If you’ve reached the bubble of a sit&go with a big stack, you need to finish the job
In this month’s quiz, we turn to playing the bubble with a big stack. Naturally ever yone wants to be in this position, as you have the best chance of winning. While ever yone might agree on that, they do not agree on the correct way of playing with a big stack.
Contrary to popular opinion, playing with a big stack is not easy. You still have important and difficult decisions to make. The biggest mistake I see players making in this position is to fail to apply pressure. Putting the squeeze on your opponents can really help you win the sit&go before the bubble even bursts.
QUESTION 1 ATTACKING THE SHORT-STACK
Blinds are 100/200 with a 25 ante. The action folds to you in the small blind. You have 5,500 chips and 9?-6?. The big blind is short at 1,800 chips and has shown some aggression. What should you do?
C) RAISE TO 600
Calling out of position is the worst option here for all the usual reasons. Folding, while a mistake, is not terrible. Over the long run, however, you want to eliminate these mistakes and play as optimally as possible. You have a positive expectation in this spot with any two cards. Therefore you should push in.
Many players are surprised to know that a trash hand is playable, but you must play it by putting the short stack to a decision for all their chips. If you simply raise to 600, they may convince themselves you are bluffing and push over the top. You would then be looking at about 2/1 pot odds. Even against a range of 30% or so, you should then fold, as 9-6 offsuit is simply too weak. The optimal play, therefore, is to push in first and reduce the short-stack’s options to calling off all their chips or folding and waiting for a better spot.
If you said, D) Push, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 2 ATTACKING BOTH BLINDS
You have 5,800 chips at the 100/200 blind level and are on the button with K?-9?. Under the gun has folded and the action is to you. The small blind has 2,700 chips and the big blind has 1,800. The small blind has played somewhat tight and the big blind has shown some aggression. What should you do?
C) RAISE TO 600
Folding is not a terrible play, but you have an opportunity to collect some chips here. Usually, I wouldn’t recommend limping, but as a variation on one’s play, limping and then stealing the pot on the flop with a small bet is okay. Here, however, we want to focus on the general strategy, and generally, you do not want to let two likely inferior hands see the flop cheaply. So, this brings us to the two attacking options.
You may have noticed that this is basically the same situation as the first hand, with the added wrinkle of the tight small blind. Does the presence of this player change the optimal play? Raising to 600 or even 500 is still less preferable. If you favoured that option you might argue that the small blind would let you know if he has a hand, probably by pushing in, and you could then slink out of the hand, having lost a small percentage of your stack.
At the same time, the tight player is still likely to fold a large portion of his range for a small raise. So, on the plus side, you play well against the small blind, but what about the big blind? If you were only playing against the tight player, this smaller raise might be the better play, but as we saw above, it is not the best play against the big blind. Just as before, the short-stack may easily decide you are bluffing and push in.
While the small blind’s 2,700 chips would certainly put a dent in your own stack should he wake up with a hand, the small blind’s calling range is very narrow. This means that we have a virtual repetition of the first hand, and given that you could push 9-6 offsuit there, you can certainly push K-9 offsuit here.
If you said D) Push, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 3 A RAISE IN FRONT
You have 5,400 chips and are seated in the small blind. The short-stack passes under the gun, and a medium-stack of 3,000 chips raises to 600. The current blind level is 100/200 with a 25 ante. This player has been on an even keel throughout the game. He is neither overly tight nor loose. Another medium-stack with 3,400 chips is still to act in the big blind, but he has played tight on the bubble. You have 8?-7?. What should you do?
C) RAISE TO 1,800
Calling out of position, even with a large chip lead, is a low percentage play. This should be the first option you cross off. Folding is defensible, but long-term, you are missing a lot of value by failing to attack. The raising range of a medium-stacked player on the button will be fairly wide. At the same time, the calling range should you push will be narrow, meaning you have a lot of fold equity.
In general I look at this situation as one in which the button asks the big-stack whether he has a hand. I prefer to answer in the affirmative. This leaves either raising or pushing, and I would push. If you merely raise, the big blind may interpret this as a re-steal on your part, simply taking advantage of your chipstack, and consequently could push in with a hand he would otherwise fold. (It’s worth noting that at the lower limits, where level two thinking is near non-existent, you don’t need to worry about this possibility.) Should your opponent shove over your raise, you will be forced to call by the pot odds. You will have a call of only 1,600 chips, with a pot of at least 5,900 (assuming the button folds). That gives you pot odds of over 3.5/1, which is plenty good enough to call. Therefore, push in first and generate more fold equity.
If you said D) Push, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 4 DEFENDING YOUR BLIND
You are in the big blind with 5,700 chips and K?-10?. The game has tightened up significantly. The two medium-stacks, one under the gun and the other in the small blind, appear to be hoping that you will take out the short-stack, who has just pushed in his remaining 1,300 chips. The blinds are 100/200 with a 25 ante. The short-stack has already pushed in several times with no callers. What should you do?
If you were to run an ICM calculation you would no doubt see that calling is a profitable play. In fact you could call with as little as a K-6 suited and still have a positive expectation. ICM, however, only tells part of the story. Many times it is to your advantage as the big-stack to preserve the bubble. The most common occurrence is of the type I just described in this problem.
When the other players have tightened up significantly, simply waiting for the short-stack to bust, you should be raising and stealing their blinds relentlessly. Because the short-stack is desperate, your K-10 is probably ahead of his range, but I would pass in this spot.
The benefits of keeping him around and chipping away at the other players’ stacks, weakening them before the end phase of play begins, outweigh the addition of 1,300 chips to your stack. Similarly, the short- stack is only getting an additional 375 chips, which will keep him short and just as desperate as before.
The prudence of this play, however, weakens as the short-stack increases to the point of no longer being a short-stack. Similarly, when the short-stack becomes a micro-stack, the other players will probably loosen up and correctly call, so you should call yourself to prevent them from adding the scraps to their stacks.
If you said A) Fold, give yourself two points.