I was recently told about, a poker hand from a $1,000 buy-in tournament that illustrates a fundamental mistake that many amateurs are unaware they are making. With blinds at 800/1,600 with a 200 ante, a loose, but straightforward player raised to 4,000 out of his 56,000 effective stack. A tight player called in the cutoff. Our Hero decided to reraise to 14,000 with 9-9.
I do not like this reraise size at all. When faced with a 10,000 reraise, both the preflop raiser and the caller will be getting excellent pot odds, meaning they are unlikely to fold. This would be fine if Hero had an overly premium hand like A-A that is unlikely to get outdrawn, but most flops bring at least one overcard to pairs like 9-9, and unpaired hands are unlikely to make a pair.
If I wanted to reraise with 9-9, I would have pushed all-in. While this will force many marginal and weak hands to fold, Hero will often scoop the 12,200 pot with no showdown. When he happens to get called, he will usually be against a decently strong range of big pairs, A-K and A-Q, but even that isn’t too terrible, as Hero will win roughly 35% of the time. While going all-in risks going broke, it is almost certainly the most profitable option. Calling and trying to see a favorable flop is also acceptable, especially if the raiser is on the tight side.
As expected, both opponents called. The flop came Ks-Jh-6d. The initial raiser bet 12,000 into the 46,200 pot. His opponents folded, giving him the pot.
While this may seem like a fairly innocuous hand, as Hero made an easy fold on a flop that is awful for him, he was completely unaware that a simply all-in would have won the pot with relatively little risk, especially given the preflop raiser is somewhat loose.
To help ensure you do not make this mistake in your games, you can use the following equation to determine if a preflop all-in is profitable. If the all-in is decently profitable, it is usually the best play. If it is only marginally profitable, calling the preflop raise (or folding if your hand is junky) is ideal. Most of the time when your stack is about 25 big blinds, reraising small (as Hero did) is not a wise play.
Profit for an all-in over a raise = (% everyone folds) X (amount you win when they fold) + (% someone calls) X (equity in the pot when called – amount you put in the pot)
So, you first have to figure out how often someone yet to act will call. While it is difficult to determine with a high degree of certainty, you can estimate. The blinds will rarely call and the preflop caller is also unlikely to call because if he had a premium hand, he would have reraised before the flop. The preflop raiser will usually only call with A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, T-T, A-K ,and A-Q. That range is a total of 62 combinations of hands. Most loose players raise from middle position with all sorts of hands, such as A-2s, 9-7s, and J-To. I estimate that most loose players raise about 310 combinations of hands, meaning Hero will get called by the preflop raiser 62/310 = 20% of the time. To account for the players yet to act, let’s assume Hero actually gets called 35% of the time.
When Hero gets called, he will win the 120,200 pot 35% of the time, meaning his equity when called is .35 X 120,200 = 42,070. Plugging in the numbers, we have:
Profit = (.65)(12,200) + (.35)(42,070 – 56,000)
Profit = 7,930 – 4,875 = 3,055
While profiting 3,055 on an all-in may not seem like much, two big blinds is actually a hefty profit. Also, I assumed that the preflop raiser is tighter than many loose players are, and also that the players yet to act will call more often than many will. So, profiting two big blinds is essentially the “worst-case scenario”. When the worst-case scenario is a decent profit, that play should strongly be considered.
You may be wondering how you are supposed to do this math at the poker table. You aren’t! You should spend significant time away from the table to determine when you should make these all-ins. If you run enough simulations, you will better understand when this maneuver is justified.
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