Interesting situation from a bounty tournament

bestbet1I recently found myself in an interesting situation in the $1,500 bounty event at the Best Bet in Jacksonville Florida where I was unsure about the ideal play. Actually, I am still unsure about the optimal play. Maybe you can teach me something by leaving your thoughts in the comments section at the end of this post.

I was in the cutoff seat with a starting stack of 15,000 chips at 50/100. The Button and the Big Blind both had 15,000 as well. The player in the small blind got crippled down to 300 on the previous hand. All three players were tight and aggressive. I was unsure if the player in the small blind would happily go all-in with any two cards or if he would play tightly, hoping to get his money in good. Everyone folded around to me and I looked down at the beautiful 8s-2c. Should I raise or fold? If I decide to raise, how much should I raise to?

Out of the $1,500 buy-in, $1,000 went into the prize pool and the other $500 going to whoever busts a player. So, if I busted the player with 3 big blinds, I would get $500. The first step in tackling this problem is to figure out how much that $500 in cash is worth in terms of chips.

500_miniI approach this situation by assuming the tournament is $1,000 with everyone putting up a $500 side bet that they will not get busted. I get 15,000 chips at the start of the tournament for $1,500 total. This means that the $500 cash bounty is effectively worth 1/3 of the starting stack, or 5,000 chips. The actual value of that $500 depends a lot on your individual financial situation. While $500 is relatively useless to me, if your bankroll is $5,000, that $500 is quite significant. Also, it may not be worth taking a high variance risk in a tournament for the best player in the field whereas a weaker player should be a bit more prone to gamble.

As you can see, the actual value of the $500 in cash, at least when converting it into some number of tournament chips, is a difficult thing to do and depends a lot on your individual situation. For simplicity, I will assume the bounty is worth 5,000 chips.

When approaching this situation, I have to look at all of the possible outcomes and figure out roughly how often they will occur. Folding will result in no loss as I have nothing invested.

So, what happens if I raise with my 8-2? I must first try to figure out what raise size I should make. If I raise to 300, I think the Button will play fairly standard, although he may be a bit more call-happy because of the Small Blind’s desperate situation. If the Small Blind calls, the big blind will certainly call. I think that this makes a raise to 300 fairly bad. Remember, I want to get the bounty heads up, giving me a decent shot of busting him. 8-2o does not fare well in a four-way pot.

I think if I raise to around 700 instead, the Button will fold unless he has a strong hand. The Small Blind will still come along sometimes and the Big Blind may then fold, thinking I “must” have a decent hand to raise to 700. I estimate I will get action from either the Button or the Big Blind around 30% of the time total. When I get action from them, I will not necessarily lose the pot. If they call, I will win the pot with a continuation bet some percentage of the time. Of course, if they reraise, I will fold. For simplicity, let’s assume I lose 400 chips in this scenario, which will happen 30% of the time. Please realize this number could easily be larger or smaller, but it will rarely be much larger than 500 chips or so. This number is an average. Sometimes I will lose a raise plus a continuation bet of around 1,400, sometimes I will lose 700 when I get reraised preflop, and sometimes I will win 850 with a raise plus a continuation bet. If you aren’t thinking about poker problems in this manner, you aren’t doing it right.

Also realize that my profit depends a lot on my opponents’ tendencies. If they were loose and aggressive, I would be less inclined to make this play because they will be more likely to play back at me, which is the exact opposite of what I want. Also, the Small Blind and either the Button or Big Blind will come along some percentage of the time, although I will usually not win the pot (and the bounty) too often because my hand is trash.

If I raise to 700 and the Button folds, I will assume that the Small Blind puts his last 250 chips in the pot with around 40% of hands. For now, let’s assume the Big Blind folds all of the time, which is certainly not the case. Against a 40% range, 8-2 has 30% equity, meaning I will win the bounty 30% of the time. Seeing how the bounty is worth 5,000 and the pot will be 300 + 300 + 100, I will collect 5,700 (.3) = 1,710 in equity. That is HUGE!

Since the big blind will come along some percentage of the time as well, I have to figure out how that alters my equity. Assuming he calls or reraises with 20% of hands, I should subtract around 15% of the total value from the raise. Remember, sometimes I will still win he pot after the flop. Again, this is a very rough estimation. So, I have 1,710(.85) = 1,453 in total value when I raise, the Button folds, and the Small Blind calls.

