Practice Hands: Tournament Example #1

Continued from: Hold'em Practice Hands & Examples

Late in a $50.00 buy in freeze-out tournament event (no re-buys), you started with 1,200 in chips and 40 poker players. The top eight places will be paid. There are 16 players left at two tables; you are the chip leader with 16,000 chips. The player closest to you in chips has just under 14,000 and is sitting at your table to your immediate right ("in front of you").

Poker Tournament Hands

The blinds are 200/400 and you are in the big blind with 5h 8h. The player under the gun (a poor player who has run into a string of good luck and has a fairly large stack of about 10,000 in chips) raises to 800. Every player at the table calls the small raise of double the big blind, including the small blind. What is your play?

  • Fold, because you have a weak hand and a player in early position raised indicating a lot of strength. You will also be in poor position after the flop.
  • Raise to 4X the big blind because no one has shown a lot of strength other than the weak player under the gun, and you would like to take him heads up.
  • Smooth call and see what happens on the flop.

Your hand is not a strong hand and is not a hand that should be played from early position in most cases. This is an exception. It will only cost you 400 chips to see a flop with a pot containing a huge amount. With eight players at your table you are getting about 16 to 1 on your money; it's a trivially easy call. You would probably call with just about any two cards here. You actually have pretty good estimated value in this spot when you consider the implied odds if you do hit a miracle flop. You also know that your call stops the action, meaning no one can raise behind you. Another big plus is that you have a drawing hand that could potentially become a monster that would be very hard to beat even with that many opponents. Also, if you miss the flop the hand will be pretty easy to get away from.

One mark of a great poker player is his or her ability to play in a way that limits the amount of tricky decisions required after the flop. In this particular case you should expect to fold after the flop unless you hit it just right.

Let's carry on with the hand. Let's suppose the flop comes out 8d 9h 2h. The small blind checks, and it's on you. This is a pretty sticky situation. You flopped middle pair and a flush draw, but with this many players in it's not unlikely that you're behind in the hand. In fact, you probably are losing right now. How would you play this? There are a lot of players to act behind you, but you did catch a piece of the flop. What do you do?

  • A) Check and see what happens.
  • B) Take a stab at the pot now, perhaps a pot-sized bet / semi-bluff.
  • C) Bet about half the pot to build the pot in case you hit one of your outs and make the best hand.
  • D) Bet about 2/3 the pot to chase out other draws and find out where you're at.
  • E) Move all-in as a semi-bluff, trying to take it down right here but knowing you still have lots of outs if you get called.

Well, there's a lot of room for debate here, but I would probably go with A. Check and see what happens. There are a lot of players to act after you, and we really don't want to get pot committed here. Someone is probably going to bet anyway, and we would likely get raised if we do bet. We have a lot of outs right now - we have two eights left in the deck and nine hearts that would probably make us a winning hand. We also have two other fives that would win for us, as long as no one has hit a set (remember not to count the five of hearts twice). I'd count the hearts and eights as 11 outs, and because we're not sure if the 5's would win or not we can count them as half outs, giving us about 12 outs. I would just assume 12 outs even though our flush may give us the second best hand and be beat by a higher flush. It's just a chance you'll have to take. If you hit your flush, you will assume you have the best hand and try to get as much money in the middle as possible; if you're beat, that's just rotten luck.

You may have noticed that I reduced the two extra fives into 1 out - this is called discounting outs. If you're not sure that you can really count a card as a live out or not, you should just decide how likely that it is to be live and give it that much credit. In this case I would maybe value them as more than half-outs, but there's also the chance of being beaten by a higher flush. Poker is a game about balancing out as many of the variables you can think of and processing them all to the best of your ability. You have to weigh every tiny piece of information that you can come up with and try to make as good a decision as you can. If you're playing to win you can miss nothing. You have to be paying attention to betting patterns, trying to get a read on players and a feel for the table as a whole. You really have to focus (it wouldn't be a bad idea to re-read the example hand above before continuing.)

Moving on, with twelve outs we have a lot of equity in the hand, but this is definitely a spot in which we could go broke. If our twelve outs are live (meaning they will in fact win if we hit them) that means we are actually about 45% to win this pot, and there's a lot of money in there to be won. I'd check, but be prepared to call a moderate raise. Because of the complicated nature of this situation we are actually 45% to win if we see both cards and still 27% if we miss on the turn. It would be wise to just use the "outs X2+1" formula and say you've got just about a 25% chance per card. The math isn't exact in this case, but it's pretty good in most cases.

Let's carry on with the example. You check, and the player right behind you (who made the initial raise) bets half the size of the pot. Everyone folds to you. What do you do? You've actually got a lot of profitable plays here, so your job is to decide what the best one is for the situation.

First, let's consider what kind of hand he could have. He raised just twice the blind in first position before the flop - we know that much. If we're correct about his being a poor player, it would not be hard to imagine him raising with a small pocket pair, so he could have made a set of twos. We definitely have the right odds to call if that's the case. He could have an over pair like pocket tens or jacks, even Aces. If that's the case, we're in even better shape because now our fives are all live outs. In fact, that would make us a favorite in the hand. He could be on a flush draw himself, just making a standard continuation bet. That would be OK too, because that would mean we're actually ahead right now with our pair. He could even be on a stone bluff with a couple of over cards like AK, so what should we do? Why don't you take a minute and try to come up with some plays that might work in this spot before reading my multiple choices. This is a very interesting situation with too many possibilities for me to list them all. This is one of those situations that makes poker the exciting game that it is.

Well, given the situation, as I understand it, I'm going to throw out a few ideas. I won't even say which one is correct. I think even pros might argue about that, but I will give an idea of some of the things you need to be thinking about when these situations come up. So we could:

  • A) Make a standard re-raise of about three times his bet (about a pot sized wager anyway). He couldn't call it if he is on a draw, and this bet could give us a lot of information about his hand. Remember, if he has a re-raising hand we still have a lot of outs.
  • B) We could definitely smooth call and see if we can hit a hand and take him off his whole stack. That's probably the safest play.
  • C) We might just move all-in right now. If he's any kind of player at all he'd have to see a check-raise all-in as a sign of extreme strength, and we could maybe induce a bad fold if he has an over-pair or even two pair. If he calls with his Aces or two pair, we could still make a set or fill our flush to win the hand; it's not unlikely at all.
  • D) Just make a small little bet, say see his bet and raise 1.5 times his bet, just enough to get him to fold if he was on a continuation bluff.

Well, those are just a few ideas. I think I would make my decision based on how I saw myself as a player compared to the other players left in the game. But I'd have to remember that I'm awfully close to the money here, and even though I can afford to gamble a bit, I don't really want to go out of my way. I think I'd usually go with B, smooth call and see if I can catch my hand. I've got the right odds, and if he really is a poor player with a good hand, he's very likely to pay me off well if I hit.

If I felt like I were one of the least experienced players left in the tourney or if I had a pretty specific read on my opponent, I might check raise all-in and just try to take the pot down here, knowing that I could still win if I get called and that I'd still have some chips left if he doubled up through me. Play A would make some sense too, but if he were to re-raise all-in here we'd probably be committed to the call anyway, and he may fold more hands if we moved all-in right off the rip. It's going to essentially be the same sort of play, but it's just got a little bit more EV with the extra fold equity of putting him to the test for all his chips. The only choice I really don't like is C, not that it's an awful move, but I just think there are a lot better ways to approach the situation.

♣ Continued at: NLHE Poker Hands: Tourney Example #2

♣ Back to the index of Dead Money's guide to hold'em strategy.