Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shoving and Calling Ranges In Late-Stage MTT

You know how it goes. You're getting pretty far into a poker tournament (for example at the extremely fish-filled Bet Fred site), and the blinds are high. High? No. Uncomfortable. Pressure-inducing. There aren't enough chips to accommodate the number of players left. You need a double-up or four. Failing that, you need to steal and steal and steal. Those blinds and antes are now a full fifth of your once-mighty stack.

What do you shove with? And what do you call with?

Conventional wisdom says that you need a better hand to call with than to open with. That's known as the GAP theory, named (I believe) after the retail chain store in which it was devised by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth as they stacked clothes together.

That's right.

Conventional wisdom also says that once your M (which is a poker term that means "the size of one's M") gets really low, you need to be good to go with just about any reasonable hand.

That's also right.

Conventional wisdom aslo says that "any reasonable hand" includes pretty much any Ace.

To that I say "PAH!" to conventional wisdom. The reason for this is because of the Abercrombie and Fitch rule, above. People call stronger than they will open with. Thus, you are likely to be called with pairs, Broadway hands and Ax. Yes. Ax is probably the most likely hand you are to be called with, based on my opinion that I just made up now. But for real. Everybody except the most timid and clueless know that your range is very wide, so you're going to get called by pretty much any Ace.

That means that your lower Aces have an extremely good chance of:

a) taking the blinds and antes uncontested, which is something any 2 cards can do.


b) showing up totally dominated, which is much less likely for even a hand as weak as 79o.

What's my point? My point is it may be better to shove with rags than fall in love with that low-kicker Ace. Value the A9 or even maybe the A8. But beware that sad old A2. All you want with A2 is to steal the blinds. Crap like 45 can do that just as well. Important to remember that, once your raise has made everybody fold, your cards were meaningless.

Julius_Goat is a poker strategy writer who has never ever ever won an MTT. He totally would have though, if it weren't for that one bad beat, for serious. He lives in a state of denial.


Matt said...

I refuse to validate this as good poker strategy unless this was an excerpt from "the poker Bible" aka "Stupid System". Please cite if applicable.

Fuel55 said...

Ace rag is the nuts.

Julius_Goat said...

Since this may actually be good advice (probably not, but there is an outside chance), I couldn't in good faith put it in the Stupid System

HighOnPoker said...

Frankly, I think its great advice. I'd always rather push with two random cards NOT including an Ace, than an Ace Rag when there are a lot of players left to act. It's just as you said. Ace-rag is often called by dominating hands, whereas K7, for instance, isn't that bad of a dog against AJ.

Chad C said...

I had a post like this on my 2nd or 3rd blog.....

Julius_Goat said...

That was one of my favorite of your blogs, man.