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Poker Strategy | Tournaments Strategy

How Would You Play This Hand – Full Tilt Poker, NLHE Tournament, $9500 Guarantee

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Full Tilt Poker runs a daily $24+2 “Knockout” tournament at 3:00pm EST. You receive 2000 starting chips and the blind levels increase every 10 minutes. This is a fun format because you receive $4 for every player you knockout of the tournament which makes the play a bit looser especially when a player is all-in.

Today’s tournament began with 685 players with the top 63 finishers getting paid. The 1st place winner received $3356, 2nd place paid $2089 and 3rd place won $1541.

When I play low buy-in tournaments, I’m looking for spots to double or triple my starting stack within the first hour or go broke. I’m not interested in spending 3-4 hours treading water with a below average starting stack just to limp into the first few payouts. I’m more willing to gamble early so I can build a stack I can try to take deep into the tournament.

Low buy-in tournaments usually have lots of dead money. These are players who are unable to fold a pair or a weak draw even if it costs them their entire stack. You’ll usually run across opportunities in the first hour while dead money players are shipping chips around the table.

About 20 minutes into the tournament I pick up my first premium hand. I’ve lost about 300 chips trying to hit flops to this point and was willing to gamble.

Here are the stack sizes going into this hand.

Hero (BB): 1,660
UTG: 1,975
UTG+1: 1,995
UTG+2: 990
MP1: 2,460
MP2: 3,710
CO: 3,945
BTN: 1,205
SB: 3,460

Blinds are 30/60 and I wake up with {A-Spades}{K-Hearts} in the big blind.

How would you play this hand?

The action is folded around to a player in middle position who makes a healthy raise to 280 and the rest of the table folds around to me.

When a player makes that big of a raise pre-flop (4.5x) with half the table left to act, I read it as a vulnerable pocket pair or A-K/A-Q. I seriously thought of shoving all-in here but, I decided to just call leaving me with 24 big blinds if I miss.

Flop comes: {K-Clubs} - {6-Hearts} - {8-Spades} (pot is 580)

Instead of donk betting the flop, I check hoping for a continuation bet from the pre-flop raiser. A donk bet is when you steal the action from the pre-flop aggressor.

The pre-flop raiser checks behind.

The turn brings: {J-Spades} (pot is 580)

With a couple of straight draws and now a flush draw, it’s a bit risky to check here. If he has a set, he’s definitely betting it at this point in the hand. J-J is one of the hands I put him on with his big pre-flop raise. I check and he checks.

River: (580) {7-Spades}

The river brings a card completing the flush and a straight. This is where a lot of players would check, hoping the other player checks behind. The problem with checking the board a third time is it gives your opponent an opportunity to bluff you out of the pot with a big bet. If he checks, you get no value from your hand and he’s shown nothing but weakness after the flop up to this point.

Since I’m not afraid of the boogeyman, I bet out 320 into the 580 pot on the river and he calls. What do you think he had?

Results: 1,220 Pot
Hero showed {A-Spades} - {K-Hearts} (a pair of Kings) and WON 1,220 (+620 NET)
MP1 mucked {Q-Clubs} - {Q-Hearts} (a pair of Queens) and LOST (-600 NET)

I won a decent sized pot on a scary board. Knowing what he has now, I should’ve jammed all in pre-flop. There’s really no way he’s folding that hand pre-flop. As I mentioned earlier, I like to gamble in low buy-in tournaments to try and double-up early but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I think I played the hand after the flop about as well as I could, getting maximum value without scaring him out of the hand.

Good luck at the tables!

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