Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Three-way action

No, not that kind of three-way action. This is the Internet, there's plenty of that around elsewhere. I'm talking about a much less pleasant situation that can occur when you're short stacked. Here are two hands I played in the US which illustrate the problem.

1) In Reno earlier this year. At a full table in the middle of the tournament, I had just under 8 SBs and really wanted to make a move before the BB hit me (in 4 hands time). The woman in second position, who had been playing a lot of hands but mostly passively, went all in (she had me covered). I found AJ and called. Someone else woke up and called. On their backs - AJ v AQ (woman) v KK. Doh.

2) In Tunica the year before. Down to four tables (short of the money), I had about 12 SBs when early position went all in and another player (with fewer chips) called. Both were shortish stacked before the hand, but not critically so (they probably had around 15 SBs each). I found AK and called. On their backs - AK v AK v 88. Doh.

My pot equity once the cards were known was pretty rancid in each case. 13% in the first instance, 17% in the second. Even though I can triple up each time, it's a bad spot. You're only in this bad shape heads-up if someone finds an overpair, and if you make your move first, that's pretty unlikely.

Note how many combinations of hands can kill me in the AJ case. When one player has AK or AQ, and the other has AA, KK, QQ or JJ (JJ being worst of all for me !), I'm screwed. In the second case, against AK and a pair I'm screwed. Any time someone else has AK it's not looking good - AK v AK v AQ is only marginally profitable (36%) and AK v AQ v TT (the most common kind of situation) almost exactly break-even. Let me put it this way, if AK is so marginal, where does that leave anything less ?

When you're facing a raise and there are several people still to act (case 1), you must tighten up. AJ should have been passed here - the clue was in the question, the original raiser was playing lots of hands but passively, and a raise indicated a real hand. In case 2, it probably was just about a call, and I'm pleased that I did at least think about it at the time instead of calling automatically. AQ would be a definite pass in this situation, and I think that would surprise a lot of people. As for the fish I've seen go in with KJ here for the valyoo (and I've seen it many a time), they are making just about the worst play they could possibly make with a short stack. If three way action is possible, tighten up. If two people are already in, ROCK up.

Note : It's a bit different when the first raiser might be weak and the second player is the type to reraise "to get it heads up". But this is still a situation where you should be very careful.

It's also worth noting that AK is a very marginal hand in normal (medium to large stack play) when there's been a raise and a reraise already and both raisers are likely to have solid hands.

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