This post is going to be completely dedicated to a specific tricky spot that you will run into from time to time whilst playing tournament poker.
We are using the example of pocket Tens here, but this is pretty much the same thing for 99–JJ. We are looking at how we play our slightly below premium pocket pairs when out of position.
Playing against a Cut-Off Open
Blinds 5,000/10,000 in the late stages of a $1,000 tournament with effective stacks of 35BBs involved in the pot and our stack double these other players with 70BBs total behind.
(350K stack) CO: Raises to 27,000
(300K stack) SB: Calls 27,000
(750K stack) Hero BB: T♠ T♣
What should we do with this hand?
Well, we could just smooth call here, but our hand will not play too well in a 3-Way pot as we will almost just want to set mine in that case, as any overcard hitting the board will make it awkward to continue with confidence.
So I’m definitely more inclined to 3-Bet here and call our opening opponents all-in if they pull the trigger, the Small Blinds range is pretty capped here unless they are super balanced most players will have to 3-Bet any better hands than pocket Tens in this position as they will fear just going three ways to the flop.
When choosing a raise size for a 3-Bet here, something I see often from pretty novice players in spots like this is not even leaving the possibility of fold equity in our opponents’ eyes and choosing a huge sizing like making it 150K here. For us to 3-Bet here, we need to have 3-Bet folds too that we can work into our game to steal, alongside that we need to use a similar sizing for our 3-Bet calling hands, giving the illusion of fold equity to our opponent.
Why? Because this allows our aggressive opponents to 4-Bet jam all-in with hands they may not choose to use if they know they are always getting called. We may even get our opponent to move all-in with small pairs like 55–99 with this type of move.
(750K stack) Hero BB: 3-Bet to 100,000
(350K stack) CO: Raises All-in 350,000
(300K stack) SB: Folds
(750K stack) Hero BB: Calls
CO: Shows 8♦ 8♠
Hero: Shows T♠ T♣
Great news for us and we get our money in as a huge favourite with around 80% equity to our opponent’s 20% here. So we will win this one 4/5 times on average and have a huge stack moving into the money of the tournament.
Now it’s easy to think, well we just coolered someone and it’s worth noting that sometimes our opponent will have better hands than this here, but often with 25-35BBs our opponents range in the Cut-Off is going to be worth running our equity with a hand like Tens.
Ten’s in a Deepstacked Spot
Blinds 100/200 in the early stages of a $300 tournament with effective stacks of 100BBs
(20K stack) Lo-Jack: Raises to 450
(20K stack) Hero BB: T♠ T♦
How do we react to this Mid-Position raise?
Well, we have a couple of options that are valid here that we can mix between. I like to flat call here sometimes, this disguises our hand and we can get more value on certain run outs like this.
I also don’t hate 3-Betting here, we have a very strong holding and we can benefit from putting more chips in the pot pre-flop.
On this occasion, I opted for the flat call and we see the flop…
Flop: 2♥ 4♦ 7♠
So we hit a good board for our exact hand we have a big over-pair on a relatively dry board with all things considered. This might be classed as a wet board in a blind on blind battle with huge ranges, but our opponent has a fairly tight range given their raise position.
So how do we continue here, well it’s important to try and play our hands how we would play our entire range in these spots, so obviously we have a good hand to just want to get money in this pot, but in general, we aren’t going to have this strong of a hand here that often. So we will want to nearly always be checking here to start things off.
Hero BB: Checks
There was no betting on the flop, so now I think its fine to pick up the betting lead and start building the pot for value here with our strong two pair.
Hero BB: Bets 700
Lo-Jack: Raises to 2,100
This is a little worrying, we don’t want to fold but we need to start thinking about what our opponent will raise this Turn card with, sometimes they will have picked up a flush draw and are looking to semi-bluff, but I think a lot of the time we are facing a slow-played flop hand here from pairs like JJ-AA.
With that in mind, we are never looking to 3-Bet here and the thing is our hand is just too strong to fold too, we could in some worlds be up against a hand like 77, 88 or 99 too.
So the best option here is to continue with a call and check and decide on the River…
Hero BB: Checks
Lo-Jack: Bets 3,200
This is a pretty tough spot for us, our opponent is telling us that they are super strong here, so we need to weigh up their value range versus their bluffs and they don’t really have too many bluffs, they have combinations of spades that don’t include a Queen that missed as bluffs here, because hands like K♠ Q♠, A♠ Q♠ could easily value bet here now.
They have all the combinations of JJ-AA and all the sets. So I would lean towards a hero fold here most of the time especially against a player that will just too often want to showdown with marginal hands, let’s say they have a hand like JJ but now a Queen is on the board, a lot of players will view this as a scare card and not value bet. This means that their value bets are from an even tighter range.
In-game we did end up making the call this time and we got shown the slow-played Pocket Rockets..
Hero: Shows T♠ T♦
Villian: Shows A♠ A♣
We always have options with hands like pocket Tens, in the first hand, we see ourselves getting in all the money as a good favourite against a late position open.
Don’t be scared to 3-Bet even tight players, because these players will over-estimate their fold equity because they have been playing tighter than everyone else, so they might move all-in with hands we dominate like lower pairs and ATs for example.
Another pointer is to remember to play your hands like you would play your range in each spot, so where we flatted the Tens in the Blinds we then get a favourable board for our hand where we are beating all broadway hands, but checking on this board ended up saving us a tonne of money by the River. If we had led out in that pot we wouldn’t have gained any extra information about our opponent’s hand and we are just bloating the pot whilst out of position.
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