Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament
There is a situation that has come up a few times for me in tournaments that has been taking some space in my head. The situation is when you’re in the big blind in a NL tournament. It’s past the first few rounds, and everyone folds to a player in late position (either on the button or in the cutoff). He makes a decent sized raise, let’s say 3-4x your blind, so two to three big blinds for you to call. You wake up with a decent hand like AJ.
There are many times in a no-limit Texas holder tournament when a late-position player will take a shot at the pot with a less than premium hand. Often in a tournament, if nobody has yet called and you are in the button or cutoff, it is rarely correct to just call. This is especially true in the stages of the tournament after the ante has kicked in. At this point, there is enough in the pot already that if you are going to play a hand, you should take a stab at just taking the pot right there.
If you do get called by one of the blinds, you’ll have the advantages of position and being the pre-flop aggressor. So if you are in the big blind with a hand like AJ, what should you do against a pre-flop raise from a stealing position? In most cases, I think the best thing to do is to re-raise the pre-flop raiser. You figure to have the best hand. The reason why I believe raising is the best option has more to do with the trouble you get in by just calling in this spot.
If you call, you will most likely miss the flop. You may get lucky with a flop like AJ7 or even QKT. But most times you’ll get blanks. Now you have a real problem. You still figure to have the best hand. Chances are that the pre-flop raiser has a non-pair hand that he’s stealing with and if you completely missed, he probably missed as well. But he has position on you, and if you check your ace high, he can bet it and put a lot of pressure .He might be value betting a hand that beats you or betting a hand that he believes is winning but he doesn’t want to give a free card.
If you bet, though, it opens you up if he calls. You usually won’t be able to bet the turn, and if you check you’re letting him know where you’re at. Now consider raising. With his raise, the pot is big enough to just take right there. It’s got both blinds, all antes, and his raise. Now let’s say we’re playing antes. That’s going in the pot, and his raise of, say .So there is tournament chips in there already. If you raise to anywhere between , it puts the pressure on him. Now he’s going to be folding a lot of hands that he raised with and you’ll be walking away with an pot every time. If he re-raises you, you can get away from the hand .
And if he calls, you can bet into pretty much any flop and usually a player will fold if he missed or sometimes even when they hit.If he’s beating you on the flop and calls your bet, you’ll still have plenty of outs. And if the flop is too scary, just check and don’t lose another dime. Treat it just the same as you would an ordinary blind steal… sometimes they work without a flop, sometimes you hit the flop, sometimes you miss and fold.
The main thing is knowing your players. There are going to be lots of players who will raise in late position if they are the first ones in with hands like . Other players will just call with these hands and only raise with premium pocket pairs. If you’re against one of these players who are less prone to steal, you should fold your AJ. But if you’re against an aggressive player who is trying to take your blind because he knows the chances of you having a hand as good as AJ are small, you should take the aggression and turn him into a caller by pumping it and giving him the decision on whether to call or fold.
Sometimes, you’ll run into a player who will re-raise you all-in in that situation with marginal hands like. My favorite example of this was in last year’s WSOP broadcast when Scotty Nguyen re-re-raised all-in from the cutoff with his trash hand against Humberto Brines, who held Atom in the BB against those type of players, you sometimes just have to put your head down and gamble. But most players won’t re-raise all-in unless they have your Ajao beat bad. They’ll just call or sometimes fold, see a flop, and make the decision there. And against these players, if they miss the flop, they’ll fold to a good sized bet… since you probably have them beat anyway with your AJ.
Before you do anything, though… take your time. Look at the player. Go over how he made his raise, and what you think was going on in his head. Try to get a sense of whether he wants you to call or wants you to fold. Take your time and think about what you’re going to do with different flops. Then make the right move.