Ace King Sooted
Ace King is one of those hands that can make or break your tournament run when you get it in the mid to late stages of an MTT. If your M is in the low to mid range at that point, it is a difficult hand to get away from preflop, no matter what action you are facing. This topic has been discussed at length by some of the better poker authors out there, but I wanted to bring my spin to the situation, and talk about a specific hand in the Orange County Poker Tour event last Saturday night. The situation will explore nearly all the depths of tournament play including chip equity, tournament equity, chip utility, stack size considerations, your reads on the other players, and their reads on you.
So last Saturday was a $20+ rebuy OCPT event. There was a good mix of regulars and newbies, and in general the play was pretty aggressive. Average buy in was over $81 for the tournament. Although I am the all-time cash leader on tour with about $3,200 in winnings, I tend to play the OCPT more for fun, and don’t really bring my full A-Game. This basically means that I go ahead and drink more than I probably should, and don’t really focus on reading the table until well after the rebuy period ends. This is not all bad, because people tend to play differently pre and post rebuy, and I also don’t mind getting a little out of line during the rebuy period. In this specific MTT I was drinking it up as usual, and having a good time. I caught nothing for the first hour, but doubled my stack after catching JJ and AQo in back to back hands. I then bled away chips, and after taking the add-on had about T600 in chips (double buy-in + add-on = T500) with the blinds at 10/20. The play at the table seemed pretty poor, but this was the rebuy period, so who knows.
Shortly after the rebuy period ended with the blinds at 15/30, I picked up Ace King Sooted in the Big Blind with a T600 stack size. It folded to the button, who paused, and inspected the stack sizes of the SB and myself. He then went ahead and opened to T200, which was about 6.5x the blinds. The SB folded and the action was on me. I did not have a good read on this player yet, but really should have had one by this point. I tanked. Calling would be for 1/3 of my stack which would make post flop play difficult. I figured I either needed to push or fold. Pushing seemed like the easy answer, but this guy had me covered. If I push, there is a good chance that I am coin flipping for my tournament life here. I really felt that my skill level was high enough compared to the others that I did not really want to take a coin flip at this point. I figured if I fold, I have plenty of time left to get things going later. So I went round and round on this one, and eventually folded Ace King Sooted preflop. Afterwards, I really hated that play and not just because the guy flipped up QJo. It was more because, you probably just can’t fold it in that situation, if you want to win the MTT. So folding right there was a mistake based on his range. Let me try to explain what thought process you should got through, and why I really needed to call there.
When you should go ahead and jam or call all-in with AKs in an MTT.
1) Is the player loose or tight preflop? A loose player has a wider range that will include more hands that you will be better than a coinflip against. I did not have a good read on this player, but if I did, I would have put him on the loose end of the spectrum.
2) Can you eliminate AA or KK from your opponent’s holdings? The last hand you want to go to war with is AA or KK when you have AK. In this case the 6.5x raise from the button is enough to eliminate AA-KK at least from his holdings. Who over bets from the button preflop with AA?
3) How deep is your stack? If your stack is deep you have more flexibility if you fold. If your stack is short, I am not sure what you are waiting for. In this case I started the hand with T600 so my M was about 13. With an M below 20 you probably should be leaning hard towards going to war with AK.
4) How deep is your opponents stack? If your opponents stack does not have you covered, the argument for going to war makes more sense. In this case he had me covered.
5) What will doubling up do for your chip utility? With an M of about 13 my options are limited. With an M of about 26 my options improve dramatically. I skimmed Hoy’s post on chip utility and nearly vomited, but there is some substance there. I just disagree with taking coin flips during the first level of an MTT for chip utility purposes. If the structure is that bad, and you are a real believer in chip utility, you need to avoid the MTT instead of flipping for your whole stack 15 minute in.
6) What does doubling up do for your tournament equity? Basically, will doubling up improve your average cash amount enough to offset getting eliminated on this hand. In this case, I think my tournament equity goes up. At T600, I am nowhere near cashing with the top 4 paid. Doubling through to T1200, and I can probably cruise into the money. Since I was in for $60, and would win $140 for 4th place, you can argue that even if it is a flip, I am betting $60 to win $140+ which is +EV.
7) What is your skill level compared to the other players still left in the MTT? In this case I felt I had a skill advantage which is an argument against going to war with AK
8) Do you have any fold equity? In this case, I would be jamming T600 over a T200 open. I get a bit of fold equity there, and considering my opponent actually had QJo, I may have actually got the fold.
9) What is your opponent's read on you? Are they stealing because you appear weak-tight (the new tight aggressive)? If you jam can you get them to fold based on your image? My image was a bit mixed at this point. I played very weak tight in the first hour, but was mixing it up quite a bit since then.
10) Any unusual betting patterns? When people over bet preflop, they are either doing it to protect a weak hand or disguise a strong hand. This is one of the reasons that I don’t vary preflop raise amounts. This was definitely an over bet preflop, which indicates a wider range than normal for a bad player, and a tighter range than normal for a good player. The over bet here should have made calling easier for me.
11) What are the player positions in the hand? Since I was the BB in the hand, and he was the button, this looks a bit “stealy”. Same goes for an open from the cutoff position. Since this guy was opening up late, I need to widen his range and call/jam more often. An open from UTG or early should get more respect.
So if you go over the 11 factors I listed above for making the decision, only two of them (my comparative skill level, and my opponents stack size) would lead you to folding AK sooted preflop, with 9 leading you to jam the same hand. I folded so I screwed up here. I ended up going pretty card dead after the hand, and went out in 7th on the triple bubble. Next time, I might be ready to consider everything and make the right play. I was also kicking myself for not having a better read on the player. It was obvious he was way loose preflop, based on his play after the hand, and if I was paying better attention earlier, I would have had that read. To his credit, he went on to win the MTT and the $620 first place prize. Anyone want to defend my fold there?