is be­cause when fac­ing an all-in bet of more than five big blinds fol­lowed by call, most play­ers will only call with their best hands be­cause they don’t want to risk a sig­nif­i­cant amount of chips without a de­cent edge (es­pe­cially near the bub­ble).

Hero’s 30 big blind stack also comes into play, as he re­ally doesn’t want to make a min­i­mum reraise and put in 10 big blinds only to fold to an all-in. If Hero makes a min­i­mum reraise and the big blind pushes with a pocket pair J-J or higher, or with A-K, Hero is in a marginally prof­itable spot be­cause of his ex­cel­lent pot odds be­cause he will win 33% of the time and only needs to win 31% of the time. But in this case, with the play­ers near the money bub­ble, Hero should fold and try to sneak into the money.

If in­stead Hero de­cides to just call the ini­tial all-in and then the big blind goes all in, Hero would need to win 38% of the time to break even (ac­tu­ally, a bit more be­cause of the loom­ing money bub­ble). If the big blind’s all-in range in­cludes pocket pairs 8-8 or higher, A-K, A-Q and A-J, Hero will win about 42% of the time and should fold. (Again, you want to have a de­cent edge when call­ing near the bub­ble). If, on the other hand, the big blind is a loose player who would go all in with a wide range, Hero should be will­ing to call and play a huge pot against a range that he should do well against.

In this spot, Hero’s best move was to just call the small all-in with the in­ten­tion of fold­ing if the big blind went all in. Call­ing could po­ten­tially re­sult in Hero see­ing a flop with the big blind, and most of the time those pots would be checked down.

Hero in­stead made the stereo­typ­i­cal am­a­teur blun­der of going all in. This was not a wise op­tion, be­cause in cases where the big blind wakes up with a big hand, he’ll call, and Hero will be in bad shape.

That was ex­actly what hap­pened. The big blind found K♦ K♠, and just like that, Hero was out on the bub­ble be­cause he mis­han­dled the sit­u­a­tion.

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