You’ve entered a freezeout tournament – that’s right, no rebuys! - and you are playing steadily, accumulating a few chips here and there. The blinds are still low, say $10/$20, you are dealt 6s 8s and decide to call for value after a number of players have limped in. The flop comes down:
10h 8d 6d
This gives you a 2-pair with 4 cards available to complete the full house.
An early position player bets out $60, suggesting to you he maybe has top pair. That is, if you have even considered what he has, so pleased are you with your made two-pair!
Two callers follow who you think may be calling with middle or low pair or perhaps chasing flush or straight draws. You decide to re-raise to $220 (25% of your stack) hoping to push some callers off the hand. It almost certainly isn’t enough. The original raiser, with no further ado, comes over the top and re-raises you all-in. The two callers before you both fold.
What is your position now?
This scenario crops up time and again. The response I see the most, playing in on-line tournaments at relatively low stakes, is for the player instantaneously to call the all-in bet, effectively putting his tournament at risk. I have done it myself more often than I would like! Yet, before making the call, the player should already have prepared for the re-raise with answers to certain questions:
What could this player have to make him confident enough to re-raise you all-in after you have yourself demonstrated strength by re-raising him and two callers? Surely this means he has somewhat more than a top pair? Maybe the re-raiser has a suited ace in diamonds and is taking a punt with a 2/1 chance of the nut flush while putting in a huge raise hoping to take his opponents off the hand by representing a made straight or a set. Well, maybe he is doing that.
I accept that there are plenty of loose players playing these tournaments who would think nothing of making this move but is this how you should approach your poker play, by assuming everyone is a loose cannon? The answer is an emphatic “No!”. To answer yes is to say you are prepared to gamble your tournament away when the blinds are low, and that is not the way to progress.
What are you to do?
The answer is almost certainly to fold. If the other player holds greater than a single pair, the minimum is 2-pair. As you have 8 6, the lowest 2-pair, his call suggests a minimum 2-pair 10’s up. You would already be beaten.
Say he did only have A 10 or K 10. He has a further two cards to come and will still beat you if any K or 10 comes (6 cards) or any paired turn and river cards (making a minimum of 10’s up). Maybe that is an acceptable risk, but what if he instead holds 10 9 or 10 7 which is perfectly possible given everyone limped in before the flop? Now he is drawing to any 10, 9 or 7, ignoring any diamond connectors. You in contrast have no flush draw to give you further help.
But maybe it is just best to avoid all of this agonizing and to accept that the player who limped in before the flop and raised after it, followed by a re-re-raise right over the top of you probably holds 9 7 and has hit the bulls-eye!
It seems to be a common weakness at lower stakes play for a player who has confidently raised to refuse to accept that a re-raise over the top of him might be the sign of a monster hand and not a bluff or the move of a fool. Knowing the sensible time to make a lay-down this early in a tournament is one of the keys to successful tournament play.