Friday, February 17, 2006


Facing The Allin Re-Raise

Thanks to Paul M for sending me the following in an Email [1]

[In an online MTT on Blue Square] There are 32 players left. 27 get paid, but only $50. If you make 20th, it's $80 through to 11th, then the prizes escalate in the usual precipitous way to $1500 for 1st. With 32 left, you are fifth in chips with 27000. Blinds 600/1200. Folded to you in mid-position, you have JJ. You raise to 4200. Fold fold fold. The small blind, on whom you have no info (you've just arrived from another table), moves in for 17000. BB folds. Do you call ?

As Paul says earlier in the Email, this is a very common situation. Many's the player who will agonise over this call, staring his opponent down for minutes on end trying to get that elusive read (fortunately this isn't possible online). What I'm going to say now may shock you and god knows how many stroppy responses I would have to wade through if I posted it on a forum. It doesn't much matter what you do !

Am I nuts ? 2/3 of our stack ! What if he has Aces ! What if he does. The problem here is we don't know what he has and there's no way to find out. Certainly online there isn't, and don't kid yourself that you can find out live unless you're up against a complete egg. All you're doing is wasting everyones' time so pull your finger out. Sorry, personal bugbear of mine :-). Yes you can factor in your opponent's tendencies, loose/tight and passive/aggressive, but there's usually no point in staring at him all day.

The way you approach this is to put your opponent on a range of hands and estimate your odds against that range. Compare those to the pot odds and decide accordingly. You have to do a lot of this offline. I talk about it here and Harrington also gives some examples. You'll probably have a decent idea anyway if the bet to you is large or small compared to the pot, and when it's in the middle it won't matter all that much. Calling with 2/1 odds when you're actually 3/1 to win the pot is not a big mistake. It's only costing you 1/4 of the call in terms of EV. And very often it's closer than that.

So if it's close you're better to use a tiebreaker. Do I feel fresh ? Am I one of the better players ? If so then you might fold. If you have something else useful, enjoyable or profitable (or any combination of those) to do if you're knocked out, you might call. I should stress that's only when it's close. At the end of the day though, there's no point beating yourself up if you call and lose to Aces, or fold and get shown 99. At the point when you made the decision, you didn't know. It's funny how the players who do agonise over these will often smash it all in immediately in the much more interesting situation where you find JJ or AK after someone else has raised. Even though this situation is much, much more worthy of some thought, depending as it does on position, opponent, stack sizes, other players and more besides.

Paul asked a couple of follow up questions : firstly, if I didn't call with Jacks [I would on Blue Square, they're nuts on there] what hand would I need ? Online I wouldn't pass QQ or AK to a single reraiser however many chips it was for, outside of exceptional final table situations. Secondly, would I call if I somehow knew he had AK ? Come on, you know I would ! In a flash ! He hits it, try again tomorrow.

Finally in the actual event Paul did call, and lose to AK. That's poker baby !

[1] But please don't send me all your hand questions this is a one off :-)

Genius. Cut the cráp, It doesn't matter what you do. It's good to see someone saying it.
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