Poker Tournament Guide

Here is a hand that I played late in a tournament on Poker Stars the other night. It was a large entrant tournament, with I believe, around 100 entries. I had lasted to the top 20 and was in pretty good position to make the final table (top 9 players) with about $25,500 in chips. I was in 5th place and pretty comfortable position, only about $12,000 behind the leader.

There were only 6 players left at my table and under the gun (first position) I was dealt A-Q off suit. The blinds were $1200/$600 so I put on a raise of 3x the Big Blind or $3600. Most everyone at the table had been playing fairly conservatively this late in the tournament, just trying to wait out the last short stacks before the final table. I figured my raise would likely result in everyone folding and me picking up the blinds and antes.

I was surprised when everyone folded around to the Big Blind and he called my raise. Out of all the players at the table though, he was the one who played a little loose in my opinion. (He also had a stack slightly bigger than mine with about $28,000 in chips)

The Flop came Q-J-7 rainbow. I figure this is about the best case scenario for me, with top pair, top kicker. I promptly make a pot sized bet and to my utter shock, the Big Blind responds by raising all-in!

At this point I have no idea what he has. He could have K-K or A-A but then why didn’t he re-raise me pre-flop? The only other possibility is that he has pocket 7’s or J’s and hit a set, but I can’t imagine that he would not slow play that hand if he did. By the fact that he went all-in, I have to figure that he is trying to bluff me off the pot. I am guessing he has A-J or A-7 or something similar to that. Since it is late in the tournament and close to the bubble, he must figure that I will fold to an all-in. Many players would rather than risk a big stack at this stage.

After considering it nearly up to my time limit, I make the call. He flips over pocket K’s, nothing saves me on the Turn or River and I am out of the tournament in 17th place. Minutes before, I was practically assured of making the money. All I had to do was not lose an all-in with a big stack.

Did I play this hand correctly? I guess that is up for examination, hind-sight is always 20-20. Some players I know would never call an all-in at this stage of the tournament, thereby insuring that they stick around for the money. I have no problem with this style, except for the fact that it can hinder your chance to actually win the tournament. My style is more one of trying to keep myself in the position to actually win, not just stick around for the final table.

Is that just a way to justify a hand that I shouldn’t have made that call in? Maybe. But, if you are going to fold top pair, top kicker late in a tournament, you probably aren’t going to win many tournaments. You may stick around for some money finishes, but you have to play to win, in my opinion. It doesn’t make it very much fun when you have put in a couple of hours worth of time, to finish that close, but sometimes, you just get unlucky and come up against the wrong hand at the wrong time. There is not much you can do about that but enter the next tournament and play as well as you can all over again.