Poker Clinic

Be aware that Freeroll play is not really an accurate representation of how people approach tournaments

Satellite news

I was down to the last 18 players in a multi-table online satellite that had a starting field of 371. The top nine are paid flat with entry to the tourney. I’m short- stacked with 25,000 chips left, however, that’s still the ninth largest remaining in the field. Blinds are 4,000/8,000 and are due to rise shortly.

I’m sitting on the big blind with 8,000 of my chips committed. Everyone folds to the button, who has 120,000 chips. He makes it 24,000 to go and the small blind folds. I’m sitting on K-Q offsuit and I have the choice of calling – effectively putting me all-in – or folding. I went all-in and got busted by A-5. If I had folded, I would have been down to 17,000 in chips with the small blind claiming another 4,000 in the next hand. However, I could have limped through another round. Potentially, the shorter stacks would have been eliminated and I could have made the payout. The blinds would have eliminated me by the next round.

Do you think I did the right thing? Fraser Young, by email

First off, I’m glad to see you’re thinking ahead in tournaments with regard to how your chip stack stands up to the rest of the field and how the blinds will affect it. You’d be surprised how many players I face day-in-day-out who can’t see past the hand they’re on before getting punished for their short-sightedness.

That said, I’m afraid I can’t agree with your actions in this hand. It reinforces one of my main principles, which is that I always want to be the aggressor and I always want two ways to win: my hand to hold up or for the other person to fold. By going all- in with K-Q offsuit after the button had raised, you’ve already lost the ‘make your opponent fold’ option immediately and you can only bank on your hand to hold up.

That’s fine if you have Aces or Kings, but K-Q is not the sort of hand to go to war with. The button could feasibly have been raising with any pair or Ace-rag, in which case you were always going to be behind – so I would definitely have folded when the button raised. Satellites place more emphasis on survival than any other kind of tournament. And, although you wouldn’t have been in the healthiest of shapes after the small blind had eaten into you, at least you would have had another revolution of the table to be the first to make a move.

Freerolling problems

I am new to poker and have been playing in some nightly freerolls to try and get a bit of experience at low cost. Do you think these are a good thing or not? I feel I have done quite well in these, but after some of the criticism I received over two hands a few nights ago I wonder whether I’m just learning to play badly.

Last night I reached the final table as the short-stack with 32,000 in chips. The blinds were 600/1,200 with a 500 ante. Three players called. I had A-4 suited and went all- in with my last 20k. Two called – both with Ace-rag – and I paired the 4 to take the pot. Undeniably lucky, but I felt that I had so few chips I was unlikely to get a better hand to play with and had no choice.

Some hands later I was dealt A-8 offsuit on the button with seven players left. I had 140k in chips, while the leader had 160k. The two shortest stacks went all-in (38k and 29k) and the rest folded. I called; my view being that my hand was probably not the best, but the opportunity to knock two out and gain a decent chip lead without risking all my chips was one I had to take (the blinds and prizes were going up quite steeply at this point). The Ace held up against K-Q and Q-J, but I was then subjected to a barrage of criticism from a player not even involved in either pot. Peter McAfee, by email

Freerolls are a great way to try and build up your bankroll for absolutely no outlay – so in that sense I recommend them. However, what you’ve probably realised is that play is very loose, with loads of players seeing the flop and all-in calls with marginal hands.

In this sense, your typical freeroll does not give a fair account of how a ‘real money’ poker tournament works; how patient you have to be and how you can put pressure on someone to fold. I would suggest graduating from the freerolls into $5 or $10 tournaments. Even at this low level, the fact that players have put a stake in will change their style of play markedly. Regarding your play, I would say that your A-4 call was dodgy. With three callers in front of you, you’re not really beating much.

As for the A-8 offsuit, trust me when I say that call was automatic. For 28% of your stack, you had a great chance to add another 50%. Even against K-Q suited and Q-J suited, you are a big pre- flop favourite: 41/34/25, so ignore anything that was said at your table.

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