Monday, February 11, 2013

Hand Analysis: Jacks Early in MTT (part 1)

The following hand came from Volume 1 of Winning Poker Tournaments: One Hand at a Time. This was one of the "collective" hands in the back of the book, where the problems are given to each of the pros without benefit of consulting each other. They each independently come up with and answer and then compare them. On this particular hand, they each arrived at the same exact answer. Let's see if I do, too.

  • Very first hand of a moderate-sized, $300 buy-in MTT.
  • Eight-handed play at your table.
  • Everyone has T3K.
  • Blinds are 10/20.
  • You're in the cut-off (CO) seat.
  • Mid-position player open raises to T60.
  • Action folds to you.
  • You have Jd-Js.
  • Basically, we can assume we know nothing about our opponent in this hand. This is the first hand, and he could be a nit, a maniac, or somewhere in between. Therefore we default him into "ABC" player category unless and until something tells us to do differently.
  • His range could be as tight as 55-AA and KJ+, to as loose as 22-AA and T9+
  • We have three players yet to act.
  • Our hand is ahead of  opp's range. Maybe as strong as 66% equity, but perhaps as weak as 55%, depending on range assumptions.
  • We have unknown fold equity against this player.
  • We're 3000/20 = 150 big blinds deep.
  • We have a value hand.... but we don't really know how strong of a value hand. So let's treat it like an SDV hand.
  • We don't want to built a big pot early in a tournament without a good reason to. I.e., we're deep stacked, and we should be reluctant to stack off preflop with only a pair, even one this strong. This is especially true against an unknown player. In other words, caution is the better part of valor.
  • If we raise, we could fold out many of the worse hands in villain's range, which decreases our equity. 
  • We also might have to fold our own hand if we get re-popped and we're not getting the right implied odds to call to set-mine.
  • If we call, there is a risk of getting squeezed by one of the remaining players yet to act. That said, ourr hand is fairly well disguised. We could have enough implied odds to treat the hand as a set-miner, but more likely we could also go into check-call mode, especially if over-cards don't come on the flop.
Answer: Call and proceed with pot control caution.

Calling was actually a slightly surprising answer to me, but I think it's correct, and it also agrees with all three of the authors' answers. If we were later in the tourney and not so deep stacked, I suspect the answer would skew toward raising. Similarly, if this were a cash game, a raise would definitely be in order, mainly because this bug is a sick thin value bettor.

In an MTT, however, with deep stacks and zero knowledge yet of our opponents, and with our tournament life always on the line, it's better to call early in the game and play more cautious/pot-control-ish.

All-in for now...

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