I’m going to set up a No Limit Hold’em tournament scenario, and your job is to figure out the best play. After you’ve made your guess, I’ll reveal the answer along with the reasoning behind it.
You’re in a $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour event; first prize is over one million dollars. Midway through the tournament, you’re doing very well with 146,000 in chips, which puts you among the chip leaders. The blinds are at 400-800, there’s a 100 ante, and you’re at a nine-handed table.
A player from middle position, with 44,000 in chips, raises to 2,200. Based on your knowledge of this opponent, you don’t think he has a very strong hand. The player next to him, with 38,000, calls the raise.
You’re on the button and are dealt Qc-3h. You’ve been at the table with these players for several hours and have reraised only once all day. When you did, you held the absolute nuts – pocket aces – and you showed the table your hand.
So here’s the question: What is the best play in this situation? Do you fold, call, raise 5,000 more, raise 10,000 more, or go all-in?
I hope none of you chose to call or go all-in.
Those two choices would be the absolute worst options. Q-3 is a garbage hand and doesn’t play well after the flop. Calling with it is the worst play, closely followed by going all-in.
So that leaves three legitimate options: fold, raise 5k more, or raise 10k more.
The worst of those three plays is to raise 5,000. The problem with this play is that if one of your opponents has a hand like 7-7, he might call to see the flop; you don’t want that. Since you’re on a complete bluff, you want them all to fold immediately.
So it’s either fold or raise 10,000 more. Folding is the safer play, but it’s not the best option in this situation.
The best play here is to go for the steal by making a large reraise of 10,000 more. Now, that may seem contrary to much of what I preach in my weekly column, but this is a very specific situation where you can use your table image to your advantage.
Okay, let’s get back to the hand.
There’s already 6,500 in the pot and based on your read of the situation, it’s likely that the first player has a marginal hand and will fold. Since the second player just called the initial raise, he probably doesn’t have a hand strong enough to call your raise either. If your read is correct, and because you’ve established the right table image, your success rate with this play will be very high.
Of course, the play tanks if one of the blinds picks up a big hand, or one of the players already in the pot does call. But in the long-run, investing 12,200 to win 6,500 will turn you a profit.
Here’s another reason why this play works: As one of the chip leaders, a 12,200 hit won’t do too much damage to your stack. Then again, you might ask yourself, why do I need 6,500 so badly if I already have close to 150,000 in chips?
Well, one of the luxuries of having a big stack is that you can play more aggressively and accumulate an even more chips with little risk. That’s what winners do, and it’s the mindset you’ll need if you ever fork over $10,000 to play in one of these tournaments.
Folding is the safe play, but keep in mind what Mike McDermott said in Rounders: “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either."
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