In this extract from the new book from Lee Nelson, Tysen Streib, Tony Dunst, Dennis Waterman and Joe Hachem, we look at how you can get off to the best possible start in a tournament
If you’re considering calling a raise with a speculative hand, like a small pocket pair or a suited connector, your most important consideration is implied odds. How much are you risking compared to the size of the pot you’ll win if you hit your hand?
Speculative hands rarely make big hands, but when they do, they’re really big. As a result, you’d generally prefer to see the flop cheaply with these hands and have enough left in your stack to get paid off if you hit. If your stack isn’t deep enough, your payoff will be too small to make up for all the times you fold these speculative hands when you don’t improve.
A handy guideline is the Rule of 5 and 10, first suggested by Stewart Ruben and Bob Ciaffone in Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker. Use this rule when you’re thinking about calling a raise with a speculative hand. The rule is pretty simple:
- If the raise is less than 5% of your stack, it’s an easy call
- If it’s more than 10%, it’s an easy fold
- If it is between 5% and 10%, it’s a judgment call
Be more apt to call if:
- You have position on the raiser. Position is very important with suited connectors, but not as important with pocket pairs
- You have a medium pocket pair (7s or 8s), rather than a smaller one
- You have a no-gap suited connector such as 7-6s, rather than a 1- or 2-gapper such as T-8s or 9-6s
- Your opponent is the type of player who rarely folds top pair or an overpair after the flop
Note that if your opponent has a shorter stack than yours, you need to consider the raise as a percentage of his stack, rather than your own. His stack is the one limiting the implied odds. This is a very important point.
For example, if your opponent has raised using 15% of his stack, you should generally fold, even if this raise represents only 5% of your stack. Any time a stack size is mentioned, it should always refer to the ‘effective stack’ – that is, the biggest stack size that could come into play for you.
Of course, like any rule, there are exceptions. If we have position and good control over an opponent (i.e. he’s predictable), we may very well make this call, knowing that we’ll often be able to take the pot away if we miss on the flop. Table composition and fear equity need to be constantly evaluated. The ‘rules’ presented here are really guidelines. As you gain experience, opportunities will arise that may violate them. At times such as these, winning players will deviate from the suggested line of play and so should you. However, don’t kid yourself. Until the time when you’re capable of making accurate reads of your foes, it’s probably better to stick with the basic program.
Highly speculative hands — suited 3-gaps like 9-5s, suited ace-low like A-5s, unsuited no-gaps like 8-7o, and suited connectors where the high card is 4 or less like 4-3s — require even more implied odds, because they have fewer ways of making a big hand. Therefore, you need to use something more like a Rule of 3 and 6 for calling with these hands: Any raise more than 6% of the smaller stack is probably too high to call and see the flop. The best time to call with very speculative hands is in position, when there’s unlikely to be a reraise behind you.
Let’s look at a few problems where you might use the Rule of 5 and 10 or the Rule of 3 and 6.
It’s the first hand of the Aussie Millions Main event with 30,000 in chips and blinds of 50/100. All players have the same amount of chips. the under-the-gun player raises to 250.
You have 2♣-2♠ and are in the small blind. Your play?
The correct play is to call. A bet of 250 is less than 1% of your stack, so it’s correct to call, since the rule of 5 and 10 applies. You call and the pot size is now 600.
You’re first to act. Your play?
Bet 300-400. Although many players will check this hand, we don’t think this is optimal. You’ve hit the flop with a well- disguised hand and you want to play a big pot. Your opponent raised from first position. His probable range is 99+, AJs+, AQ+. of these hands, the only one that you need be concerned with is K-K, but beware of seeing a black cloud in every silver lining! Hopefully, he has A-K or A-A and will get married to it and risk his entire stack or the lion’s share of it. Your best play is to lead out with a bet of 300-400. Your opponent might put you on a weaker King or a flush draw and will probably reraise with top pair or better.
You bet 350 and your opponent makes it 1,100. Your play?
Call. Although it’s tempting to reraise, a better play is to just call. Your opponent has taken the bait. now set the hook by calling. pot size is 2,800.
What’s your play?
Your best play is to check. You check and your opponent bets 2,500.
It’s time to let the cat out of the bag and raise. If your opponent has A-K or A-A and has fallen in love with it, you may get all his chips. You raise to 7,500, a 5,000-chip raise. He calls. the pot is now 17,800.
