Do not be afraid to go all-in

55555Sometimes your opponents allow you to win a pot by making a clear mistake. I recently played this hand in a $1,500 preliminary event at the WSOP. A player who had been fairly aggressive from late position raised to 1,600 out of his 35,000 stack at 300/600-100 from the cutoff and a loose, passive, weak player with 40,000 chips called on button.

I am confident they could both have a fairly wide range, as they are both loose and active. I expect the initial raiser to have a decent mix of premium and medium strength hands in his range while the caller should have mostly medium strength hands, seeing how he didn’t reraise.

I elected to make it 6,600 out of my 50,000 stack from the big blind with Qs-Tc. Both players called. With a hand such as Q-T out of position, reraising is almost always a better play than calling because when you call, you have to connect well with the flop in order to win unless you plan to run a huge postflop bluff. When you reraise, you give yourself the chance to win preflop as well as postflop whether or not you connect with the board. I was quite surprised to see both opponents call, although once the initial raiser calls, the loose, passive button will probably continue with almost every hand he called the initial raise with.

The flop came Kd-Qh-3c. I bet 7,000, the initial raiser called and the Button folded. My plan was to make a cheap stab at the pot and fold if either player raised. If either player called, my plan was to shut down on the turn unless my hand improved. The initial raiser surprised me again by just calling, as most players would either push all-in or fold on the flop. I generally expect the initial raiser to show up with a K, J-T, or perhaps a marginal made hand such as Q-J. I am in terrible shape against most of this range, which means I should give up on the pot. If my opponent’s range had a decent amount of draws in it or weak made hands such as 6-6, I could go into bluff catching mode, but since I think he would fold the small pairs and can’t have too many draws, my only play is to give up even though I have middle pair.

The turn was the beautiful (Kd-Qh-3c)-Ts. Seeing how the initial raiser only had 20,000 chips left and there was already 35,000 in the pot, I decided to go all-in. I don’t realistically see how he can fold any hand he called with on the flop, as even J-T made a pair and is now getting decent odds. He instantly called with A-Q and I ended up winning a nice pot.

You should notice that if my opponent went all-in preflop or on the flop, he would have forced me off my hand and picked up a nice pot. Instead, he allowed me and the Button to see a cheap flop, which gave both of us a chance to outdraw him. While I am all for letting your opponents stay in when they are drawing to three outs, when the pot is large and you have a hand that is decently strong, you should almost always try to pick up the dead money. Also notice that if the flop was K-9-3 instead of K-Q-3, I would have made the same continuation bet and probably forced my opponent to fold his A-Q. My opponent turned a super profitable all-in situation preflop, which would have allowed him to profit 7,500 chips with little risk, into a disaster where he went broke.

In tournaments, putting yourself into simple spots is a way to avoid making devastating blunders. In this situation, my opponent did the exact opposite.When you have a strong hand and there is a lot of money in the pot before the flop, don’t be scared to take a little risk and go all-in.

This article initially appeared in Ante Up Magazine.

15 Comments

  • Emma Goldman says:

    Jon, hi, thanks so much. You say: “the initial raiser surprised me again by just calling, as most players would either push all-in or fold on the flop.” Are you saying this cause he only had roughly 6 BBs going into the hand?

  • Dcuz #CHIPBANDIT says:

    I’m guessing that the surprise of just a call is that in that position you either go all in , ( 3 bet big <~ not in his favor at his chip count ) or fold … Just Calling is Dangerous for any player no matter your holding cards in a Tournament

  • Steve says:

    Hi Jon,

    As you know I have mostly played low/mid stakes cash with a default TAG strategy, I do occasionally get out of line from late position as well as loosen up from time to time when the game is too tight. I recently read your book on tournament strategy and in this example I am wondering if you think AQ is really strong enough to 4 bet all in after your 11 bb reraise when I have 2.5 out of my 40bb stack invested? I realize the game has evolved from when a 4 bet is AA or KK but is the 3 bet range so wide now that AQ figures to be ahead? This would seem like a fold to me against all but the loosest of opponents. Forgive my Old School mind set.

    • It depends entirely on my opponents and how I expect them to react versus me. Perhaps I am a bit too in the mindset of playing in tough, aggressive games where players are not afraid to take on some risk in exchange for winning a decent amount of equity.

  • Steve says:

    Correction: I should have said 2.5BB out of 58BB stack preflop facing a 3 bet of 11BB from the BB. I understand that a min 4-bet puts about 1/3 of the stack in, so an ALL IN is the 4 bet sizing but I still question whether AQ is strong enough holding

    • Steve says:

      Did a little math, If you assume your all in will only get called by QQ+ and AK you will have about 25% equity vs the calling range which means you need to be against an overall range of that will fold 70% for the play to be break even while not accounting for survival EV. Assuming this tight of a calling range that implies a top 10% overall range. I guess I am answering my own question, though I am still not sure this is a super profitable low risk preflop situation.

    • I am not sure generic opponents versus me are as tight as you think they are.

  • Lawrence says:

    I’m not seeing how 4-Betting with AQ preflop against an OOP 3-bettor is usually a good idea. Maybe against a cutoff 3-bet but a BB 3-bet? Seems he played it the best to get maximum profit from worse hands and got outdrawn. His only mistake was calling the all-in when a 10 falls that hits even more of your range. Telling people to go all-in with AQ in a tourny against an OOP 3-bettor with 50BB behind is a little reckless IMO. Seems the suggestion is more results oriented than standard.

    • It could certainly be spewy if you fail to assess your opponent’s tendencies well. Of course, if your opponent is overly tight/straightforward, AQ is trash, but if he is competent and is not afraid to get out of line, AQ is quite strong.

    • Mannes says:

      In the low stakes tournaments I play, and when stacks are this “deep”, I tend to agree that BB 3-betting into 2 players represents an extremely narrow range. I also think it’s really player dependent – some are old school nits , some are there just to gamble, and then you have everything in between.
      In a WSOP event with world class opponents like JL, the AQ 4bet shove would probably be correct unless he had a specific read.

      Generally, I’m starting to think more in terms of “relative ranges”… meaning that if I find myself on a tough, aggro table, I should be one or two notches tighter than the aggros in order to be ahead of their preflop ranges. AQ is a powerhouse in that spot. But on a soft, nitty table, I’ll be a notch or two looser than the table. In that spot, AQ as a prospective 4bet is trash.

    • Mannes says:

      I realize my response may seem contradictory – so I’ll explain.

      if I’m on a laggy (aggro) table, and trying to be tighter than the average – why is AQ a good 4bet? Because it’s way ahead of their ranges. I’m limiting my play to strong opening hands, but when I pick one up, I’ll want to get it in.

      But on a soft passive, nitty table, I’m opening lots of hands much worse than AQ. But, I probably don’t want to get it in preflop with a hand that’s way behind their range, and AQ is exactly that when the money goes in.

      There are of course variations on this, e.g. when stacks get short, even on a nitty table there’s a ton of fold equity in shoving … but that’s another discussion.

  • bhagvant says:

    can u address villian 4bet to 16k., or jam all in… knowing villian has a decent monster and BB could be making a profitable steal., rather than call and draw.. i like the more aggressive 4bet

  • Chaiapon says:

    Hi,
    why Is AJ not in you opponent range because he called on the flop. He might hit his staight on the turn.
    Thank you and sorry for my English.

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