In many freeroll or smaller buy-in tournaments, some people just go all-in every hand or make huge bets for no apparent reason. This is a bit annoying because it scares me somewhat, but it also might be an opportunity I guess.

How should I deal with players like this? What things should I be thinking about when facing such players to maximise my winrate against them?

  • my tactic here is to auto-fold the first hand regardless, during a free to enter tourney as this always seems to happen in the first hand, perhaps they only know how to play with a chip lead and to be aggressive.
    – user424
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 12:38
  • An example here is when i called an all in with AA vs 68o on the first hand of a multi table play tourney. I lost to the straight. I got tempted by the premium hand when my own rulebook says I should have folded regardless.
    – user424
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 11:10
  • +1 for very cool question. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 23:00
  • You could do the same :) Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 15:44
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    This always happens in casual games with friends for no money, everyones just given x chips to play with. It's so annoying that people don't treat it seriously, ruins the game for me!
    – Aequitas
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 0:26

8 Answers 8


This is very much related to this question: How big an edge can you have on a tournament field ? ROI vs edge question

You have to balance the chance that your hand will win against a random hand with the actual advantage you gain from getting their stack. In general, I'd advise folding with less than a premium pocket pair preflop, and continuing on the flop with TPGK or better.

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    What does TPGK mean ? Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 19:48
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    Top pair, good kicker. Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 19:57

Depends on how much often this all-in is presenting by for example using hud statistics software, you can measure this and push at least for example 20% of his range counting from top of course.

Then full range is 100%, his all-in range is 60% (i assuming this is top 60%) then you calling 12% (60% of 20%) top hands.

If you want measure this you can do this via Monte Carlo method using for example Equilator from PokerStrategy. You must set ranges to top 60% against your top 12% then you will have probability of winning against him using this tactic.

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    It seems interesting but I didn't quite understand it, I'm rather novice.
    – Paolo
    Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 0:15
  • You meant to say 20% of 60%, not vice versa, right? Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 13:50
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    20% of 60% is the same as 60% of 20%... Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 16:15

Generally I find that those people end up bluffing off all of their chips eventually. The people who challenge them tend to be poorer players as well. So while this tends to end with the result of someone at my table having a significant chip advantage I very rarely see that these people outlasted me.

In a tourney the opening rounds are about survival rather than accumulation. So I try to act conservatively and rake in a few small pots enough to keep me near average chip stack. Once the reckless are gone I tend to loosen up a bit.

  • Interesting. I would have guessed it is the contrary (in early stage try to do as much as possible).
    – Paolo
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 21:24
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    @Paolo - Even bullets end up at best a coin flip against a large number of hands after the flop. I find going head to head with the reckless early on a good way to get knocked out of the tournament.
    – Chad
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 21:44
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    I agree with both of you to an extent. I will limp often early because the blinds are so cheap compared to starting/avg chip stacks. But avoid reckless players unless/until you can pick them off. i.e. sitting on their left and wait for an ultra premium hand to slow play them. Every tournament I have won ( turbos ) I've had to dodge a few 'bullets' and win a flip or two on the way despite me being quite a conservative player. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 6:12

There are a lot of players who insta-shove a lot at the start of freerolls, I suspect on the grounds that they'll either double up and play from a strong position, or get knocked out and move on to the next one - either way avoiding having to spend a lot of time grinding away with an average or small stack, which presumably isn't their bag. That's what you have to put up with playing at a level where losing your buy-in in one hand doesn't hurt.

The biggest problem in calling someone like this even with AA is that there may well be another of them to your left (who's even more tempted by the chance to triple-up). Your aces may be a huge favourite against a random hand, but will suffer as each extra villain piles in. Before calling, think position, think what you know about the people still to act.

  • ...or someone to your left who reads you as a naive shover and calls you both with his premium pair... Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 10:28

I've wondered this question before too, but in the context of playing poker for free on Zynga where people do this all the time which is a little different from a tournament but much of the same basic reasoning applies.

People who appear to just randomly go all in before the flop either don't know what they're doing or they know what they're doing and are baiting you with good cards which is probably the less likely of the two possibilities.

To make a good decision, first, you need to get a sense of what your probability of winning is. There is a table summarizing your approximate probability of winning heads up on this article on Wikipedia:


If you have the top pair and are playing against a lower pair or one or two undercards, you have a pretty high probability of winning of somewhere between 70-84%. This is probably extremely likely if you have AA, KK, or QQ. If you're playing regular or free poker and not a tournament, you probably should take these bets since your probability of winning is so high. If you're in a tournament, you need to decide whether that 1/6-1/3 probability of getting knocked out is worth doubling up.

