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

Same Old Story... Different Characters!

Managed to squeeze in a few 90 player K/O SNGs over at Full Tilt last night, one final table so can not complain.

Came across an amusing character in one game from Belgium... his complaint was funny, though - as you will see - this is not the first time someone with this particular mis-understanding of poker has got upset...

Now, we got to the last couple of tables, blinds were around 600 with antes in play and we ranged between about 4 and 20 big blind stacks. People started to open shove - a lot. In fact for a while most hands were decided by one player shoving all-in and everyone else folding. Our Belgium friend was a chatty type and seemed genuinely friendly and funny (I do not chat at all at the tables, though others were chatting with him).

He got increasingly upset that everyone was going all in and not 'playing poker' that we were all 'bingo all-in donkeys' and were 'not letting him play'... hmmmm. Well, My friend, your complaint has been going on as long as I have been playing poker - and always coming from people who have a misunderstading of the math!

Let me explain by using some nice easy round numbers - we will put the big blind at 1000, the ante at 200 and out stacks at 10,000 each. So, what kind of 'poker' do you think we can play? It is a serious question, how can we construct a hand in which the odds and hand match-ups mean that we can make meaningful decisions after the flop?

Say I decide to raise 3 times the big blind. The pot is now 5,500 chips (my raise, 1000 in antes, 1000 big blind and 500 small blind). If you shove all-in over my raise the pot is now 15,500 and it costs me 7,000 to call... this is > 2-to-1 odds... meaning I have to win the pot 33% to break even... Now, what hand that I legitimately raised is less than 33% to win against your shoving range of top 12%?? If you do not believe me you need to find an odds calculator and check this for yourself... the point here is that I have to call you - based on the math alone - and if I'd rather not flip a 55% / 45% or 60% / 40% coin for my tournament then I'd actually quite like you to fold (meaning I'll win the 2500 chips)... the answer is to shove all-in - maximizing the chances of exactly this happening!

Ok, thats a 3x raise, what about a 2x raise or 2.5x instead - here the big blind is getting some silly odds to call, do I really have the chips to contination bet a flop and then fold to a check-raise... what if the blind leads out after calling... can I call and still fold on later streets?

The answers are 'no' of course... any legitimate raising hand does not want to be in this situation! One more time! Can I limp? Well, there is nothing to stop me limping... but what if you  then raise 3 times? Now if I call the pot will be bigger than my entire stack - if I miss the flop I am down to 7 blinds... a crazy idea. Short-stacked play is not pre-flop because the proponents are donkeys who do not want to play poker my Belguim friend... there are good mathematical reasons why with 10 blinds or less (and often with more than this) you need to have the courage to shove your stack all-in instead of complaining about others doing exactly that! When I last saw my friend he was 3rd in chips with 4 left as I exited in 5th - ah well!

GL at the tables, Mark

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