When watching poker tournaments on television, you’ll invariably see a hand where a player makes a re-raise for all of his chips with an absolutely terrible hand. The commentators will marvel about how great a play it was, but I promise you this: Kamikaze all-in plays with garbage hands will get you eliminated from tournaments far more often than they will work in your favor.
I wouldn’t, however, eliminate the reraise-with-garbage tactic from your repertoire. Instead, think about making this play only when the worst-case outcome wouldn’t result in a catastrophic hit to your stack.
Let’s say the blinds are 400-800 with a 100 ante and you’re sitting on 100,000 in chips. A player from late position raises to 2,400; you suspect that he’s attempting to steal the blinds.
In this example, consider trying to re-steal the pot, even if you have a hand as bad as 2-7. You’ll have to make a large reraise, though, as you definitely don’t want your opponent to call and see the flop. Try raising it 10,000 more. With 12,400 in the pot, you’d be risking just 12.4% of your stack. If your play works, you’d increase your stack by 4.5% and that’s not bad.
Now, if you only had 12,400 chips instead of 100,000, this play would be far too risky for a couple of reasons. First, a player that has not yet acted just might call your bet with a playable hand. Or, the original raiser might have a strong hand himself. It’s also possible that even if the original raiser’s hand wasn’t particularly strong, he’d still call since it wouldn’t cost him much to try to eliminate an opponent.
You see, position is of utmost importance when using this tactic. It works best from the button or the blinds since you significantly reduce the chance of having another player call your bet.
How about when you’re playing on a short stack?
Well, that’s when it’s most imperative that you protect those precious chips. Make sure that when you attempt a last ditch effort to double up, you have a hand that will be competitive in an all-in situation.
Amateur players tend to give up way too early when their chip stacks dwindle, and that’s a big mistake. It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around if you’re patient and wait for decent opportunities to play your remaining chips.
It’s actually fairly simple to play a short stack in a tournament because there are so few poker weapons at your disposal. Yes, some players consider the kamikaze all-in bluff a weapon – but not me. When your tournament life is on the line, it’s a play that should be avoided at all costs. It’s much wiser to pay close attention to the action and look for a good situation to make your move.
Remember, too, that it’s difficult to steal blinds as a short stack. So, when your chip stack dips to less than ten times the big blind and you do decide to play a hand, be aggressive and go all-in rather than make a standard raise of three times the big blind. Ideally, you’ll end up in a situation where you wouldn’t mind if your bet is called because your hand rates to be the best. If everyone folds, well, that’s not a horrible result either. Eventually, though, you’ll need to win a race for all of your chips in order to get back into contention.
Patience is often rewarded when you’re a short stack. Let the quitters make the kamikaze all-in plays while you sit tight looking for that solid opportunity to double up.
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