Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hand Analysis: AKo UTG in MTT Facing 3Bet

[Note: In reading the Winning Poker Tournaments: One Hand at a Time books, I've been taking a lot of notes and thinking a lot about many of the hands. Over the next few months during the run-up to the WSOP, I intend to blog/recap a number of these hands in a effort to help be get better at analyzing MTT hand situations. This is the first in the series...]

  • Deep into the money in a high-dollar buy-in MTT with a highly non-linear payout structure; first place takes home the lion's share of the prize pool.
  • Your current table is a mix of solid amateurs and tricky pros.
  • Blinds: T1700/T3400 + T400 Ante
  • Position: UTG
  • Stack Size: T100K
  • Image: Solid
  • Cards: AK♣
Villains in this hand:
  • Player A immediately to your left has T200K. He plays loose and passive, calling preflop raises frequently from all positions.
  • Player B in BB has T75K. He is a solid, winning professional player.
  • You open raise to T8K. Player A calls. Action folds around to Player B, who 3bets to T32K.

What do you do?

  • Player A: I think we can discount this villain's range somewhat, as we've seen him cold-call EP raises before. He's also got 60 big blinds and is loose-passive, so it looks as if he just likes to see flops, probably playing fit-or-fold postflop. Let's call his range something like JJ-22,AJs-ATs,KJs-KTs,QTs+,JTs,T9s,98s,AJo-ATo,KTo+,QTo+,JTo
  • Player B: This is the guy we have to be worried about. He started the hand with only 22 big blinds, and he's bet enough that it essentially pot commits him to the hand. He also is OOP. He's a solid player, and he understands all of this situation very clearly. He also understands that we are a solid player who raised in EP. He's therefore undoubtedly putting us on a strong range, and yet he still re-pops OOP and commits himself. Said another way, his range is strong.... but how strong? For starters, I’d begin with something like 88+, AQ+, and maybe KQs. If we think about his bet sizing here, we might actually be able to weight his range a bit toward the weaker end of that range; i.e., he bets a little on the large size with his 4x bet. He could have have AA or KK here, but with those hands he probably would bet a little smaller to entice action, right? This *could* also be a squeeze play with an even looser range, but more likely he has a relatively strong, but somewhat vulnerable hand. Let’s call his range: 88+,AQs+,KQs,AQo+
  • We’re not pot committed.
  • We have some fold equity against Player A. 
  • We have very little fold equity against Player B. 
  • Against Player A’s range, our big slick preflop equity is 60%. 
  • Against Player B’s range, we’re about even money. 
  • Against both players ranges together our equity is around 38%.
  • Expected value if Player A calls and Player B folds = +T50.4K or higher (depending on how much fold equity we actually have).
  • Expected value if Player A fold and Player B calls = +$T26.5K 
  • Expected value if both Player A and Player B calls = ~20K or more.
  • We have a very strong, non-made hand.
  • The highly non-linear payout structure favors chip accumulation (versus survival).
  • Folding isn't crazy, but with the desire to accumulate chips, this is zero EV, while getting it in and trying to get heads-up is the highest EV play.
  • Line: semi-bluff against Player A; Value against Player B.
  • Raise all-in.
Book Answer: All three pros said shove all-in. The book's author actually folded in the hand.

All-in for now...


  1. I'm not the type who always shoves with A-K, but folding seems weak-tight to me. Do you agree?

  2. In this example, I think it's definitely weak-tight. On the other hand, if this had a different payout structure and/or it was a different phase of the tournament, I think that folding AKo here isn't crazy. I'm always surprised in big tourneys when someone knows that their opponent has a middle pair and they're willing to gamble on a coinflip with AK. Yes, it might be +EV because of dead money in the pot, but your tournament life is on the line, so why flip a coin? Someone smarter than me needs to explain this rationale...