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I've been playing a lot more tournaments recently and I'm not sure how well I've been managing my stack. Last night I found myself one of the big stacks at the table: I had 55 on the button and the Villain with 12BBs goes all in from Hijack. Figuring he's shoving a lot of AX and maybe some smaller pairs, I make the call in the knowledge that I'm probably entering a coin flip. Villain has AJ of hearts and ends up hitting a flush.

I'm probably getting the equity to call here but should I really be letting a player get into a coin flip with me in tournament play? I was the second biggest stack at the table at the time and it cost about 1/5 of my stack to make the call.

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If he had only 12bb then he had a small, pushing M of 5 (M = stack / blinds + antes) and he was in Red Zone as described in Harrington's zone system.

He was in a prime shoving situation since everyone folded before him, his cards consists in vast majority of high cards and any ace. The fact he shoved from hijack means he had even more lower requirements since a lot of people were already out. Here's the kind of cards an M such low can shove:

22+, A7o+, A2s+, KTx+, QJx+

You may fear he have a bigger pair than you but a player gets a pair only about 5% of the time in general; If a red zone stack shoves, you expect 2 high cards or some Ax the majority of times where your 55 is 55% ahead.

Pairs are almost always deserve a call against such low M that can't hurt you. In fact, if you just call, you're probably giving good odds to the players next to you to call as well and break you post-flop. A better play is to isolate the low M by a re-raise; small pairs value is very much reduced when the board comes like A♥T⋄9♣ against another caller(s), especially with a bigger stack.

If i was early positions (eg. he shoved from UTG) i may have folded, mostly because of the number of players next to me waking up with a monster; against mostly the blinds i would isolate to be only against the small M that can't hurt me.

Long story short; having only the blinds yet to act and a 55% to win most of the time, by risking just 1/5 of your stack is just a great opportunity to accumulate chips by re-raising the small stack.

  • Thanks. I think in general I made the right play (bar isolating with a re-raise, although I didn't think the blinds would over call without a dominating pair) I think my issue is that I gave the villain a 50% chance of doubling up in tournament play. Might waiting him out and letting him get it in dominated have been better for me, to get him knocked out while keeping my big stack going into the late stages? – Chris Jun 6 '15 at 23:59
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    The optimal strategy is to take riskier actions in early/middle stages and be conservative in the late stages, because early stage players are on average worse players, and also because of the bubble. So "keeping a big stack going" is really bad strategy - if you have a big stack, you want to use solid +EV actions to get a huge stack when you have the opportunity to. – Yang Jun 7 '15 at 0:44
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    @Chris, risking only a small chunk of your stack to eliminate another player, plus taking the initial pot is not that bad at all; someone is going to break him or he's going to double no matter what. You may think you given him the lot of 45% equity but even a 72o has 32% against AKo. 55% is an awful lot of equity vs a stack that risk it's life and a wonderful opportunity to double up. Even with TT you have about 57% most of the times here. Only the premium have the gigantic odds, but you have to accumulate and the situation is just too good. – user1165 Jun 7 '15 at 7:06

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