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POKER STRATEGY Article written by Dave Colclough​

Well, I finally managed to win my 100th live multi-table poker competition. Of course, being the strange breed that the poker gods are, they dictated that it would be my biggest ever win to date, and that it would be exactly? 100,000. I struggled past 135 players over two long days of poker to win the Victoria Classic at the Victoria Grosvenor Casino on London’s Edgware Road.

One of my key hands was late on Saturday night, when I won a large pot with KQ against a pair of 7s. It was of interest to the player sat next to me, who was surprised that I committed such a large portion of my stack in the pot with such an average hand. I thought documenting it here, may give a few insights into No Limit Hold Em tournament play.

I was in the small blind 400. The big blind was 800 and there was a nominal running ante. The first player to act, smooth called. In most cases this tells us nothing about this player’s hand. Most players will smooth call in this position with big hands like Kings and Aces, hoping that a later player will raise, so that they can then put a very large re-raise in. But the player may also, of course, just have JQ of hearts or many other inferior hands.

The next player to act folded, and then Frode, a top Norwegian player, also smooth called. It transpires, he was wary of the early caller, and fancied him for a big hand. Now, all of a sudden there was a larger than usual pot developing. So two players in late position also called. They were basically getting very good value for their mediocre hands, so why not?

When the action reached me, I looked down at KQ off-suit. Fortunately, the player to my left was paying very little attention and didn’t look like he had a hand. So I thought the time was right for a semi-steal. There was 4600 chips in the middle. Well worth the effort when the average chip stack was less than 20,000. But try to bluff when there are 4 callers?

It’s not as difficult as you might think, if we look at the information available. The big blind player has switched off. Frode and the two late callers have already given their type of hands away. If they had a big hand they would almost certainly have raised to try and take the chips that were out there. This is because the early limper had created the extra value. Generally, if there are more than the BB and SB out there, then its best to raise your good hands and just take the available chips uncontested without any danger to your stack. Also if you have a big hand, you are better playing it heads up. So the late callers just can’t have a big hand unless they are looking for trouble.

Fortunately, I had been on an earlier table with the first position limper for several hours. I had noticed that he loved to raise at every opportunity, and that he liked to play more hands than most. So I thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t call. So I raised 5000, thinking that I had a 80% chance of picking up the pot there and then, uncontested.

The big blind and early limper passed as expected, but Frode thought for a second, and then moved all-in. His re-raise was my 5000 with another 7400 on top. The late players passed as expected, and I had to contemplate his raise. The pot odds on calling were excellent. I was risking 7400 to win 22,400.

The big problem was that if I lost, a further 7400 would leave me with only 5000 chips. At the start of the hand, I had a comfortable chip stack. At the end, I may be in big trouble needing to go all-in during the next 2 rounds. So I looked at this problem from two more points of view : what type of hand am I in big trouble against, and what type of hand has Frode got.

There are actually only five hands that would have put me in a very awkward spot : AA, KK, QQ, AK or AQ. All of these would give me less than a 20% chance of winning the pot, and would constitute a horrendous call. Against AJ or similar, I would be an underdog but still win 42% of the time. Against any pair from JJ down, I would be a lesser underdog, winning 47% of the time.

A lot of players in this situation would assume Frode had Aces or Kings, but I thought it was unlikely. Once there had been an early limper, I was sure Frode would have raised with any pair from 10s up, trying to create a heads up pot. I was sure Frode would not have re-raised me with suited connectors or AJ for that matter either. So all the indicators were that Frode had been limping with a pair. Again, I am sure Frode would consider it too risky to re-raise with lower pairs, 2s to 6s. So he must have one of three hands : 7s, 8s or 9s.

I was sure that I was just a 47% underdog. The pot odds dictated it was a call. I could possibly recover if I lost the pot. You don’t win tournaments without playing big pots, and you certainly don’t win tournaments without getting lucky! My chips went in, and as you can guess, I hit a King. Frode was out, and I was in a very good position to proceed into the second day.

The point I am trying to make though, was that if Frode had not called, it would have been an excellent move stealing a large amount of chips uncontested. The type of move that helps you survive the long barren spells when you don’t pick up any nice hands. As it worked out? I just got lucky!


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