I like raising. In all honesty, it’s just plain fun opening with J7 and seeing people bewildered when you show down a hand like that. Beyond it just being fun, it becomes A LOT more difficult to put me on a hand. I could have AA or 45 or K3, or anything in between. Therefore, playing a wide variety of hands allows me to continuation bet the flop and bluff the turn with basic impunity.
In a lot of the tournaments I play, there are only 2-3 hands to the flop. Generally, these are low pocket pairs, almost every Ax hand, and some form of combo face cards (KQ, QJ, etc.). This is, of course, completely dependent on the players you have at the table, but in I am speaking in generalities. So, basing my knowledge on this, I can bet every flop that is 10 or lower, and generally almost all of them with one face card on it, into two opponents, regardless of what cards I am actually holding. I could be holding 47 (one of my favorites to open with) on a J26 board and I will lead out and get folds much of the time. People don’t want to call with Ace high, or King high.
But, hey, IDKMyBFFJill, what happens when someone has a hand on a J26 board? What do you do? Don’t you just lose those chippies and there is nothing you can do about it? How do you compensate? Well, here is where bet sizing is the key. You only want to open to 2.5-3x in the mid-stages of the tournament, as people aren’t really calling with junk, or if they are, they aren’t going to be persuaded to fold to a 4x open.
Let’s take a look at my opening tendencies in the mid-stage of local charity tournaments. Your average stack is around 20-30BB. There are no antes in charity tournaments (but there are in the tournaments at Firekeepers-I suggest you check them out, they are quality for the price), which hurts us opening so much, as we are not winning antes, approximately 1BB/hand spread over the 9/10 players. So, at 500/1000, you open (there are no limpers, which is super important, I’ll explain this in a minute) to 2500, with 45000 behind. What you have in your hand does not matter at this point in time. Suppose the button calls and the blinds fold. The pot is now 6500 (6.5 BB, of which 2.5 BB is yours). Suppose the flop comes out J26. You lead for 3000 (3 BB into 6.5 BB). You are going to get a fold at least 66% of the time. So, if the opponent folds, you are gaining 4000 chips with relative ease. So, if the only result (it isn’t, it just makes things easier to calculate) is either to add 4000 chips (66% of the time) or lose 5500 chips; you are making 2500 chips, which is a positive. Obviously there are the times where you get to bet two streets and get folds, bet two streets and get called (and lose) among other outcomes. However, people play so straightforward, it is easy to exploit, and makes the calculations relatively accurate enough for us to use. So, to answer the question of what happens when they have a hand: You’ve already made the chips; you just gave a little back, part of doing business. Keep on raising and c-betting and you’ll get them back.
So, what happens when you’re opening every third hand, and someone 3 bets you? Let’s be real, how many people have 3-bet without AT LEAST AJ? Most of the time someone 3-bets, it is AA, KK, QQ, or, maybe, AK. Knowing this, I can take a knowledgeable risk and call a 3 bet, usually in position, with a mediocre holding (but a hand that plays well against AA).
So, let’s look at a real hand that I played at Northville Downs. Blinds are 500/1000 and I have 125k. My opponent has about 50k. He hasn’t played very many hands; in fact the only hands I have seen him play are pocket pairs and AK. He is also very passive with hands like 99. So, I open to 2500 with 93 of clubs. From the small blind he makes it 6500. For someone with over 100BB and super aggressive (me), playing against someone with a very, very small range of hands (sb), he needs to make it bigger, so that I am not calling with 100% of my opening range. At this point, I have to call 4000 more into a pot of 10000. Even though I am getting 2.5:1 on my money, I am probably a 5:1 underdog.
So, why call? Here is why: I am getting 2.5:1. He doesn’t know what I have, but I know what he has. So, I can just fold any flop that I miss. With being so aggressive, I know that I am going to get action when I hit. So, after the flop, I am probably going to try to play for stacks, or just fold, dependent on the type of flop. For me, there is no real value in bluffing here. If you’re following the math, he has about 45000 left, about 1/8th of what he raised preflop. If we are playing for stacks, I am getting the proper implied odds to play the hand. Also, I can 4 bet him with AA, and get him to stack off with 99% of his 3 betting range.
In this hand, I call and the flop is 5c4c2s. Great flop for me. I have a straight draw and flush draw, on a board that AA plays very well against, which works to my advantage. I check the flop and he bets 7500. I just flat call, as I have an extremely strong hand against a defined range (AA-1010 only, never AK). Against KK I am a 55% favorite to win the hand (45% v AA). I could get it in, but I know I’m getting paid off on a flush or straight card, so why not wait, and see if I hit. If I hit, I can raise and he’ll most likely call it off. No need to put more chips at risk (other than the 14000 of mine already in there). The pot is now 29000. The turn is 9h. He shoves 36000. I call off with my pair and draws. I hit the 6c on the river to scoop a 100k pot. He had KK. This is not the greatest example, as calling with 67cc is better preflop than 93cc. However, if I didn’t have lots of equity on the flop, I could have folded to the continuation bet and moved on to the next hand.
Now, just about every one of you that is reading this plays tighter than I do. The only person I know that plays looser is Coach McGuirk, and he doesn’t really play tournaments. So, if you can’t/don’t want to incorporate playing super loose, how do you deal with someone who is? First off, try to play in position. It makes it harder to fire a turn bet with nothing, especially multiple ways. Don’t fold a pair. If a player is playing super loose, you can tell how good or bad he really is by his bet sizing. Depending on limpers, his sizing may vary from 2.1x preflop to 5x. However, on the flop, his sizing is anywhere from 40%-75%. This is where a good player differs from some spazz, who will generally bet 100+% of the pot, every time. So, how do you deal with the good player? In a more passive method, you could call with fewer hands preflop. In a more aggressive move(s), you could 3 bet preflop with a wider range of hands. It’ll freeze him from opening when you are behind him. However, he could also 4 bet you light as well. You could call his continuation bet with nothing on the flop, and bet the turn if he checks to you. You could raise him on the flop with nothing. You could also just always flop a good hand. Ha, only if poker was that easy. However, that is not the case. You should be playing just about every pair to the river against said aggressive player. He gains such value from firing a second bullet with nothing, especially if his opponent is folding second pair. The best approach is a combination of all of these. The biggest piece of advice is to always try to play in position. Also, make sure you at least 3x the players open, and more if there is a caller to his bet or a limper before his bet. These little things really matter, as it prices the opener in with more dead money in the pot. Depending on how valuable the tournament is financially to you, make the pots bigger. A better player wants to play more hands, and a less skilled player should want to play fewer hands, and bigger pots. It limits the better players’ skill advantage by adding a bunch of variance to it.