Two-time WSOP winner Scott Fischman has joined the team and is here to answer your questions
Three’s a crowd
|SF: You must push all-in regardless of what cards you have when your stack is still large enough to steal blinds|
I haven’t been playing too long but have managed to keep my head above water by playing tight and betting aggressively if I make something. I usually manage to finish in the money in sit-and-gos, but I struggle when it’s down to the final three. I often find I can’t kill off my opponents if I have a large chip lead, when I know that I should be able to use the blinds to eat my opponents up. I often seem to suffer a few big all-ins and end up losing it all. Conversely, if I’m short-stacked I seem to wait too long for a decent hand and I’m the one who gets eaten up! What do you think is the right strategy when the blinds are big and you’re down to the last three? How loose should my game become? Is any Ace a decent hand? Or is it just an all-in lottery?
SF: As much as I’d like to say that it’s not an all-in lottery, that’s essentially what it is. However, you can gain an advantage over your opponents in the long run if you play perfectly, but that’s easier said than done, since the blinds are so high and the stacks so low. My suggestion is next time you get down to three players, regardless of your stack, push allin every hand if no one else has done so before you. Analyse what happens, pay attention to your results, and adjust accordingly. Once you’re comfortable and feel like you can gauge where to push in, you won’t need to do it every time; but at first, pushing in every hand will help you learn this.
Sometimes when I look at my cards I get a feeling that I should play a hand – usually out of position. It’s never total junk, maybe something like Q-10, but I often put it down to impatience and fold. Is this ‘feeling’ my mind’s way of telling me it’s the right time to shift gears and that I’ve subconsciously realised that the table is ripe for bullying? Also, when shifting gears is it a conscious or instinctual decision that you make?
SF: Make sure you separate your mind’s boredom from actual significant factors of the table. Many times, I’ll be playing in a tournament and look down to find hands I know I shouldn’t play, but I want to, and ultimately I’ve learned this is my mind’s desire to be involved and stimulated. However, you definitely need to chalk that up to boredom and impatience. Stack size, table images (yours and your opponents’), along with the structure of the tournament are the biggest factors for knowing when you should start playing hands like that. With experience of recognising and determining these types of factors, it may become more instinctual and almost subconscious, which may make it seem like it’s intuition, but it’s still related to the factors and the information available to you rather than a feeling. You just become so attuned to the information you’re gathering that your mind comprehends and processes it without effort.
Last weekend I played two MTTs and went out on the bubble in both. In the first one I tightened up near the money and then dribbled out with nothing to show, so in the second I got bullish when the bubble approached and pushed all-in from the cut-off with A-10, only to get called by A-Q. How do you play as the bubble approaches if you’re down to seven-to-10 times the big blind?
SF: In my opinion you have two choices when you’re near the bubble with seven-to-10 big blinds. You can either wait until you pick up a monster (ignoring every other hand regardless of position), effectively waiting to get lucky; or push all-in regardless of your cards when you’re on the button or in the small blind and everyone folds to you. The beauty of the latter strategy is that it allows you to play round by round waiting to pick up a monster, but not losing any ground if you’re able to pick up the blinds with one or two others in the pot. When you push all-in blind in that situation, your opponent has to have a hand to call you with and win at showdown, so mathematically you WILL win most of the time and keep your stack large enough to still have fold equity (enough chips to induce another player to fold). However, if you fall below seven big blinds, the maths are not with you, because the chance of you getting called is much higher. That’s why it’s important to push all-in regardless of what cards you have when your stack is still big enough to steal the blinds.