You can’t be on the defence all the time, especially given the longer, drawn out nature of MTTs, so you’re going to have to stand tall and fight for your stack now and then. Fear not, here’s a prime offensive arsenal of weapons to help you out. Read up on the move and how much you’ll need to front to make it work.
1. The Move: The Jam
The Investment: 5-20 big blinds.
Get in your opponents face. I’m talking open shoving, raising all-in, collecting the blinds, antes and any limps. Be ruthless, but not careless.
To increase your odds of being successful with the jam, look for these things:
Number of players left to act. The more players left to act, the greater the likelihood that someone has been dealt a hand they will call you with, and we want folds, not calls!
Weak/tight players left to act who will not want to call with mediocre hands.
Stacks that will be crippled (lose > 60% of their chips) if they call and lose. The more someone stands to lose (in terms of odds of winning the tournament) by calling your jam and losing, the less likely they will be to call you, thereby increasing your fold equity. A word of warning: be wary of opening to steal with this stack size. You will usually have the right price to call someone’s all-in bet if they come over the top of you, and you don’t want to be putting your tournament life on the line with a mediocre hand. Be patient and wait for your spot.
2. The Move: The Re-Jam
The Investment: 12-24 big blinds.
To re-jam you’re going to want to re-raise all-in over an open. It’s ballsy, but given the right know-how and circumstances, it’s enticingly profitable. Here’s how it works: Someone opens the pot and you move all-in over the top and collect the blinds, antes and the villain’s open. Simple as that.
If your opponent is ‘priced in’ (getting favorable pot odds) then you do not have fold equity and you cannot re-jam with bad hands. Likewise, the better your opponents odds, and the tighter their range for opening the pot are in the first place, the more you are limited in regards to what hands with which you can move all-in. This means the more chips you are jamming (i.e. the higher your risk, while the reward remains the same) the stricter your criteria should be for moving all-in.
Against very loose players, who will experience a serious dent to their stack if they call you and lose the pot, you can re-jam every side. In some situations you can re-jam any two cards because:
a) the frequency at which you will succeed;
b) the amount you will gain when your opponent(s) fold is extremely high;
c) any two cards can make a suck-out and get you a full double on the rare occasions that this maniac actually finds a hand.
Calculating profitability on re-jams:
cEV = (chips we win when villain folds x frequency this happens) + (chips we win when villain calls x frequency this happens) – (chips we lose when villain calls x frequency this happens)
Don’t underestimate the importance of the human element! Notice that a large part of your success with this play depends on your having been observant of the behaviours of your tablemate(s). How much credit is your target going to give you for having a good hand.
Be careful with opening to steal when you are sitting with these smaller stack sizes. Opponents can re-raise you and leverage your stack, thereby forcing you to either play for all your chips or surrender your steal attempt. They are effectively betting 5 or 6 chips to apply the same pressure as they would’ve if they bet your entire stack. When dealing with this stack size, it’s generally best to only open hands that you are willing to take to the felt.
3. The Move: Stop and Go
The Investment: 8-12 big blinds.
Stop and go is like a re-jam after the flop. You defend your blind then when the flop comes down you move all- in, collecting the blinds, antes and your opponents’ open (if they fold).
You’re going to make this play when your stack is too short to have fold equity pre-flop (your opponent will call your re-shove with any hand that they opened with) – just make sure you make it against a loose opponent who will often miss the flop and not be able to call our shove.
Example: The villain who opens JTo or 55 would call our re-raise all-in pre-flop. The flop comes A74 and we move all-in into them as it’s pretty hard for them to call.
4. The Move: The Coin-Flip
The Investment: 5-40 big blinds.
A coin-flip is when we call someone’s all-in or move all-in ourselves and get called. We then play that pot and hope for the best. To use this move successfully, we want to be ahead of our opponent’s range OR be getting favorable pot odds. The gain in our stack size flexibility if you win should outweigh the loss in flexibility if you lose. Always look at how the coin-flip will impact odds of winning the event or reaching high paying position.
5. The Move: Blind Steal
The Investment: 24+ big blinds.
To pull off a blind steal you want to raise and try to collect the blinds and antes. The fewer players to get through (i.e. the better our position), the greater your chances of success. Your opponents’ player types will also matter here, as their ranges for defending their blind or calling our raise in position determines how often the steal will be successful (i.e. loose players play more hands than tight players).
When you’re likely to get a fold either pre-flop or with a continuation bet on the flop, your cards really don’t matter. If you’re likely to have to play multiple streets of betting then you want to open with hands that can connect with the flop; the bigger the better. Suited adds a little sweetness, and an ace is always alright.
So, based on stack size and style of other players you have to determine how likely you are to get away with your steal.
NOTE: It is actually possible to steal on very shallow stacks (as low as 12 big blinds) provided that you will not be priced-in to call if you get re-shoved on, but it is a pretty high risk play, because you lose a large % of your stack when your steal is unsuccessful.
