Sunday, December 21, 2008

Short Stack Tournament Strategy

I have been on a bit of a good run at the casino recently. On Friday after work I played in the 5-150 game at Casino Arizona. I sat and folded for 2 hours and was down $100 when lightning struck. In the span of 5 minutes, I flopped the nut straight and doubled up and then I flopped a set of 7's and turned the full house and won another $250.

At the high point I was up $400. I lost some of it back with Queens when a King flopped and ended the day up over $300.

I had to come back on Saturday morning to play in the Bubble Boy Free Roll. This was the tournament for all the players that had finished on the bubble in all the previous tournaments throughout the year. It was a $25 service fee plus you could get 1500 extra chips for an additional $10, 5 of which went to the dealers and a $5 Keno card.

There were 185 players and they were paying the top 40 a minimum of $50.

Once again I started out fast. In the first hour I had quad 6's and got paid, a straight, and a flush. I won nearly every hand I played in this tournament except for 3.

The first one was early and I'm not sure if I played it wrong or not. I raised one limper with KJs in late position. The button called, the BB called and the limper called. The flop was King high with no straight or flush possible. I did not like the preflop call behind me and I was worried about getting sucked in to a big pot. It was checked to me and I checked as well to see what the button would do. He checked behind.

The turn was a 9, which seemed innocent enough. Except the BB led out for the size of the pot. The early player folded. I still had the button behind me left to act, but I was pretty sure he was going to fold since he didn't act on the flop. I still thought I was ahead, but I wanted to protect my chips. I just called and hoped he would not fire again on the river.

The river was meaningless and he put in the rest of his chips. I could still call and have over 20 BB left, which is a big stack in this tournament. I called and he showed me trip 9's. He had hit the two outer on the turn.

So with results oriented thinking, I should have bet the flop and he probably would have folded. I think with 3 other people in the hand, I need to bet to protect my hand and find out where I am. I could probably bet half the pot and figure that out. If it's heads up, I can check it, because I am either way ahead or way behind. He either has a King with a better kicker or something better. Or he is drawing to 2-5 outs to hit his trips or second pair.

Another hand was a raise with KJ where a short stack pushed all in from the BB. I was getting over 2-1 on my call and felt like I had to make it. I lost the race against AQ.

I easily made it into the top 40 and actually made it down to the final two tables. I was fluctuating between 8-12 BB and the blinds were now going to double every 30 minutes. If I had to guess, the average stack was probably 7-9 BB, but I had the two chip leaders on my left with 20-40 BB. My stealing options were going to be a bit limited.

I made a push all in with A2o in early position and the big stack on my left called with JJ and I did not improve. I finished in 15th for $100. When I added that to the $135 I won in the morning playing 3-6 limit hold'em, it made for a very profitable day.

I was a little disappointed in myself that I made the raise with A2. After thinking about for a while, I thought that maybe I should have waited for a better spot.

I am going to discuss two things relating to late tournament strategy. The first is simple push or fold calculations preflop. The second is a proper strategy for stealing blinds when all the other players have 8-12 BB in their stacks.

I posted the hand for help on two plus two and they told me about the statistical formula to calculate the fold percentage for multiple players.

If people are calling with probability x, the formula for the chances that someone out of y number of players calls is:1 - (1-x)^y.

So, for 5 players left to act and they are calling with the top 10% of their hands, someone will call 40.9% of the time.

The second part of strategy is what to do when everyone is playing tight and they have short stacks. You have a few different options:

1. Play tight and wait for good cards to double up. Wait for premium hands, raise enough to put your opponents all in and hope they double you up.

2. Raise 3x the blind and widen your range a little. If they reraise, you are priced in to call so be sure to play cards you don't mind going all in with. Usually they will call the raise and see if they hit the flop. So you may be forced to go all in on the flop if you want to win the pot.

3. Raise 2-2.5x the blind. In this case, if your opponent reraises all in, you may be able to find a fold and save yourself a little money. The draw back is that more players will be enticed to call the smaller bet and you will be forced to play post flop.

The players seem to play so tight that I am starting to think that option 3 may work in the Casino Arizona tournaments.

a) The players are bad enough that some feel a raise of the BB of 3000 to 6000 seems like a big raise and they may fold, when they are getting 2.5 to one to make the call. They are seldom that big of an underdog to anything.

b)It will let you get away a little cheaper if someone plays back at you for 8-12BB.

c) It will also get you a little more action on your high pocket pairs.

Now I posed this question on 2+2 and they all recommended that I raise enough to put my opponents all in. Maximum pressure. You get called less, and if you do get called and double up you win even more chips. I think I'll try the min raise the next time and see what happens.

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