Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Kens Hand Of The Week 2 - Don’t Play Too Scared

star-smallNote from Mark: I have a couple of hands to go up after not getting them up during my vacation... To make ammends I'll post the next one over the weekend! I will also mark these posts with a small star... if you enjoy them you will be able to spot them easily in the blog in future. This week's is a must read for aspiring tournament players - you have to be fearless to win!

This week’s hand is from a student of mine, Rob,  playing a $3 multi table tournament at Poker Stars.  It involves people’s tendencies to not want to mix it up too much to protect their stack.  In this case Rob had the biggest stack at the table, but not by a whole lot, and a lot of players start smelling the money and end up playing a little too conservative for their own good at times.There is something to be said for not taking too many risks, and there are certainly times where backing off and playing a more nitty style is the correct way to go.  However, if we just sit back too much, we aren’t going to put ourselves in the position to make any kind of real money, and will generally either earn one of the smaller prizes or finish out of the money, and rarely if ever contend for the title or the bigger payout positions.

So in this hand our friend is dealt QQ under the gun.  He puts in for a standard sized raise, and only the small blind calls.    He has roughly 20K in chips while the SB has about 12K.  So if he goes all in and loses, he’s still going to have about 8K behind, and the blinds are 125/250 with a 25 ante, so that still leaves him with a decent chance of climbing back up. I’m mentioning this right from the outset because this is something we always need to be considering even before the flop, and certainly before someone shoves on you or you consider shoving on them.  So speaking of that, we also know that since we have this opponent covered, they will presumably have to be more careful with us. This applies more to our shoving on them rather than their shoving on us, although it’s still true that when you shove against a bigger stack, you are risking getting called and getting beaten out of the tournament. So the flop comes 1079.  This is definitely what you would call a wet board.  The SB checks, my student bets T855, and the SB raises all in (T12257). 

So this isn’t an easy decision by any means, and although our friend ended up folding here, it’s not a terrible play. However, let’s look at the situation here a little more closely.  Since the hero open raised UTG, this represents a high end hand, AK, maybe AQ at these small stakes, and high pocket pairs.  Our opponent is most likely on a draw here, he wouldn’t be playing hands like J8 or 86 here for a made straight.  He might have a set, and may be looking to get the money in to protect it on a board this wet, but more likely he’s got two diamonds which may also include some sort of gutshot straight draw. So when I see a situation like this, I’m going to see us as being slightly ahead here overall, when you take into account the possible made hands, which could also include AA or KK, although that’s pretty slim since we’d almost always expect to be re-raised pre-flop if he had these hands.  JJ is a possibility, but we’re ahead of that of course. 

He also could be bluffing here and we need to add that in as well. He may also have top pair top kicker, which would be AT in this case, but that’s another hand we don’t really need to worry much about.  Then there’s the draws, with either 9 or 13 outs.  13 outers is going to make this hand pretty close with what we have, it’s slightly ahead but not by that much. So what I’d do is add all these up, the hands that we’re in real trouble with which would be the made hands that have us behind, and that’s the straights and the sets, plus the unlikely situation that we’d be up against a real monster draw.  Then there’s the hands that we’re about even with, then there’s the ones that we are clearly ahead of, like the plain flush draws and the lower made pairs without a good draw. The fact that our opponent here is making such a big shove also tells us that he really doesn’t want to go to showdown and is looking to chase us out of the hand, hoping we will fold.  This is really the reason why I’d not fold here.  If I were faced with a standard sized check raise instead, that would definitely scare me off more than the shove would. The reason is that if he played that line, he’s neither afraid of showing the hand down nor getting all his chips in right here. 

With such a wet board, our shoving over his raise is a real possibility.  So a standard raise cannot fear that, and they also would be looking to milk us more by looking to tempt us into just calling here. So in that case I’d say we’re definitely behind here, and either up against a huge draw or a set, or at least are up against a hand like this often enough to make this a fold for sure.  With the shove, he doesn’t want us to call, and that’s pretty clear, and especially at these smaller stakes, I very often will lean towards doing what the opponent seemingly doesn’t want us to do. So I’d see us as enough of a favorite here overall to call, and we can certainly use his chips to work our way to the bigger money and still have a good shot at getting back in it if we end up losing.  So that’s the right mindset here, to look to be greedier than the average player and also take a few more risks when they are warranted, and that way we’ll give ourselves a real shot at the glory instead of playing scared and getting blinded out later or having to shove garbage to survive. GL at the tables!

PS: The Pokerstars Micro-Millions Main Even is running this Sunday the 22nd of July. This is an amazing chance for a huge score, with a $1 million guaranteed prize pool and only $22 to enter (+ satellite qualifiers are running too!). I'll wish you good luck, unless we end up heads-up for the $150k guaranteed for the winner that is! Find out more over at!

If you enjoyed this blogpost I would genuinely appreciate you taking
the time to share it using the ‘Recommend’ button – thanks