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.