I won first place in the weekly $160.00 deep-stack up in Blackhawk Colorado last weekend. There were 100 entrants, and 9 places paid. First place was $3,980.00, so it was a nice win.
I make a point to use the concepts discussed in our new book Bluffs while I play in these tournaments. Today I will share some of the hands I played that led to my victory that clearly illustrate key concepts from Bluffs.
Early Position Open Raising Hands
In the early stages – First two to three hours of the event when everyone has 100 big blinds or so – I had a couple valid opening hands from early position – for example, with A-Q offsuit, I raised to 3 big blinds and got three callers. In $100 buy-in live tournaments, after you get one caller, you will often get one or two more. None of my valid opening hands hit the flop, and I chose not to bluff continuation bet against numerous opponents.
This, however, is the correct play because when facing multiple opponents, someone will connect decently well with the board. When I connect with the board with my decently strong preflop hand and someone else also connects, I will usually have the best hand because I tend to play stronger hands than my opponents. If I raised and only got one caller, I would be much more inclined to continuation bet with a wide range, including many Bluffs.
Attacking the Limpers
In these low stake weekly tournaments, just about 50% of players open with a limp and get two to three callers. This greatly cuts down your opportunities to open raise from late positions with a wide range, as we suggest in Bluffs.
However, it does give you the opportunity to “Attack the Limpers” – raising the limpers with a solid hand, or with a wide range. I raised the limpers a few times in the early levels – typically to 5 big blinds plus 1 big blind for each additional limper. Twice when I raised the limpers (once with 8-8 and the other time with A-J), I got 4 callers, failed to connect with the flop, and lost small pots.
This was still a good strategy though because if I connected with the flop, I would probably have the best hand and would have been glad to have bloated the pot preflop.
Big River Bets on Scare Cards
Another section in the book discusses making a big river bet when a scare card appears.
I had open raised 2.2 big blinds out of my 40 big blind stack from the cutoff position with Q-9 offsuit and got one caller from the big blind. The flop came J-7-5 rainbow, (all different suits). My opponent checked, I bet 3 big blinds and my opponent called.
The turn was the (J-7-5)-T and I decided not the fire the second barrel. (I am trying to save my second barrel bets for turn cards that are quite scary, meaning they change the board in a significant way). I planned to give up on the pot if my opponent bet into me on the river.
The river was the (J-7-5-T)-A, one of the scariest cards in the deck, and my opponent checked. Most players would bet with top pair in this situation, so I thought my opponent likely had a hand worse than top pair, so I bet 12 big blinds – the size of the pot. My opponent quickly folded. He had a pair, perhaps as big as a Jack, but it is hard for him to call when facing a significant bet.
The Dreaded A-Q suited
I opened 2.5 big blinds from UTG with my As-Qs and was 3-bet to 8 big blinds by the cutoff – who was a tight, but not super-tight, player. I called his 3-bet and the flop came Qh-8s-6d. I checked and he bet 20 big blinds. It was clear that he made a mistake and only meant to put out 10 big blinds.
With 30 big blinds in my stack, and top pair and top kicker, I decided to raise all-in, and he called with A-A. I have lost with this same hand in the same way several times in the past, and it is definitely one of my “leaks” – betting or calling for all my chips with top pair.
Since this was a re-entry tournament, I chose to re-enter with 60 big blinds, and was seated at a different table.
Opponent Taking Plays from the Bluffs Book
Midway through the tournament, one of the opponents mentioned that he would never write a book of his secrets, because then everyone would know how to play better and how to play against him. I don’t think anyone had mentioned that I was the author of a poker book, so this probably wasn’t directed at me. I didn’t share my thoughts with him – which are: “80% of the players in these tournaments would never read any book about poker, and that most people who might read Bluffs wouldn’t remember enough of it to be a real concern”.
A short time later, a situation came up in which this came into play.
Brian, who has read Bluffs, and who often discusses poker with me, was sitting directly on my left. I was on the button with J-7 offsuit and raised to 2.2 big blinds from my 80 Big Blind stack. Brian quickly 3-bet to 5 big blinds from his 40 Big Blind stack.
Brian has a history of 3-betting me, but this was the first time today.
The first time he ever 3-bet me, several months ago, I had raised from the cutoff and he was in the small blind. When the action got back to me, I 4-bet all-in with my A-J suited. He folded and showed his Q-Q. He later said he was certain I would never 4-bet him – especially all-in – without A-A, K-K or A-K.
Since reading Bluffs, he now says he would call my 4-bet with an A-K in a flash. So I suppose there is some danger in letting people know how you play poker.
As I folded my J-7 offsuit to his 3-bet, Brian said “I took that play right out of your book.” I put him on an Ace blocker, like A-5. He later said: “I had K-J offsuit and didn’t want to play it out of position, so I decided to 3-bet and see what happened, expecting that you would fold around 50% of your range and that my hand was reasonably playable if you called. Of course, if you 4-bet me, I would have folded.”
He was right, and his play caused me to fold my hand, whereas if he had just called, and neither of us hit the flop, he would have probably folded to my Continuation Bet and I would have won.
Failed “Assassinato” Big Blind Check-Raise.
Later, I defended my big blind versus a min-raise with K-5 offsuit with a 50 big blind stack. The flop came J-7-4 and I decided to check-raise, a play from the Assassinato Blind Defense Webinar
The turn was the (J-7-4)-Q. I checked the original raiser bet, and I folded.