Around 35% of the time, everyone will fold preflop, giving me 150 chips.

So, 30% of the time I lose 400, 35% of the time I win 1,453, and 35% of the time I win 150. I can then figure out my average equity by multiplying each number of chips by the percentage of the time that result will occur, giving me:

-400(.3) + 1,453(.35) + 150(.35) = 441 profit

It is not too often that I can profit 4.4 big blinds by raising with 8-2! It is interesting to note that I will only collect the bounty around 10% of the time, assuming all of my estimations are right, making this a fairly high variance play. Even so, this raise should be super profitable with any two cards.

Of course, all of this changes if the players yet to act realize what I am doing and decide to exploit me. If they will often call or reraise, they will drastically diminish the chance that I am the person collecting the bounty, killing the equity of this play. While this ideal situation, where everyone is fairly tight, doesn’t come up too often, when it does, make a point to scoop up the free equity.

So, do you think you would have raised with the 8-2 in my situation? Do you think you will now give it a try? Do you see any holes in my assumptions? Let me know what you think in the comments section below. Be sure to come back next week for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading.


  • David A says:

    I think the calculations are ~correct. I think the biggest factor is going to be how perceptive your opponents are that this equity exists. If they are perceptive of the fact that this equity exists, do they perceive you as a thinking player who realizes this +EV situation and how wide would their range be to battle for the extra equity. In a vacuum, your article seems very correct.

  • Billy squire says:

    Where do you get your assumptions on how the players are going to act? With my experience people will act rather unpredictably when there’s a bounty on the line.

  • Steve Fuhrman says:

    The calculation of what the $500 is worth in chips should be based on your perceived EV in the tournament and based on your current chips. Early on this can be considered your buy-in (of $1000) x your expected ROI (from payouts) + expected bounties. This may be difficult to estimate without some long term stats, but lets assume that your normal ROI is 150% and that in this specific size field you would average busting out 2 people before busting yourself. This gives you and EV of $2500. Then 3000 chips is worth $500 in a 15000 chip stack.. this number is probably a little low due to the value dif of chips (EV of 10000 chip stack is worth more than 2/3 EV of 15000 stack). The bottom line is that the better player you are the more your chips are worth and the worse the 82o play would be .

    • No one has anywhere near 150% ROI in a one day bounty tournament. I imagine the biggest winner in the field probably has 50% ROI at most. It is likely much lower than that.

  • Steve Fuhrman says:

    Otherwise your analysis seems correct based on your assumptions which must also include assumptions about your image with those players still to act.

    • I have played a decent amount of poker and I paid attention to my opponents. While I do agree that they will act unpredictably, they will certainly be prone to act one way or the other.

    • Steven Fuhrman says:

      I meant 50% ROI in other words 1500 ev from payout plus perhaps a potentially expectation of an average of bounties to get you to the 2500 ev

  • Zach says:

    Definitely can see how this will often be a +ev play. Would I do it? I’m actually not sure. You make a very compelling case for the reasons behind the effectiveness of the play. If a similar spot came up for me, I would definitely try to take this into consideration. However, although I am certainly competent at math, I could not run these kinds of figures in my head at the table.

    • Most people can’t do this kind of the math at the table. That is why you have to spend a TON of time away from the table figuring out the right plays in rare situations that may arise. If you try to figure out your plays at the table, you are way too late.

  • BJS says:

    You could consider min raising to 200 looking to 4bet large when the SB moves in for 300 and reopens the betting.
    On the upside, when the SB folds you lose fewer chips with 82o when someone else calls. Also, when the SB moves in you are more likely to fold out the B and BB with a large 4bet.
    The downside is that you are more likely to face a 3bet when you min raise and then have to fold. Also you stand to lose more chips when you 4bet and get called by the B or BB.
    Don’t know if I can estimate an EV for this.

    • This is certainly a line that makes sense but I would fear that the BB would then call with no intentions of folding due to bounty equity or even reraise with a wide range hoping to blow me off my hand. I want to do everything in my power to make him as uninterested in the hand as possible before the bounty gets involved.

