If you want to improve your poker skills and learn how to dominate the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at PokerCoaching.com/CardPlayer.
I was recently told of a $10,000 buy-in hand World Series of Poker main event that one of my students played that illustrates an important strategy you need to understand if you want to be successful in tournament poker against loose, aggressive opponents who aren’t afraid to fight.
On day 3, my student had 100,000 chips at 2,000-4,000 with an ante of 4,000 big blinds. Everyone folded and he raised to 8,000 with A A from the cut.
Assuming his opponents play well enough, he should use the same raise size with all the hands he plans to play so that his opponents won’t be able to easily read the strength of his hand based on his raise size preflop.
Action folded to the big blind, an overly loose and aggressive player, who raised to 19,000.
While many players automatically 4-bet pocket aces to go all-in preflop, a much better play is to call, forcing the big blind to stay in the pot with his full 3-bet range.
In exchange for occasional losses, give the big blind one more opportunity to bluff some chips in subsequent betting rounds. Especially when you’re short stacked, it’s important to get the most value out of your premium hands. The risk of busting is worth the potential reward of doubling down or winning a sizable pot.
The flop came 9 8 4 and the big blind checked. My student bet 14,000 into the 44,000 pot.
While aces are almost always the best hand at the moment, there are numerous cards on the turn that could substantially decrease its value, mainly a queen, jack, 10, 7, 6 or spade. When this is the case, bets are usually ideal.
When choosing your bet size, it’s best to use a size that gives your opponent plenty of room to raise (which you should safely continue against). Note that if you bet a lot, perhaps 40,000 into the 45,000 pot, your opponent would probably fold all of his unmatched hands that don’t have a draw, which would be a disaster. Unpaired junky hands are the ones you really want to keep because they are getting close to death.
The big blind called the bet of 14,000. The turn was the 4. The big blind checked and my student bet 20,000 into the 72,000 pot.
Like on the flop, the Aces are still almost certainly ahead at the moment and want to keep growing the pot while giving your opponent plenty of room to do something stupid. Going all-in on the turn might be reasonable if the big blind’s range was strong enough, which would be the case if he was a tight and cautious player, but against a loose and aggressive player, you want to give him a chance to continue with hands that they get thinner.
Many players think the goal is to protect their aces by betting big or all-in, but if your opponent is able to bluff or stick with a weak hand, betting small is ideal.
The big blind instantly moved all-in for another 47,000.
At this point, the big blind probably has a decently strong made hand, perhaps top pair or better, or a strong draw. Against this strong range, Aces fare quite well. Combined with the excellent pot odds, it’s an easy call.
My student called and was shocked (and relieved) to see the big blind show 10 2for absolutely nothing.
In the main event, despite the sizable $10,000 buy-in, you should expect to see some “interesting” play. Some players will play incredibly tight, while others will play like absolute maniacs.
As long as you pay attention to what is happening at your table, you can step out of line and make changes to exploit your opponents’ mistakes. With any luck, their chips will end up being pushed in your direction.
Jonathan Little is a two-timer WPT champion with over $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 poker educational books and 2019 GPI extension Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to boost your poker skills and learn how to crush games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.