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I'm heads up on the final of a tournament. I have around 1200 chips and my opponent around 4800, blinds 25/50. I'm on the small blind with A♥8♥, I go all-in since I've seen him make loose calls and I'm thinking he will call with anything, that happens, he calls with 7♦5♠, but in the end I loose against trips 7.

Do you consider going all in is the best move at that point? my opponent is kind of aggressive in his betting, so even that I have 20+ big blinds I thought that waiting plus his big bets would dry me out before I got a best hand, but anyway I had the best hand, so maybe it was the best move, what do you think? What other strategies would you recommend in this case?

Thanks. R.

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Ignoring the fact that he called with 75o (as that does prove your point), what makes you conclude that this opponent is a weaker player? Often in Heads-up tournament play, the best strategy is to play A LOT of hands and play them very aggressively... I'll continue this in my answer... – Jeffrey Blake Mar 15 '12 at 17:13
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Obviously, the nuance you're considering is valid. Our ability to outplay this opponent and whether that is more valuable in the long run than just taking a more volatile approach and trying to get stacks in now is worth considering. That said...

A8s is approximately within the top 13% of hands depending on how you use hand rankings but it's very close whichever way you look at it. In this instance, your opponent would have to restrict his calling range to approximately 7% of all hands to be a ~55% favourite, give or take a small adjustment because of the blinds already in play.

If you believe he'll call wider than 7%, that's great, shoving is +EV. You can't predict the run of hands you'll get in the future so make the most of a good situation as soon as you can! Waiting for other opportunities later in the tournament is a decision I'd base more on experience, as equity calculations make this a straight forward.

n.b. Hand 0 = Top ~13%; Hand 1 = Top ~7%

Hand matchup

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OP didn't ask if the strategy is valid -- OP asked if shoving is the best play. The answer to that question has to be "no". – John Dibling Mar 15 '12 at 14:43
More important than the immediate EV of the shove is the overall state of the tournament. If he's playing tight, by the time he finds a more significant advantage than is offered in this hand, he will have lost so much in blinds that he is only able to get back to his current stack. – Jeffrey Blake Mar 15 '12 at 16:18

Ignoring the fact that he called with 75o (as that does prove your point), what makes you conclude that this opponent is a weaker player? Often in Heads-up tournament play, the best strategy is to play A LOT of hands and play them very aggressively. It sounds like this is what he was doing.

If he's aggressive enough to make it hard to whittle him down, you need to figure out where else you can get an edge. You're probably going to have to win a big pot somewhere along the way, to make up for the chips you lose in the smaller pots. If your opponent is willing to overplay his hands preflop by calling with weak holdings, then an all-in play with the fairly short stack you hold sounds pretty attractive. You just need to find a hand that is likely to be a favorite against his calling range. I think you have one here. Against the type of player I described, I believe you can safely shove 77+, A5s+, A8o+, and any two broadway cards.

When the chips went in here, you were a 65/35 favorite. That's a pretty good situation for a heads-up match. Unless you know you can make more chips from him through outplaying him postflop, this was the right route to take in my book.

There is one possibility for improvement if your opponent is playing aggressively preflop: If that's the case, you should just call here, with the intention of check/raising all-in. That's only a good option if he is very likely to raise when you limp.

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I disagree, and I think this is results-oriented thinking. – John Dibling Mar 15 '12 at 14:44
John, they are heads-up at the end of a tournament. His opponent has shown that he is an aggressive player who is not letting go of hands preflop or postflop. It's not results-oriented to think that he needs to win some big pots to have a shot here - it's common sense. He is not able to outplay villain postflop and doesn't have enough chips to let himself be whittled down trying to find a spot to take advantage of villain overplaying his hands. Taking a stand with a way-above average hand IS the right thing to do here. – Jeffrey Blake Mar 15 '12 at 16:10
@JeffreyBlake: calling a shove with 57o seems incorrect to me given the blind levels and stack sizes, especially if the OP was not perceived as a loose player. If the places were reversed though, pushing w/ 57o strikes me like a more profitable call. Thoughts? – o.v. Mar 21 '12 at 5:53
Calling with 75o is definitely incorrect. Pushing with it depends on a lot of factors, most notably what hands your opponent is likely to call with. Against the villain in this hand, pushing with 75o is a bad play. Against the hero in this hand, it might be a good play. – Jeffrey Blake Mar 21 '12 at 13:59

"All in" is the WORST strategy against a weaker player.

Against someone like that, you want to play as MANY games as possible, so that your superior skill eventually takes effect. "All in" is betting on ONE game, to be decided by the luck of the draw.

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I believe you, like John, are overlooking the fact that Hero is heads up at the end of a tournament, with 24 big blinds. He doesn't have time to play as many hands as possible with a villain who is loose/aggressive. By the time he finds a more significant advantage than is offered in this hand, he will have lost so much in blinds that he is only able to get back to his current stack. – Jeffrey Blake Mar 15 '12 at 16:16
@JeffreyBlake: Then issue may be that all in is the best strategy PERIOD, against a weaker, stronger, or medium player under the cirumstances. (But under MOST circumstance, all in is the worst strategy, because you want to conserve your chips.) Then the question may be misleading. – Tom Au Mar 15 '12 at 21:28

You did not say how big the pot was, or how many people limped in or raised before the action was on you -- so I will assume this was blind-vs-blind, and there were no antes.

Going all-in for 24 big blinds against a weak player out of position is not the best strategy. In this particular instance, since he actually had 75o you were about a 2:1 favorite in a hot/cold analysis when all the money went in. So, your play was +EV, but that doesn't make it the best play.

There are three factors that contribute to how big of an edge you have in a hand:

  1. Skill advantage
  2. Positional advantage
  3. Card advantage

They are in order of most important to least important above. Which is to say that your actual cards, while not unimportant, is the least important variable that factors in to how big of an edge you have.

By shoving preflop, you give up all of your skill and positional advantage in favor of card advantage. However, because your skill advantage and your positional advantage weigh more heavily than your card advantage in how big your edge is, you stand to win more by playing pots against this opponent.

If the roles were reversed and you were the weaker player, then I would advise shoving all-in,because that neutralizes your opponent's skill and positional advantage. But the roles weren't reversed. You had every advantage, but you leveraged the minor one.

You want to play pots against weaker opponents, especially when you have position.

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I believe you are overlooking the fact that the two of them are heads-up at the end of a tournament. At this point in the game, with stack sizes as small as they, avoiding a "big pot" is a recipe for trouble when you have all of 24 big blinds in a heads-up match. – Jeffrey Blake Mar 15 '12 at 16:14

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