PRECAUTIONS for Blind Steals: As your stack gets shorter, any steal attempts should be made with your absolute worst hands. This is because with your mediocre hands you are better off raising all-in to “take your equity” (i.e. actualize your percentage chance of winning by seeing five cards) rather than raising and making a mathematically bad fold and not realizing any of your equity. Be very, very, very wary when going for a steal with under 18 big blinds, as raising and having to fold significantly hurts your stack and your fold equity.
6. The Move: The Isolation Raise
The Investment: 24+ big blinds.
The isolation raise is a great way to single-out a weak player who open limps. Since you are after one player
in particular, you want all other players to fold to your raise. You’re going to be working with the exact same principles and strategies as the blind steal. The only difference with an isolation raise is that there will be limpers ahead of you who are less likely to let the steal through, but fairly likely to win with a bet after the flop, so be take the same precautions as you did in the blind steal to help ensure this move works out in your favour.
7. The Move: The Re-Steal (3 Betting)
The Investment: 28+ big blinds.
To execute a re-steal, you are going to re-raise someone who opens the pot, effectively collecting the blinds, the antes and their raise. As we’ve discussed earlier in the book, part and parcel of stealing is policing the thieves. This is one reason why re-stealing is best done when in position (if we are 3-betting with weak hands our goal is to get our opponent to fold pre-flop; we do not want to play post-flop). Even when we are dealing with mediocre hands we want to have the hand over and done with by the flop. You aren’t looking to get into post-flop battles with this play, so primarily use this move against people who are not likely to continue when faced with your 3-bet.
As with a steal, the fewer players left the better. You don’t want anyone getting a solid spread of board cards and ambushing you. You are also going to want to use this move against players with shallower stacks since they have fewer hands to call to see the flop.
Once again, you are also going to want to consider your image. The perceived strength of your hand is a big factor in how often your re-steal will be successful. If your opponent thinks you are very likely to be attempting a re-steal they may hit you back with a 4-bet, provided they have a big enough stack to do that without committing themselves.
A player who opens 42 % of hands…
…will only 4 bet all-in with 8.7% of hands…
Versus this particular player we can expect him to fold to a 3-bet 80% of the time. What % of hands they are opening with and what % of hands they are willing to 4-bet all in with, combined with the chances of someone waking up behind with a super premium hand will give you the mathematics of how often your play will work.
As with the steal play, we can technically re-steal with as low as 20 big blinds without being pot committed, granted our opponent opens to 2 big blinds and we make it 4 or 5 big blinds. On the other hand, it is quite detrimental to our winning chances when the play fails. If we are 3- betting with anything decent (any pair, medium ace, any broadway) there’s a good chance we are getting correct odds to call off and gamble against the opponents 4-betting all-in range. When it comes to the 3-bet, we’re damned if we make a mathematically poor fold and damned if we gamble for our tournament life with a marginal hand when we could have just folded pre-flop. Use this tactic wisely.
8. The Move: The Squeeze Play
The Investment: 28+ big blinds.
The squeeze play is the same as the re-steal (3-bet) except that there is a raise and a call, rather than just a raise. Your strategy on how to play should likewise be the same, but you will need to know the reward is slightly higher because of the added ‘dead money’ that the caller put in the pot. With this in mind, look for a loose opener AND weak passive caller. You can even look for a tight caller, provided it’s not a super tight caller (they actually rarely have a strong enough hand to call a 3-bet, as they would have re-raised those strong hands themselves rather than calling). The squeeze play is best executed when the flat caller is unlikely to be trapping.
9. The Move: The 4-Bet Re-Re-Steal
The Investment: 40+ big blinds.
Here’s how it works: someone opens, someone raises them, we RAISE again! Collect the blinds, antes, the first player’s raise and the second player’s re-raise and enjoy a very hefty heist.
To pull off this smooth move you’ll need a loose opener and a loose 3-bettor who is capable of 3- betting light. The best situation is if you have identified a player who is picking on another player and is therefore very likely to be full of it. Your opponent’s stack size is important; they have to have stacks where they are capable of opening light, and a deep enough stack to be 3-betting light. If your opponents have stack sizes where they will not be making any moves, then making a 4-bet bluff will be both pointless and expensive.
The analysis here is the same as with the 3-bet, except now (because we are putting a fourth bet in the pot), people’s ranges for continuing will be even narrower. Although we are playing back at two players, they will usually have to fold anything that is not a top 5% hand (in some cases they will fold all but the top 2 or 3 % of
hands). So provided they are opening and 3-betting a reasonable amount, we can expect to turn a profit.
The beauty of 4-betting is that we don’t have to make it all that big and a success rate of around 50% will typically show an instant profit (with the bet sizes involved determining the exact breakeven frequency) The hand will look very strong and will fold out a TON of our opponent’s range. Again, our image is an extremely important consideration here and can make or break this move.