Brian said quietly to me, “You didn’t continue with the Assassinato play”. I pointed out that once the check-raise fails, you often need to give up on the bluff because when your opponent calls the check-raise, he usually has a strong hand he doesn’t plan to fold to additional pressure.
Failed “Polarized” 3-Bet
At one point, I was sitting across from Nader, one of the regulars at my casino, who is known for raising with a wide preflop range – opening more than 50% of hands – and for his very good postflop play. Nader was playing his usual game and doing quite well. Nader, UTG + 1, opened for 2 big blinds out of his 120 big blind stack. I 3-bet him 5 big blinds with A-7 offsuit out of my 80 big blind stack, a move suggested in the Polarized 3-Bet section of Bluffs, and he called.
The flop came Kd-5h-5s. Nader checked, I bet 5 big blinds, and he called. The turn was the (Kd-5h-5s)-8d. Nader led for 10 big blinds. Although I suspected I was still ahead, I folded my A-7. Nader showed his J-4 offsuit bluff. Sometimes it is better to lose to a bluff – especially against the big stack at your table – than to lose too many chips with a marginal bluff catcher.
Classic “Polarized” 3-Bet
When we were down to two tables, and 14 players, I noticed that the player two positions to my right, who was the chip leader at our table, was open raising with about 66% of his hands with a 2 big blind min-raise. This is a standard play for chip leaders who like to bully the table.
The chip leader raised and I decided to 3-bet to 5 big blinds out of my 60 big blind stack with Qs-9s, one of the hands suggested to be used as a 3-bet bluff in Bluffs. The blinds folded, and the bully called. On the flop of K-5-2, he checked, I bet 5 big blinds, and he folded.
It is always reassuring when this “bluff” works.
Using the FloatTheTurn Push/Fold App
Unfortunately, sometimes you start to run short of chips. I had called a 12 big blind all-in with 8-8 out of my 32 Big Blind stack and lost to A-J. With no playable hands, my 20 big blind stack dwindled to 15, so I pulled out my iPhone and launched the FloatTheTurn Push/Fold App.
The App assumes you are either going to go all-in (push) or fold. The GTO (Game Theory Optimal) calculations are only correct if you are either going to push or fold – and never call or open raise less than all-in. With more than 12 big blinds, I knew I might not go all-in with all hands – such as the best preflop hands – so I used the adjustment button to tighten up by removing 10% of the hands from the range displayed to compensate for the fact that some of the best preflop hands will not be in my pushing range.
For the first hand – UTG + 1 (Hijack with just six players at the table), and with 15 big blinds, the App displayed this range:
While the dealer was shuffling the cards, I set the iPhone in my drink cup where I could see it, but no one else would see it directly, so I would not need to touch the phone during the hand. It is perfectly legal in most card rooms to have your phone on as long as you do not touch it during the hand.
I find it handy to look at the range during the deal, peek at my cards, look down at the iPhone if necessary, and then make a push/fold decision (or raise in this situation with top hands). If I fold, I touch “Next” and it moves to the next position. If I push and no one calls, I touch “Steal” and it adds 2 big blinds to my stack size and then moves to the next position. If I push and get called, I either have a much larger stack, or get to go home.
I pushed successfully, using the App, three times over the next 12 hands or so. Pushing works well because when you get a “steal”, you win blinds and ante, allowing you to last for another orbit. But I also went through the blinds a fee times, and called a min-raise once and lost. I looked down at Ks-5s in this position.
I pushed all-in and everyone folded. I got to steal the pot with a hand I would never have pushed without the App.
The fifth time I used the App, UTG had limped and I had A-5 suited on the button. The charts do not say what to do after someone has limped, but I decided to raise all-in, assuming the limper was weak. He called with A-J, but I got lucky to spike a 5 and double up. Perhaps I should have been a bit more cautious when facing a limper!
The next hand, someone busted at the other table, and we were down to the final table.
As play continued I build quite a stack as we went from ten players down to four.
When we got down to four players, by playing aggressively and winning more than my fair share of the pots, I had 1,200,000 chips – about half of all chips in play. Because of some good luck, it only took six hands to end the tournament.
I opened to 2.2 big blinds from UTG (also the cutoff 4-handed) and the player on my left, the button, 3-bet lal-in. My A-A easily took out his A-7.
A couple hands later I opened with Js-9s and the big blind went all-in with his short stack. Due to getting excellent pot odds, I called and beat his A-8 when a Jack appeared on the flop.
Now we were heads-up. I had about 1,900,000 chips and my opponent had 600,000.
I open raised to 3 big blinds on the first hand with 9-7 offsuit – I was feeling a little frisky. She 3-bet all-in and I folded.
I suspected she was probably in a hurry to end it, given she pushed for 50 big blinds. My best strategy for this situation is to wait for an Ace, King, or pair and then call the all-in.
On the second hand, she open-raised all-in for 50 big blinds. Thinking she was pushing with an incredibly wide range, perhaps as wide as any two cards, I called with A-7 and took out her 7-5.
At my casino, a single-winner victory is quite rare because most players usually opt to chop the prize pool when only a few players remain. I decided not to chop because I have studied the game diligently and came prepared to play. This time it worked out well for me.
If you want to learn more about these plays, check out our new book – Bluff: How to Intelligently Apply Aggression to Increase Your Profits from Pokers