Play Money tournament on Pokerstars, single table 9-max SNG NLHE. We're in the Heads Up, roughly equal stacks, with slight advantage towards Hero.

Dealt to hero: AQd. Hero bets 3 (or 4? don't remember exactly) BB's - bet size is about 1/10th of the chipstack. Villain ponders for a couple of seconds, then shoves all-in.

After a brief consideration, Hero calls the all-in. Was this good playing or bold (and mindless) move?

Secondary questions: Villain shows 98 offsuit - I personally think moving all-in was a bad move from him, what do you say? Following this line of thinking, Villain winning the hand with a pair of 9's means just a bad beat for Hero - am I right?

Thank you.

  • I think he expected you to fold. In my opinion that's a 'bad beat'. I don't believe anyone would seriously shove 30 to 40 blinds when the stack sizes are 50/50. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


Was this [calling all-in] good playing or bold (and mindless) move?

This should be a snap call. AQs is just far too strong to fold. Villian would have to be 3-bet shoving a very tight range to justify folding here. Specifically, he would have to be jamming {33+, AQ+, AJs} for it to be unprofitable to call his all-in. The average opponent is 3-bet shoving far wider than that at ~25BB or less (not sure what the stack sizes are in this hand).

If we assign Villian a more realistic 3-bet shoving range, such as:

Villian's 3-Bet Shoving Range

Then we can profitably raise-call with the following range:

Hero's Raise-Calling Range

Many people find it surprising, but big suited connectors, such as {QTs+, JTs, T9s} become raise-call hands heads-up when your opponent is 3-bet shoving a wider and wider range. In this case they are only slightly profitable raise-calls. As such, you'd likely be better off folding them until you gain more reads that Villian is 3-bet shoving wide.

Once we see that he 3-bet shoved with 98o, we can drastically alter our raise-calling range. For instance, suppose we assume, due to our read, that Villian is 3-bet shoving much wider:

Villian's Maniacal 3-Bet Shoving Range

Then our maximally exploitative raise-calling range is the following, which is much wider than most people would expect:

Hero's Maximally Exploitative Calling Range vs. Maniac

As you can see, your 3-bet shove calling range is directly connected to how often Villian is 3-bet shoving. The important thing to note here is that AQs is always going to be a hand you should raise-call at these stack depths, regardless of how tight your opponent is (within reason).

Villain shows 98 offsuit - I personally think moving all-in was a bad move from him, what do you say?

It really depends. If Villian has strong data suggesting that you are opening your button to 3 times the big blind a large amount of the time, he can basically 3-bet shove any two cards and it will still be profitable. If that's the case though, he should polarize his 3-bet shoving range to include strong hands and the worst of hands, and then he can continue to just call with hands like 98o, JTs, 86s, etc., since they play so well postflop. It's unlikely that he has the reads to justify this 3-bet shove (and is even more likely that he isn't thinking this deeply) so yes, it's a terrible play on his part.

Following this line of thinking, Villain winning the hand with a pair of 9's means just a bad beat for Hero - am I right?

Yep. Don't start questioning your play simply because you lose. Results-oriented thinking is a huge problem for many, many poker players, regardless of whether they are recreationals or professionals. The human mind evolved to focus on short-term results but in poker it's absolutely vital that you focus on the long term.

When you get AQs all-in versus 98o preflop, Hero is only going to win with AQs 64.75% of the time and he will chop 0.19% of the time. That means you'll lose the hand slightly over 35% of the time. But that's poker. You should be overjoyed to get it all-in as a 65% favorite.

Poker is one of the only games out there where you can do everything right and still lose.

  • Thank you Brent, for this very in-depth analysis. I admit I'll have to chew on all that math in the 1st response until I fully digest it, but I really appreciate it. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 23:56
  • Poker jargon question: does "3-bet shove" (or the variants) mean "1st player bets 3 times the BB, 2nd answers by moving all-in"? Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 0:04
  • No. I made the same mistake when I first heard that term as well. It has to do with the order of the bets, not the size of the bets. When the big blind posts the blind, this is the first bet. After that, when the first raise is made by a player, it's called a 2-bet. And then, when an opponent reraises your original raise, it's called a 3-bet. If another player reraises after that, they're 4-betting. And so on. So, in this scenario, Villian does the first bet by posting the big blind, you 2-bet by raising to 3x the big blind, and he 3-bet shoves when he goes all-in. Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 5:26

89o isn't a bad hand head-to-head. Surprised he shoved though. AQs is a decent hand so I can understand why you called. So the boy got lucky, forget about it and move on.

Without tells, play the stats. Even 27o can beat AA so take it on the chin and concentrate on the next hand.

Emotion has no place in poker. Pondering bad beats is poison.

  • in FreeRoll Pokerstars people shove all in with nothing regularly. It's infuriating when your aces get beat by worse hands, but it's good to know when you're making the right plays. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 12:59
  • Even if I'm on the wrong end of a nasty downswing, I still prefer money games for this reason.
    – Robbie Dee
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 15:50
  • I asked if this was a bad beat only because I'm working to improve my game, and making the distinction between a real bad beat and real bad judgement from my side is critical. I wasn't even mad :) (to quote an internet meme) with the whole hand, and that's a good sign for me :) I'd upvote your answer, but I'm still 7 rep points short of being able to do so. Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 0:11
  • No, this isn't a bad beat. AQs vs. 98o is, respectively, 64.75% vs. 34.86% equity wise. You aren't enough of a favorite to fall into the "bad beat" category when you lose. Bad beats generally refer to hands in which one player is a huge favorite, 75%-80% or more equity wise, who still loses to a suckout. Too many poker players fall into a habit of raging about how they were a favorite and still lost, when, really, the odds of winning/losing are much closer than they think. Don't fall into that category. You played it perfectly. Be happy with your play and move on to the next hand/tourney. :) Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 5:33
  • Try messing around with a program like PokerStove or Equilab to find the equities of your hands versus your opponents range or hand. It will really help you to get a feel for how much of a favorite/underdog you are. This will help mitigate tilt you might go through due to card distribution. Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 5:36

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