Three-handed play, how to play in the early stages of a tournament and raggedy Aces are all on the agenda for Willie Tann this month


I was the second person knocked out of the GBPT [Great British Poker Tour] in Leeds a few weeks ago. I was in fairly late position, two off the button. The blinds were 25/50. I raised with 9-10 offsuit to 200, the small blind re-raised another 500 and I called. The flop came 8-Q-J to give me the nut straight. The small blind put in a small bet, I raised to 1,500, he re-raised me all-in.

Obviously I called, as you would with the nut straight. But he had flopped trip Jacks and the board paired a Queen on the river to give him a full house. Was it too early in the tournament to make moves like that, or should I just be playing big cards early?

Martin, Leeds

The early stages of a tournament should not preclude you from making moves. If you want to accumulate a big stack, you can’t just wait to pick up premium hands. Your raise with 9-10 is perfectly fine. However, the trick is to see early flops as cheaply as possible and this is where you made your error. Not only do I think your raise to 200 is a little much, but when the small blind makes it 700 to go, you have to put your hand down.

You have position, but it’s too much to pay when you know you must be way behind. Post-flop, it was only natural that all the chips were going into the middle at some point. You were just unlucky that he made his full house.


I’ve been playing sit&gos for about a year, mostly online. I regularly get down to the final three by playing pretty conservative. However, I’m not making the step up to consistently winning. What should I be doing when I get to heads-up?

Freddie Griffith-Jones, via email

I don’t need to tell you what to change in your game, Freddie, because you already know! Playing conservatively is only ever going to get you so far. At some point you have to open up and be more aggressive. Position is always important in poker, but when down to three-handed play, it’s absolutely essential. You need to employ judicious use of the button and put pressure on the other players.

If your stack still allows for some play, you should be raising with more speculative holdings like K-10, Q-J. If you’re short-stacked, you should be moving in with pretty much anything. The other two will be dealt rags a lot of the time, so it’s just about who blinks first!


I was playing in a six-man $0.25/$0.50 no-limit hold’em game when this hand came up: I was dealt A-3 on the small blind. My stack was $44. It was folded round to me and I just called. The big blind checked; he had a $76 stack. The flop came 10-5-2 and I checked  my gutshot. The big blind bet $1 and I called. The turn was the A. I checked to check-raise, believing I was ahead. The big blind bet $2.50 and I raised to $6.50, he called.

The river was the A. I bet $11 (I think that was probably a bad move) and he put me all-in. I felt sick at this point, knowing that for another $25 I was basically compelled to call. He turned over pocket twos for a full house.

Katie Unwin, via email

You realise you should never even have been in this hand post-flop. When you called the big blind’s $1 bet on the flop, what were you hoping to hit on the turn? If it was a 4 or an Ace, your decision-making was flawed. Hitting a 4 might give you the straight, but did you think about the higher straight (2-3-4-5-6) that it might give your opponent? Remember that he just checked on the big blind and could easily have been holding 3-6. When you hit your Ace and planned your check-raise, did you consider you might have serious kicker problems?

Your check-raise gives you good information about the real strength of your opponent’s hand – but you didn’t act very well on that information. When he calls your $6.50, you have to realise he either has a huge hand or is on a stone- cold bluff. He could have had pocket tens, fives or deuces.

You fell in love with your trip Aces on the river, but that Ace did not improve your standing in the hand. If he was holding A-10, A-5 or A-2, he just housed up. I’m not saying you can’t bet on the river, but at the most it should be $5. It would have been much better to check/ fold or perhaps check/call a value bet of around $5.

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