More on the power of calling preflop

by ~ September 5th, 2008. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker aggression, Super turbos.

Often when I start to write something it’s because I had a very brief flash of a thought in a previous poker session or even while driving to or from work. Sometimes I have enough clarity from this inspiration to write a fairly complete and coherent post. And other times the topic may be huge and require multiple posts, or I may be fairly vague in my view and the post meanders trying to find where to go. But other times, part of the inspiration slips away and the post doesn’t cover everything that I originally had wanted to include.

Such is the case with the post Calling Gives You More Control Than Raising? I missed one aspect which I ran into last night playing a super turbo.

When the table gets short and the blinds get even higher relative to the stack sizes in a super turbo, I become pretty LAG, at least compared to how I’ve played the early orbits and usually compared to everyone else. Stack sizes, bubble, player styles and position play a part, but basically I’m looking for any hand that I don’t want to regret not pushing all-in with; any Ace, any pair, any two big cards; probably the top 30% of hands. That’s for first-in raising.

Sometimes what happens is that the remaining players at the table are weak and are either tight or have since become tight because of the blind sizes and my aggression. Now calling does gain some strength. Since they can see that I’m shoving every third hand, my opponents, assuming that they have the chip stack to wait, can pick a top 10% hand to call my shove (assuming that they are behind me in position because if someone open limps or raises ahead of me, I’ll fold rather than play the more marginal hands).

I’ve taken myself out on the bubble or just before a number of times in this manner. I get aggressive trying to pick up blinds and to stay alive while my opponents either have a stack and wait, or if they don’t have a stack they’re often willing to let their stack dwindle down hoping that I’ll knock myself out or they’ll pick up a hand.

This has some similarities to playing at a cash table against a maniac. Wait for a good hand to play, since you know the average quality of the hands the maniac is playing is relatively low. You are gaining some control by not committing rather than being aggressive like me and committing my entire tournament on stealing with top 30% hands.

This works at a cash table, but not so well at a turbo tournament where you cannot buy more chips and where the blinds continue to rise. The only good thing is that in a super turbo the total chips available is small so that even if you get down to 1 blind or less, if you win two hands back to back you’re right back in it. If I continue to play these, I’ve got to control my aggression a bit more as too often I’m shoving my sixth hand in the last 15 and get called by a big stack who has me dominated.

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