When Mistakes pay off

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McTap03 | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Have you ever made a tough decision pre flop that you were sure was right until everyone’s cards were shown? Did that mistake pay off for you? Did it make you feel good about your call, or did you realize that you just sucked out on somebody? These are interesting questions that you have likely thought about at some point. If not, then you will after reading this post.

The other day I was playing in a 12 people, 2 table Sit ‘N’ Go (small buy-in). When we were down to 3 (top 4 paid) an interesting hand/situation came up. I thought it was so interesting that I posted it, on another forum that I read (is this considered cheating?), to elicit some feedback on my play/decision. Well the post garnered some heavy traffic with plenty of good opinions on what I should do.

Here’s the hand/situation.

Blinds are 200/400

BTN: 5000 chips
SB: 1500 chips
Hero (BB): 5500 chips

BTN goes all in pre-flop. SB calls and I look down at 55. The BTN had been going all-in PF every 3-4 hands and before we were 3-handed, he was stealing in position more than 50% of the time. What would you do?

Here are some of the responses I received.

Even though you are in the money, I think its -EV to call here. You can’t ever be better than racing here with at least one of them. Likely one has you crushed and you are racing with one. Even if you are racing with both, you are likely against 3-4 overs and you aren’t in good shape. I fold here and cheer for the button to win to move up a money spot. I think in this spot, I would need 88 or better. If the villain is shoving every second hand, they are probably folding the hands we have crushed and shoving the top 40% of hands. Calling here is still such a marginal spot. Also the SB’s range is very wide because of this. I still think I fold here. I’d rather open shove with 83o than call in a spot where I can only be racing.

I think if BTN had less than 4k, and the SB folded I MIGHT call there…SB only has 1500, so literally you will get 2nd if you just wait.  then HU battle for the win. If I was the SB in this situation I would call.

I then responded to these replies with the following:

Here’s what I did and why.

I called. I understand that none of you were there, so you couldn’t have a read on the BTN player. I took this over bet as weak. IMO if he was strong, he would have wanted me to come along and probably raised about 2k. I really wasn’t worried about the SB as he could be calling with anything being priced in and I knew that he couldn’t take me out no matter what happened.

BTN flips over J9o and misses the board to go out in 3rd. SB shows KK and triples up. I increased my chips to 7500 and 4 hands later I take it down for the win.

After the game I felt good about my call, but now, after reading all the responses to fold, I don’t. I will definitely take this into consideration in future hands/games.

Once I posted my response, I received the following comments.

Nice one!  It’s very read dependent at these stages, but the only hands you wanted to see him shove there are 2s,3s,4s, right?  Don’t feel bad about your decision process there… your assumptions were correct!…in poker that’s all you have to go by really… and you basically won a coin flip with the BTN.   I heard a pro once say ‘sometimes it’s OK to fold the best hand’.  If you are a volume player, i.e. 6+tables, then those 55/45 decisions are routine… but I think you are like me and play 3 tables at the most.. and I try as best as possible to match my chip risk to the amount I think I’m ahead…. such as.. if I think its a 70/30… I will risk 70% of my chips.. if I think its 50/50 etc, I will only risk 50% at the most, just to give some protection against bad beats and promote longevity in the particular tourney.


I do not think this is a terrible call; it just goes against convention SNG theories in that you are playing to move up money spots.  There is a theory about when the blinds get big, call “first in”.  It’s from Harrington, but basically what he is saying is that the player first in has an advantage over the player calling because of the “gap concept” which states that it takes a bigger hand to call than to shove with.  A very big advantage you can get over other players is understanding this concept and being able to widen your calling range when you know a player is shoving to be first in.

What complicates this hand though is that the villain is about 95% to have you crushed or to have 2 overs.  Out of all the hands in their range to shove there you are ahead of A2-A5 and 22-44 and these only make up the bottom end of their range.  So even if you perceive him as weak you cannot call here because you are also weak.  If you have AT or better or 88 (I probably call with 88) or better there is a bigger chance you have the villain crushed however even if you snap with 88 in this spot you are still 50/50 to win.  So even though the villain is weak, they are first in and have a huge edge over you and you need to at least hit the middle or top end of their range to call here.Again though its not a terrible call, just more of a gamble that will not pay off enough over the long run to make it worth it.

Reading him for weak is kind of irrelevant. He could be stealing with 67 or legitimately raising with AK, it doesn’t change your %’s here. I much prefer to play HU for the win, especially if I’m on 5500, that’s more than enough to think I have an edge in these SnG’s.

Easy fold in my opinion. I know it worked out this time, but you’re racing even against hands like 10-6…You can’t hope the guy’s shoving here with 4-2.

Great hand to post, anyone who now reads this post from top to bottom will clearly learn something thanks to this.  Good on you for recognizing that in the long run, this is a mistake. For me personally, as I read the replies, I started thinking “Hey, I actually might call this.” Because the SB was short, this is why I considered it.  There’s not a chance I give it this much thought when actually playing though, I muck and hope the SB is ousted and we get HU.

So as I was reading this I realized that I made a very poor decision that was paid off, rather than a good read. This then put me head of the Donkey class for the day. I now understand my error and am working on it for future hands.

The biggest problem is that this happens so frequently in online poker that it is almost expected when you play low level games/tournaments. How many times have you yelled at your monitor at the donkey who made the bad call that either knocked you out, or crippled your chip stack? Have you been that donkey and didn’t realize you were, as you just won plenty of chips for your gamble? What happens is that many people decide to call with marginal/weak hands without really thinking about the situation. This leads to them to either get knocked out or lose a good part of their stack or they get lucky and double up. If they double up they feel good about taking that chance, but if they lose they don’t understand why, nor do they realize that the odds were against them to win. Most people don’t even take into consideration the ‘Gap Concept’ where you need a much stronger hand to call an all-in then to go all-in. I know most sites only give you about 30 seconds to make a decision, but when it is for a higher payout than where you are currently at, take the time and really think about what you are doing. Over time, these decisions will become easier, allowing you to consistently move up the pay ranks.

If you are interested in reading all the posts about this, check out http://www.jackseven.ca/forums/index.php?topic=13467.0

Good luck at the tables,

McTap03

PS. If you are looking for a Bankroll of $50 for free, check here

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1 Comment to When Mistakes pay off

Mette
September 6, 2008

Love discussions about specific poker hands and situations. Keep em’ coming and we will all become better players!

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