At this point you’ve gotten your opponent to commit about a third of his stack. A normal-sized bet from you at this point would pot commit you both. Instead, move all in, which may look like a bluff more than a smaller bet would. Having come this far, there’s a good chance he’ll call and you’ll have all his chips. Push!
- Chip accumulation: set mining and trapping big pairs
- The Rule of 5 and 10
It’s the second level of a major tournament. You have 29,800 in chips with blinds of 100/200. The cutoff raises to 500 and the button calls.
You have 8♥-7♥ in the big blind. Your play?
The rule of 5 and 10 applies. This is an easy call. pot size is 1,600.
You check and both the cutoff and button also check.
What’s your play?
Neither of your opponents bets the flop. It’s possible one of them has checked a weak ace, but it’s more likely they’ll bet top pair against two opponents. Sure, it’s possible that one of them might have flopped a set and is slow-playing, it’s far more likely that they both missed on the flop. The 3♦ on the turn is unlikely to have helped any hand that would have called a preflop raise.
This is probably an ‘orphaned pot’ since no one seems to want to claim it. Bet about 800. They don’t know the strength (or weakness) of your hand, because your check on the flop into two other players, including one who raised preflop, reveals nothing about the strength of your hand. If you did have an ace, now would be an ideal time to bet it. It’s also an ideal time to pick up a pot nobody seems to want.
You bet 800 and both players fold.
- The Rule of 5 and 10
- Picking up orphaned pots
You’re at the second level of the Main Event of the Victorian Championships at Crown Casino in Melbourne. Blinds are 100/200 and you have 28,000 in chips. UTG+2 limps and the button raises to 700.
You have 6♥-5♥ in the big blind. Both opponents have more chips than you. Your play?
Call. The Rule of 5 and 10 applies, since 500 is less than 2% of your stack. The limper also calls.
You’re first to act. Your play?
Check. Checking gives you maximum flexibility and controls the size of the pot. Although this is a good flop for you, your hand will likely need to improve if there’s any significant action. Also, you don’t mind if it’s checked around, giving you a free card. After you check, so do both of the other players.
Bingo! You’ve turned a straight.
Bet. Around 1/2 the pot is about right. You bet 800, the next player calls, and the button raises to 3,000.
Reraise! The raise from the button is surprising. The only hand that beats you is 8-6, but it’s highly unlikely that the button raised preflop with this hand, and you have a Six in your hand. It’s much more probable that he was slow-playing a set or has a flush draw and is semi- bluffing. No need to mess around here. Reraise to about 8,000 and tax them if they want to play. Also, if they both fold, you’ll have established ‘fear equity’. Your opponents will know that you’re not afraid to commit a lot of your chips (and theirs) and will tend to avoid playing pots with you. This will work to your advantage as the tournament progresses. Having opponents fear you is an asset in no-limit hold’em tournaments.
You raise to 8,000. To your utter amazement, the initial limper calls and the button pushes! This is an easy call for you. You show your straight and they show 5♠-4♠ (two pair) and A♦-2♦ (five-high straight and the nut flush draw), respectively. The button flopped a wheel and the nut flush draw (plus a gut-shot straight flush draw to boot) and decided his hand was too strong to bet the flop. Then he stuck it all in on the turn with only the flush draws and a 23% chance of winning.
There isn’t much you can do when your opponents get lucky. You were a big favorite (68%) to be one of the chip leaders in the tournament if your hand held up. As it is, you’re out. You must learn to deal with this type of variance if you play tournament poker.
- The Rule of 5 and 10
- Fear equity
- Dealing with bad beats
Buy your copy of Flop, Turn, River now!
For anyone who has ever read a strategy book on no-limit hold’em or played in a tournament, Flop, Turn, River is the perfect next step to test your knowledge, challenge your mind, and improve your skills. It will take you to a much higher level for each of the five stages of tournament play.
Flop, Turn, River’s 75 problems, 125 table graphics, and more than 150 playing decisions will help you identify your strengths – which will build your confidence in high-pressure situations – and pinpoint your weaknesses, so you can further focus on improving those areas of your game.
By the time you’re finished unraveling the poker scenarios in this book by the authors of Kill Phil, Kill Everyone, and The Raiser’s Edge, you’ll be much better prepared to face whatever circumstances arise in a poker tournament, from the first hand of a $10 buy-in at your local casino to the last hand at the final table in the Main Event of the WSOP.