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Most of us are familiar with the strategic use of stalling tactics at points in tournament play; for example, adjusting your playing speed to ensure the blinds increase before they pass through the small stack at the table.

This has got me thinking about other "clock management" tactics. Recently, I've been honing my shorthanded play by playing Spin & Gos at Pokerstars -- in this format on Pokerstars, the blinds increase every three minutes. You have 10 seconds to act, with a 10 second time bank.

Consider the following scenario -- you find yourself heads up against an opponent after just a few hands at the 10/20 level; say the chips are 900 for you and 600 for your opponent. Your opponent, being uncomfortable with heads-up play 30 blinds deep, decides to play shove fold from the SB, and will play the minraise-shove game from the BB. Further assume that both of you have the Nash tables for these games from Tipton's books, so you'll both play "optimally".

Edit

Since the answers to date seem to be straying off topic somewhat, let me revise the question to better focus the responses.

There are N seconds before the blinds increase to 15/30. You are in the big blind facing a shove from the small blind. You do not have a calling hand.

If you play "fast" and fold immediately, you will play one or more additional hands at the 10/20 level.

If you play "slow" and stall, you can ensure that on the next hand the blinds will have increased to 15/30 and you will be in the small blind.

Is there any value N (or, put alternatively, an expected number of hands yet to be played at 10/20) for which you will change your choice between acting "fast" or "slow"?

  • If your opponent feels uncomfortable playing deep, then play fast. However if you can try to let the blinds increase when u get the button. – Raymond Timmermans Aug 12 at 7:56
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If your opponent is going to play push/fold 30BB deep form the SB, you should play as many hands as possible.

Push-or-fold is -EV for the small blind at 10BB and above

  • Negative EV in absolute terms, yes. Relative to folding every hand, no. Our opponent presumably has chosen this strategy as he believes it to be the "least worst" of his options. – Confused-cius Aug 29 at 17:08
  • It's -EV meaning it's worse than not playing at all. The Big Blind wins chips on average while the Small Blind loses them. That's why BB should try to play as many hands as possible – David Aug 30 at 7:15
  • The statement Push-or-fold is -EV for the small blind at 10BB and above is categorically incorrect... – Jane Aug 30 at 10:14
  • @Jane Up to what stacks is it +EV (in the sense of better than not playing at all) then? – David Aug 30 at 10:16
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    I think it's a reference point issue. If our opponent folds 100% of his hands from the SB, his stack will have decreased by 0.5bb (i.e., a long run expectation of -50bb/100). You are viewing the posted blinds as dead money, so you see the EV of a fold as 0. Playing shove-fold -- at any stack depth -- is strictly better than folding 100% of hands (since you could always have folded AA, etc), so by your reference point is always a positive EV play. However, most books present the EV in terms of the overall change in stack, which can be negative -- just less negative than when you fold 100%. – Confused-cius Aug 30 at 16:43
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AFAIK, stalling is used as strategy when (1) you have a low edge at the table, (2) its an MTT with other tables, (3) the pay jumps are significant and survival is key. In general, good players have a small +EV and bad players have a small -EV for each hand dealt, so you are hoping someone gets knocked out before you and you get more money.

Neither of these come into play when youre HU. I would say for HU, its easier to play when shortstacked, and skill/edge matters less when shortstacked. If i knew i was a worse player, i would try to stall.

Also, i never thought having the blinds pass you before a level ends was a big deal. Sure it feels good, but if blinds are up everytime youre on the button, youre effectively paying the same amount as other people anyway. Perhaps theres an advantage to being hit by the blinds last? Im unaware of any though.

EDIT

I did some calculations and looked at WSOP blind structure. On average, blinds go up about 20-33% per level (level 26-30, big blind is 60k, 80k, 100k, 120k, 160k). This means that the difference in the blinds passing you at a lower level instead of a higher one is less than one BB. (SB + BB + BBante). EG. At level 26, the total blinds + ante is 150k chips. If the blinds had risen while you were BB to level 27, it would total 200k chips, which is 50k difference, or almost one BB.

For a short stack, that means that if you had 20 BB on the big blind when the blinds go up, fold both BB and SB, you would have about one big blind less than if the blinds passed you and went up when you were on the button. Its not even a big difference in itself, i dont think it changes ICM in any manner, and i dont think play would significantly be altered by this.

  • Sakon -- I was referring to situations such as where the opponent two or three to your left is a microstack who will survive another orbit if the blinds pass through him at the current level, but will not if the blinds increase before / while they reach him. By stalling, you can ensure he gets maximally damaged. The same holds even in less extreme cases -- it is surely advantageous to have the smallest stacks face higher blind levels after fewer hands played. Admittedly, this is a small effect which arises rarely, but poker is all about exploiting small edges, isn't it? – Confused-cius Aug 29 at 17:00
  • You're somewhat right, but not entirely. Having the "smallest stacks face higher blind levels after fewer hands played" means you're stalling every hand, since number of hands per blind is determined by how fast hands are played and the duration of each level. You were asking about the difference between the blinds going up with him on BB vs him on Button, of which i cant think of a difference. Hes essentially paying the same amt of blinds on average, in both scenarios. – sakon Aug 30 at 3:09
  • I think we're talking past one another. There are two distinct issues here: the question I asked, which is specific to a particular heads up situation, and a more general discussion of the merits of stalling in general. My initial question deals with the former, my previous comment to you deals with the latter. Perhaps it would make sense to create a distinct question on the latter issue, and move the discussion there, to prevent further confusion? – Confused-cius Aug 30 at 17:10
  • I believe my edited portion of the answer addresses your question, and provides evidence to why i think stalling does not matter in your scenario. There may be a difference if you or your opponent is incredibly skilled playing 15BB and not 20BB, but as a general rule, no. Even then it wont be a big difference. – sakon Sep 2 at 6:25
  • Fair enough, but what exactly does WSOP blind structure have to do with the question asked? :) – Confused-cius Sep 2 at 17:32

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