There’s a hot topic of debate amongst elite poker professionals: betting it all on a slim margin at the very beginning of a tournament. While some pros have an "all or nothing" mentality about it, others would rather play it more conservatively.
Which one are you?
So here’s the situation. You’re playing in the $10,000 main event at the World Series of Poker, and you’re in the big blind holding Ad-Ks. Everyone folds, all the way down to the player in the small blind. Now, suppose you could magically see your opponent’s cards and that he has Qh-Jh.
Then, in a strange and bizarre move, that player goes all in!
You obviously have him beat, but would you be willing to risk your entire tournament on the very first hand?
Really think about that for a minute.
Let me give you some added insight that might help you make your decision. Your A-K will win the pot 60% of the time. That means if you made this call ten times, you’d start the main event with a commanding 20,000 chips on six occasions.
The other four times you’d have a day to enjoy the summer heat in Vegas.
Having 20,000 early on certainly increases your chances of making the money. No one would be able to knock you out for quite some time. The question you’d have to ask yourself, though, is whether having those extra chips would justify elimination four times out of ten.
There are other considerations too.
How good of a player are you? Do you think you’d be one of the best at the table, or would you likely be outclassed?
Well, if you feel like the underdog, you might want to make the call.
From a purely mathematical standpoint, it would be foolish to fold your hand. You’re a 60% favorite on an even money proposition. Vegas casinos survive on much smaller edges than that.
Still, many pros are split on the hand. Those who believe they are far superior to their opponents claim it should be folded. Their reasoning is twofold: They’ll be able to get to 20,000 with much less risk in later play, or, they can get all of their chips into the pot as a bigger favorite than 60/40.
Where do I stand on the issue?
I strongly advise novice and average players to call this hand without hesitation. Yes, there are times when I’d advocate folding, but that would only be at a table with weak players who would let you bully them later.
In televised No Limit tournaments, I’m sure you’ve seen countless heads-up hands where all of the money goes in on percentages close to 50/50. The fact is, somewhere down the line, in order to win a tournament, you’re going to have to win a coin flip — a race as it’s known in the poker world. You have to get lucky sometime.
The key is determining when that sometime is the right time.
Why wouldn’t you take a guaranteed equitable proposition early on in the tournament? 60% is a substantial favorite in any Hold’em hand. The odds in your favor are too good to pass up.
This debate will never crown a winner. It really does depend on factors outside of the simple math. The key factor is your ability to objectively gauge your playing skills in comparison to the other players at the table.
So, unless a table is truly ripe for the picking, make the call at 60% and look to double up right away. You’ll be in a dominant position right from the start.
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