Take the race or play the stop ‘n’ go?

Take the race or play the stop ‘n’ go?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

This is a tournament and you are close to the money or maybe even in the money – it shouldn’t matter. Even though players play differently when they are close to the money because they are afraid of going out, you shouldn’t.

You are in the small blind and you have between 17 and 20 big blinds. Let’s say the blinds are 2k/4k with a 200 ante. So there is 7,800 in the middle and there has been a raise from the big stack (400k). He has been raising a lot, but you have also seen him call big bets with random cards like Q-Js if he is raised back. He is in mid to late position and makes it 10k to play. It’s folded round to you and you look down at a small pair – let’s say, for this exercise, you have 6-6. Your stack is 72k and 2k of that is in the pot as your small blind.

What are your options?

A) Move all in to try to win the pot there and then; B) Call to see a flop (not to set mine) and move in on any flop. This is called playing the stop ‘n’ go; C) Fold.

Let’s take a look into this in more depth. If you know your opponent is going to call you, then do you want to take the race?

Is there a right answer? It all depends on how you want to play your tournament and whether you are happy to just win the pot in front of you or whether you want to take the gamble for the full double up.

If you call and bet out at any flop and your opponent passes, it’s the same result as moving all in pre-flop and getting him to fold, but if you suspect he’s going to call you pre-flop anyway, then surely the stop ‘n’ go move is the better option. There is, of course, one problem with this and that is if your opponent hits the flop and still calls. Is this really a problem, though? If you were going to move all in pre-flop and your opponent was always going to call, then you were going to see the flop anyway and he was still going to hit.

So what’s the upside? Let’s look at some different situations and flops. Let’s say he had J-9 and the flop comes A-K-4. You lead out, either for a normal bet or a shove. You may be scared as there are two high cards on the board, but this can also work to your advantage. If you moved in pre-flop, you would be coin-flipping. On this flop, you’re now a 73.5% favourite.

Let’s say the flop was 2-2-3. Your opponent may still call you on the flop but he will be getting bad odds to do so and may just wait for another spot. Even if he does call, you're still a big favourite and will be in the same situation as if you shoved all in pre-flop and got called.

If your opponent has A-K or A-Q, then he may pass on a bad flop and you again win the pot. If he calls you have taken 26% equity away from him. A lot of players still call on bad flops with A-K/A-Q, but at least you have played correctly and made your opponent play badly and call off a bet which gives him bad odds.

Now let’s say the flop comes J-7-2. There isn’t a lot you can do, as your opponent will always call you with top pair, but the odds are that your opponent will miss the flop in general. This is how you can play the odds and take an edge, even in a situation which is 50/50 pre-flop.

Remember, this is a move to be done when you are out of position so that you are always first to act first when the betting round begins.

Option C is in there for the real nits trying to cash or move up the money ladder. Folding really isn’t a good option in the long run against a player who is raising a lot. If the raiser is a player who has been sitting there quietly and patiently and has only ever turned over big hands, then the situati
on would be different and folding would be fine.
Many new or young and aggressive players will always decide to take the race because they feel they can win this pot pre-flop by getting their opponent to fold as a lot of big stacks will raise a lot and fold to re-raises. Everything is situational and player dependant. I’m just showing you a different way to give yourself an edge.

Always look for edges in the game to give yourself the greater chance of being successful. Try this and see how you get on.

For more help on your game and ways to improve drop me an email paul@paulzimbler.com, sign up to www.bluffeurope.com/pokeracademy or visit www.theinternationalpokerschool.com. There is a world of poker out there so stay on top of your game and make sure you have all the tools you need to be a winner.

Tags: Paul Zimbler, strategy