Looking after number one

If you’ve ever felt you must make certain moves at the table for fear of letting other players down, it’s time to stop worrying. Play poker for yourself, says Willie Tann


If you’d simply called pre-flop with a view to getting the button out, that, in my mind, amounts to collusion

I was down to the last three in a live no-limit hold’em tournament recently and was about equal chipleader with one other guy. He was on the big blind, I was on the small and the third man was on the button with only about three big blinds left, so he had to make a move. After a few seconds of thinking he went all-in and looking down, I saw I had A-10. I could have just called, but I thought I’d have a much better chance of winning the hand if I massively overbet to stop the big blind from calling. I made it around ten times the big blind to go and, of course, the BB folded. The button turned over a pair of 6s and they held up. I wasn’t that upset because it hadn’t dented my stack too much, but the BB was fuming, muttering something about me ‘protecting’ the other guy. I’ve only been playing poker for a few months and this is the first time this has ever happened. Did I do something wrong? Robert Smith, via email

Let me assure you that you did nothing wrong. Holding A-10 out of position is not a situation that you want to see a flop with, especially against a guy who has as many chips as you. It was definitely the correct play to try and isolate the button, it was simply unlucky that his 6s held up. The big blind was frustrated because he thought both of you would stand a better chance of knocking the button out if there were two of you, which is true, but pre-flop if he had Aces, Kings or any big pair, do you think he would have been complaining? Of course not! He would have been trying to get as much out of you as he could, and laughing all the way to the bank. If you’d simply called pre-flop with a view to getting the button out, that, in my mind, amounts to collusion. Poker isn’t about that, poker’s about making the right play for yourself.


I was hoping you’d be able to clear up a little argument I’m having with my friend. He says if you have a lot of people in a pot and one of them is all-in with not many chips, everyone else should just check it down because they can’t win many chips from the main pot and it’s good etiquette anyway. But I think you should treat the game as if it’s like any other hand. I mean, should you check down a pair of Aces?! I’m never going to do that! Ben Turner, via email

In a way, both of you are right. Obviously, if you have a pair of Aces, then there’s no good reason to check it – you’re favourite to win and you should bet and try to take the pot down. However, let’s say you had K-10 and the flop was all raggedy, 2-5-9, then it’s always been a tradition of poker to check it down – what’s the point of bluffing when there’s probably no way you can win against the guy who is all-in? Sure, you’re driving out everyone else, but when the cards turnover, everyone will see that you were just making a play for the hell of it, and that’s out of order.


Congratulations on coming third in the Grosvenor World Masters – I was watching by the rail and I thought you were really unlucky not to win it! Given all your tournament experience, I was hoping you’d help me out with a rather large problem. Somehow I’ve managed to qualify online for a big tournament but I’ve never played live before! How am I possibly going to cope against all those pros?! Winning it is a pipe dream, but surely finishing in the money is realistic? A. Prescott, via email

Thank you for your kind words. Well done for qualifying – I wish I had some magic words to say that would make you win, but unfortunately there is no magic formula. However, I do have some advice that I think will at least give you a good chance of making the money. The first thing is that you really must get some live experience before you arrive at the event. When you are playing, try to remember a few things: when you sit down at any poker game – never mind a major tournament – don’t show any disinterest, no matter how bad your cards. Stay focused at all times, even if you’re not in the hand. Also, if you accept that you’re going to get the odd bad beat, you’ll be less affected by it. Remember, the tournament can’t be won in a day and however bad you think your situation is, as long as you’re still in, you can still win. Finally, if you ever see me in a cardroom, please feel free to approach me and ask any questions – I’d be happy to help you out in any way.

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