Once the bubble has burst and you’re into the money you will need to adjust your play to make most of the new situation
In previous quizzes, I posed questions related to decisions on the bubble. In this month’s quiz, I turn to decisions made in the money. Generally speaking, the play becomes noticeably looser once the bubble pops. Players, who held on for dear life trying to survive the bubble by folding their way to the money, will suddenly push in every other hand. Consequently, one must adjust to the new situation. In previous articles, I have strongly endorsed applying continual pressure to opponents, but once the bubble bursts, your opponents are much more likely to fight back.
QUESTION 1 STILL THE BULLY?
You have A?-8? on the button and 6,600 chips. The small blind has 2,800 chips and the big blind has 4,100 chips. The small blind played very tight on the bubble, the big blind mixed it up a bit but you were the table captain. Blinds are now 200/400 with a 50 chip ante. What should you do?
A) FOLD B) LIMP C) RAISE TO 1,000 D) PUSH
The first question to ask yourself is how far you are willing to go with this hand. Folding is out of the question. Limping is also rather weak, since you most likely have the best hand, but the flop could change that very easily. Many players feel uncomfortable with the eight kicker and so will just raise to 1,000 or even mini-raise it to 800, telling themselves they will fold if the big blind pushes in. However, they never seem able to do that and always call after thinking it over. Playing for stacks with this hand is usually justifiable, but why not push in and take away any opportunity of the blinds to put you on a bluff or a weak hand that might not call a push?
When you play for stacks, you are basically looking at a 60-40 situation, although you will sometimes be dominated or vice versa. If you push in, that Q-J will have a tough time calling off his chips. “Wait? Don’t I want that Q-J in there against me?” Yes and no, but more on the no. You want the 750 chips uncontested more. The blinds are high, and you can use your chips and a decent starting hand to shut out those 40% hands that might be tempted to get in there. As I said in the introduction, players are far more apt to fight back. When possible, shut off that avenue and force them into a defensive play.
If you said, D) Push, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 2 TIME TO GET RID OF THE SHORT-STACK
The bubble burst several rounds back, and everyone has been mixing it up. The blinds are 200/400 with a 50 chip ante. The button, with 5,900 chips, mucks and the small blind pushes in for 3,400 chips total. You are in the big blind with 3-3 and have 4,200 chips. What should you do?
A) FOLD B) CALL
Most players see the wired threes and insta-call. Let’s back up and think about the situation. Do you have the best hand? Probably. How far ahead are you? Not much. This will be a coin flip most of the time. The other times (with a few exceptions) you will be crushed by a bigger pair. This is not a good spot to be calling off nearly all your chips. You are still well within striking distance of the chip leader. If you lose this hand, you are almost certainly out of the tourney in third. If you have the chance to be the aggressor with this hand, then things change. For example, if the small blind had limped in, pushing is far preferable to seeing the flop. Here, however, we have a bad spot to put our tournament life on the line. Pass and wait for a better spot.
If you said A) Fold, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 3 FEELING LUCKY?
You have 1,800 chips and the blinds are 300/600 with a 50 chip ante. You are on the button with 10?-5?. The small blind has 4,000 chips and the big blind has 7,700 chips. What should you do?
A) FOLD B) PUSH
When things are this bad, you simply have to press your luck and hope for the best. The big blind is going to eat you up next hand. You really have no choice but to put your money in, and hope to get lucky. The big blind should call you with any two cards, consequently you have a good shot to double up. The small blind is likely to fold, fearing the big blind; so this is actually not as bleak as it might appear.
If you said B) Push, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 4 DEFENDING YOUR BLIND AGAINST THE BIG-STACK
You have 3,500 chips in the big blind with blinds at 150/300 with a 25 chip ante. The button raises to 900 chips, and has 6,500 chips behind. The small blind, with 3,000 chips, mucks. The button has been aggressive and the small blind has played tight throughout the tournament, never changing his approach. You have 7?-7?; what should you do?
A) FOLD B) CALL C) RAISE TO 2,500 D) PUSH
Raising to 2,500 accomplishes almost nothing, since it pot commits you. Even the densest players understand that, so there is no deceptive value either. Calling another 600 chips is marginal. You do not pot commit yourself, but what is the point of doing that? Best case scenario is that the button continuation bets the flop, and you push in getting a decent sized pot. More likely, the flop contains one or two overcards and now you have to dig deep to find the courage to push in. If your opponent caught an overcard, however, you are probably getting called and out of the tournament. Pushing over the top is the best play. The button is playing aggressively and probably has a weak hand that cannot stand a raise. You can win a bigger pot by calling and then getting the money in on the flop, but you give weak hands a much better chance to beat you.
You can add 1,100 chips to your stack right now. That’s a nearly 33% increase, which is plenty good enough. Take it while you have the chance.
If you said D) Push, give yourself two points.
QUESTION 5 LAST CHANCE?
The big stack, with 8,300 chips has been punishing the table and pushes in on the button. The small blind, who is a capable player, calls off his 1,800 chip stack. You have A?-4? and a 2,800 chip stack. The blinds are 300/600 with a 50 chip ante. What should you do?
A) FOLD B) CALL
The blind level really determines what you should do here. The only chance you have to win the tournament is to pick up this pot. Given the button’s aggression, I’d say you probably have the best hand. If the button is paying attention, he is probably pushing almost any two cards. The small blind is in terrible shape and he knows he has to make a move now. His read on the button is probably the same as yours. The only question is whether he has a real hand.
I think he calls here with plenty of weaker hands. He could also have you beat, but even so, the real chips rest with the button. If you lose to the small blind, but beat the button, you win 2,000 chips. Another advantage to calling is that you and the button might together prevent the small blind from winning the hand. Even if the button wins, you take second rather than third. Since you and the small blind have been folding to the button’s aggression, you have to take a stand with suspect hands. If the small blind had more chips, then folding might be correct. For example, if the small blind called with 3,000 chips, you should not call off your chips with a weak ace. Here however, the small blind is desperate and you probably have the best hand at the table.
If you said B) Call, give yourself two points.
How did you perform?
8-10 POINTS SNG SUPERSTAR
4-6 POINTS SNG EXPERT
0-2 POINTS SNG AMATEUR
The art of post-bubble play is a blend of reading your opponents, staying ahead of them relative to the blinds, and making the right play for the blind level and chip-stack sizes. It is possible to reduce most plays to a question of mathematics and ICM but do this at your peril. Almost no one plays optimally, and this includes you. This can mean calling with mediocre hands, folding decent hands or pushing with dreadful hands.