Avoiding unnecessary coinflips

Avoiding unnecessary coinflips

Thursday, 1 July 2010

In a tournament, you don’t usually want to take coinflips for your stack unless absolutely necessary. Even if you have a 60:40 advantage, there should be more value in playing small pots and avoiding all-in situations with marginal hands.

The first few levels are excellent, as you have a chance to playing small pots with lesser opponents – even if it’s not that important whether you have 25k or 40k after the first two levels. But at any stage of the tournament, when deepstacked you should try to avoid overplaying a hand like A-K. I ran into a situation like this when the field was down to less than 20 at the 2010 EPT Grand Final in Monaco.

I open with A-K in middle position, and Nicolas Chouity, who went on to win the event, 3-bets me on my immediate left. It’s a small raise and we are both deep. A-K is too strong to fold but it’s also difficult to play out of position. I could 4-bet him but then I would have had to be prepared to go all-in. I don’t think he has A-A or K-K that often, but I definitely don’t want to flip against Q-Q / J-J at this point. I decided to just call.

The flop comes T-4-4. I check and Chouity c-bets for half the pot. The flop doesn’t change anything here and folding is too weak, so I call. The turn is another ten. I check, fully expecting him to check behind with his entire range, which he did.

The river is a meaningless rag, we check it down and he wins the pot with pocket sixes. I probably would have taken it by 4-betting pre-flop but I’m happy with my more cautious approach.
Nevertheless, it’s a marginal decision pre-flop, and many people will disagree with my line because A-K is so much easier to play by raising more.

A little later I was faced with a similar situation, only this time with A-Q suited. Again, Chouity 3-bet me, I decided to just call and this time he had A-A. Thanks to hitting a queen on the flop, I lost half of my stack. But I was left with a playable stack whereas shoving pre-flop would have meant hitting the rail.

In my previous tournament at the EPT San Remo I ran into a situation where I opened in mid-position with Q-Q and got four callers. The flop came Tc9d4d and I knew I was in a tough spot if I got action. I c-bet for 10k, and the next player to my left shoved for 90k. It’s folded to me, and I was faced with a decision for practically my whole stack. I believe that at least half the time he is on a draw, for instance AdJd, AdTd or JdQd. Perhaps 10% of the time he will have A-To or J-J. Other possibilities are a set, two pair with T-9 or a slowplayed A-A or K-K.

Considering all this, folding is the only option. It’s such a large raise that I really shouldn’t call even if I knew he was drawing. And there’s a very good chance he has a hand that has me crushed.
But I didn’t want to continue the tournament with a smaller than average stack at this point, so I decided to take a stupid risk: Either I will have double the average or I’m out when we are still far away from the money.

He had A-A, so I was in bad shape and I missed my two-outer. I was left with one big blind and in the next hand I was out. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed because I knew I was taking a mindless gamble. But I’m not trying to justify myself here: I played that hand wrong, full stop.

It is extremely important to always be alert. You should always try to think one or two steps ahead. Then you won’t be faced with a situation where you don’t know what to do if you’re opponent goes all-in and you have a good but marginal hand. Often you can avoid these problems by thinking ahead and keeping the pot small if you’re not sure if your hand is good enough.

Tags: Poker News, Avoiding, unnecessary, coinflips