If you have a low pair or middle-low cards, your probability of winning is at best only a little better than 50%, and so unless you want to gamble, the decision to fold is very easy, especially given that you're asking about the context of a tournament where you only get a prize if you make it to the end. I tend to tell myself in this situation, even if I have the best hand, do I want to take a really big bet where my probability of winning is only roughly 50%? If so, then my long term poker performance will become dominated by the few big bets I take where my probability of winning is only 50% and I'll be wasting my money on mediocre bets.

The difficult situation is where don't have a pair but have two cards that are relatively high and maybe even suited. If your opponent has a pocket pair, the decision to fold is easy as you are notably less than 50% to win the hand, but even if you're up against an opponent who doesn't know what they're doing, you probably have to give them credit on an all in bet in a tournament where they put in the effort to enter for at least one really high card like an A or a K and maybe even two high cards, like two face cards. This puts you in a situation where your probability of winning is somewhere in the 40-60% range, and once again, you probably don't want to waste your money on a big bet where the odds are only mediocre.

One final important thing to consider in these situations is the possibility of someone else entering the pot. Even if you have AA, your probability of winning when a third person enters the pot drops to about 66% and a fourth person makes it only a little better than 50%. So this is getting into the trouble range where you very well may be risking getting eliminated from the tournament, although if you win you're in really great shape to stay in for a longer time. In a regular game this is the situation you dream of because the pot odds are excellent.

Above all, stay level headed in these types of situations. Don't let it upset you. Don't start thinking that just because you are a better poker player than this person that random chance will respect you. Be patient. Poker requires lots of waiting, and you want to be betting lots of your money when your odds are good, not when someone who doesn't know what they're doing gets you to play a mediocre hand. General advice in several poker books I've read is that when playing against people who aren't good players, you need to play tighter and just be ready to show down good cards. The player who doesn't know what they're doing will make a lot of calls that they shouldn't, and you want to be in a pot with them when you have a really good hand, not when you're tossing a coin.


In these situations you have to push an equity edge vs their range, there's not a lot more your can do. Just construct a range that will beat theirs and get the chips in.

  • In a cash game, definitely. In a tourney, probably not.
    – celwell
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 7:48
  • Still valid thought process in tournament. Just be aware occasionally +EV in tournament chip may not translate to +EV in money.
    – user1751
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 8:56

When playing with loose aggressive players remember to always wait for a strong hand.They tend to go allin with in the first few hands of a freeroll , unless you have AA.KK.QQ.AK Dont get pulled in because there might be a multiple of them hope this helps


If you want a simple answer, never let anyone bully you at the table

If people are shoving wide then call wide. If you bust them a few times they will soon stop shoving wide and you can go back to your normal game

OK the down vote means u want a different answer. This is why you should never let anybody bully you. If you have a bottom 10% hand and are up against a top 10% hand, you are only a 2-1 dog. Here is the maths:

** 10% = top 10% hand (good)
** 20% = top 20% hand
** 90% = bottom 10% hand (bad)

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    You bust them a few times and they are still in the tournament?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 12:03
  • Rebuys? Perhaps "bust" wasn't the best phrase. Maybe "resist" or "don't take any of their bs" fits better Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 13:26
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    Andy evidence rebuys are allowed? Even if so you you don't given any indication of how to not let them bully. "Resists" "don't take any of their bs" - how? - it is an all in bet you call or fold.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 13:30
  • It's like this. There is an equilibrium between the risk you take folding and the risk you take calling that is described by GTO (game theory optimal). Basically it's never advisable to let any player bully or walk over you if you can help it because when both you and the bully know what will happen in future, you give up way too much edge. The bully can shove bottom 10% hands and knows you are only going to call with top 10% hands (or perhaps better if you are very tight). What you need to do is lay out your marker, show the bully you will call with ANY hand, then he won't shove bottom 10% :) Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 14:28
  • Isn't 90% top 90%, meaning NOT bottom 10%?!? Bottom 10% is 7 and lower with 3 or 2 off-suit (excluding 33 and 22)... Top 10% is basically only AA... How do those 9 hands compare to AA and to the other 159-160 starting hands?
    – iAmOren
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 9:40

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