The late phase of a tournament is characterised by a further increase in the blinds and a further decrease in the size of the stacks relative to the blinds. The average stack here is often only 20 BBs, which exerts great influence on the dynamics of the game.
As already described in the article on the middle phase, stealing the blinds in order to keep our stack constant (or even increase it, if possible) remains an important aspect of the game. If we carry on playing only tight, careful poker we will in the end lose most of our chips paying the blinds and the ante.
In this article we look at how to defend ourselves against attempted blind steals, and under what circumstances we can or can’t call all-in.
“Re-steal” is the term for re-raising a (suspected) blind steal from a late position. In many cases our stack is so small that we can go all-in right away. The main advantage of a re-steal is that we can win a much bigger pot than with the classic blind steal, because it contains not only the blinds and the ante but also the would-be blind stealer’s raise. A successful re-steal thus increases our stack substantially.
Nine players, blinds: 500/1000, ante: 100
Button: 20,000 chips
SB: 30,000 chips
Hero in the BB: 15,000 chips, holding 3♠3♦
All players fold up to the button, who raises to 2,500. After the small blind has folded we (the big blind) raise to 15,000 all-in. The button folds and we win 4,900 chips.
In this example we increase our stack by almost 30%.
We want to win the pot before the flop, so at first it isn’t necessary to have a very good or even a premium hand. However, we don’t want to be in a completely hopeless predicament if our re-steal attempt is called. Suitable hands are thus all pairs, but also suited connectors and aces with strong kickers.
Kings and aces with weak kickers are less suitable for re-stealing because if we’re called, we’ll be dominated too easily. Although we actually want to steal, the starting hand we use to do this does play a role.
The more hands an opponent has raised from a late position when all other players before him have folded, the more profitable re-stealing will be for us in the long term. This is because we can work on the assumption that our opponent’s hand range is quite loose, so that he will seldom, if ever, be able to call a re-steal. He would need a really strong hand to do that. Because he raises a lot of hands, he has to fold most of them, and we win the pot pre-flop.
The prerequisite for a re-steal is that we either have fold equity or a very strong hand. Fold equity means that we go all-in with sufficient chips, that our opponent folds often enough and is able to call the all-in only when he has a really strong hand. This doesn’t happen very often, so the probability that our opponent will fold his hand is high.
But if we go all-in with so few chips that our opponent gets pot odds of 2:1 then he’ll usually call us and our fold equity will thus tends towards zero.
If we have no fold equity we must be holding a very strong hand in order to go all-in.
In this phase of a tournament there are inevitably a lot of all-in situations. But when should we call an all-in?
“Isolate” means that we don’t simply call but that we re-raise our opponent’s raise higher than his all-in. The goal of isolation is to force the other players out of the hand in order to maximise our own chances of winning. This is because even premium hands such as aces win too seldom against several opponents for us to want to risk it.
If our own stack is smaller than four or five times the size of the original raise then we’ll also have to go all-in if we want to isolate our opponent.
However, if we raise and a player goes all-in, we’ll often be faced with a very difficult decision. Here is a list of the points we have to bear in mind.
This is often the decisive point. With pot odds of 2:1 or better a call will normally be automatic because one win in three is enough to make calling profitable in the long term. Exceptions that could perhaps stop us calling an all-in would be strategic decisions in cases where our position at the table would deteriorate too much if we lost.
If we’re holding either a very weak or a very strong hand then the decision is usually simple: CALL the very good hand and FOLD the very weak one. If our hand is average, though, we have to ask ourselves further questions.
The more players there are who can still act, the greater the possibility that one of them will be holding a hand better than ours, even a monster. For this reason it’s much easier to go all-in as the last player in the big blind than as a player in middle position with five players still to come.
This is an important aspect insofar as we will possibly decide to fold a hand with which we would normally have gone all-in if losing it means being left with very few chips.
Here is a table showing the minimum probability of winning against the hand range of an opponent I need in order to make calling profitable at various pot odds.
|Pot Odds||Probability of Winning|
In the next article we will deal with the game on the bubble. One mistake here can mean the difference between winning prize money and being eliminated empty handed.