  • Marko says:

    I agree with Jonathan’s interpretation regarding this last point. The problem with min-raise / 4-bet is that it does not take into account the bounty and how it will impact the BBs behavior. I just don’t agree with the sentiment “Also, when the SB moves in you are more likely to fold out the B and BB with a large 4bet.” Thinking players in the BB may even be prepared to 5-bet with hands as light as K10 off +++. So instead of saving $ vs raising larger pre-flop, you make yourself quite exploitable with this line.

    This play is an interesting one that will definitely provide some food for thought for me next time I play a bounty tournament.

    • Thanks for the reply. The last thing I want to do is allow the big stacks to get emotionally involved with a hand, making the much less likely to fold. I simply want to force them out ASAP or at least get somewhat clear information that they have strong hands.

  • Thomas Foster says:

    I’m not comfortable with your 1 bounty = 5000 chips valuation. It’s intuitive that 1/3 of what you paid is worth 1/3 of your chips. In another way I’m thinking the bounty is worth 7500 chips at this early stage, because it’s half the money you bought chips with. The ICM calculations are all going to be with the prize pool, not what you paid to enter.

    Whatever it’s worth I recon it’ll be worth progressively less as the tournament goes on, and as you get closer to that sweet, sweet final-table money. (At least I was convinced of that by an article I read recently.) So, whatever value we come to, the bounty is worth more to us now than it will be once the bubble bursts. I’m not sure that changes how to do this equation, except to say that if we can find enough of these spots for 3 bounties we’re on a pretty sweet freeroll.

    Anyway, “I’m not comfortable with it” is a long way from “I’m sure you’re wrong,” but it just doesn’t sit right with me.

  • Alex Weldon says:

    5000 chips is the correct valuation, not 7500. The fact that some of your equity is in the regular prize pool and some is in the potential to win bounties is irrelevant. You paid $1500 to enter and got 15,000 chips, so $500 is worth 5,000 chips, ignoring ICM. I suppose you can correct a bit for skill edge, but the thing about doing that is that when we pass up +$EV spots on account of our presumed edge, we give up some of that edge in the process.

    Live, I think that raising may be correct, but online I will usually pass with a bad hand in this spot, as players are nutso for bounties and assume everyone else is as well, therefore you will get 3-bet by the Button or the BB a lot of the time. Live players are generally less crazy, I understand, so maybe that’s not the case here. I’d still be uncomfortable going with a suspiciously large raise to 700 though, as if they’re thinking at all, that has to be a sign that you want them out (unless they convince themselves you’re leveling them).

    Another thing that online players do, but which live players may also do here is if Button folds and SB calls, BB will call as you say, and may donk the flop a lot to try to get you to go away. So if you are going to raise your 8-2 you should have a plan for that scenario as well.

    Personally, I tend to pass up the most obvious bounty-hunting situations when my cards are bad because you’re too likely to face resistance. The exception is later on, when it gets closer to the bubble, and people start to get more concerned about cashing than winning bounties. Then you can get away with it.

  • Loren Finkelstein says:

    The only thing I didn’t see you consider is that a situation like this tends to make more players loose aggressive than normal. Even someone you might have identified as tight passive might re-raise out of the blinds to try to isolate the bounty.

    You said that if someone re-raised, then you would fold. I think, in a situation like this, that will happen more often than you might expect. Just something to keep on mind. Depending on how highly you value that bounty, you may need to be willing to take it further then bet-fold pre-flop.

  • Gary says:

    I had a difficult hand in my bounty tourney. Curious of your analysis. Middle of a $200 buyin tourney, including $100 bounty. 25 players left, only 5 cash. Starting stack is 15k, my stack is 20k, just below average, blinds are 400-800. A players shoves 7.5k, player to my right (22k stack) flats. What do I do with pocket 9s? 3 players are yet to act behind me.
    I figured I had to either shove to isolate or fold. If I shove, I ll likely be called. My guess was that I was facing a pair and overcards. Folded after tanking. Turned out it was pocket 6’s vs 8’s, and my 9’s would have held.
    But what’s the right play?

    • That is a tough one because it depends a lot on the opponents’ ranges. With 20bbs, I would tend to get in, especially if I thought the caller could be wider than normal because he is trying to get a bounty.

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