Folding Good Hands in Multi Table Tournaments

Multi Table Tournaments: Folding Good Hands/Pocket Pairs

Folding Good HandsMulti Table Tournaments are treacherous things. You can play great poker for three or four hours and then seconds later the little box has popped up telling you that you finished 142nd of 1200, agonisingly short of the money.

Sometimes you will get all in preflop with KK and the other guy turns AA, nothing to see there, curse your luck and move along. But often it will be the result of a series of entirely logical and individually justifiable steps that send your stack into the middle only to be scooped by someone with a hand that was better than yours every step of the way.

This article refers only to the late stages of multi-table-tournaments and when sitting on a decent stack (this means approaching the average or larger). If you applied the following to the early stages of an MTT or a SnG you will be playing way to weak-tight and will struggle to build a stack or make the money.

The situation below is a very specific one, but it is one that will occur regularly toward the end of MTTs and can be a bear-trap in the way of your quest for final table glory. As always poker is about context and the ideas below can be applied in a number of different ways or even if the situation dictates, ignored completely!

Imagine the following scenario.

You are in a $22 MTT, there are 30 players left of 390 and you have made the money. The average stack is 20,000 and you have 25,000, the blinds are 750/1500.

You are dealt AQ in the cut off (one from the button) at a 10 seat table. An early position player (villain) raises to 4000 (his stack is 30,000) and it folds to you. What should you consider before acting?

Most important is villain’s image.

Has he been involved in a lot of pots? If he has, does he raise when he gets involved? This is where Pokertracker does its work. If he’s been voluntarily involved in 15% or less of hands (his VPIP%) then you should already be wary. Worse still if he has a preflop raise significantly lower than his VPIP% then it is unlikely that he is making a move in early position with anything other than a decent hand as his stats indicate he limps when he speculates and raises when he has a top ten starting hand. So let’s assume he has a VPIP% of 15% and a preflop raise of 5% over 100 hands. If you don’t have Pokertracker then your notes should give you a similar indication of his play.

So what is our reply to his 4000 raise? We have position, assuming the button doesn’t come along. We have a strong starting hand and we have sufficient chips to call and leave ourselves with 21,000.

(there is a case for reraising here if villain has shown he can fold to resistance, but for the purposes of this article we’ll look at the call)

What are the possible outcomes if we call?

Assuming no further action, the pot would be 10,025.

Lets see some flops.


Obviously this is not a representative sample but consider which of these flops is a good result for us. Clearly Q high is great and with A high we have top pair 2nd kicker. However we have to now seriously consider villains range. If we assume that a player with such a low VPIP% is only raising something decent that must give us

And possibly AJ, KQ and 99.

The pokerstove analysis of AQ versus both these ranges is included at the end of the article for information.

There is of course no reason why he can’t have anything else, but in this situation, late in a tourney against a decent player, you won’t lose your house putting him on this range. Look again at the flops and consider his range and there are a lot more situations where we are losing than winning. What is worse and this is the fundamental point of this article

  • there are very few flops where we both hit that we hit better
  • there are lots of flops that we both hit that we hit worse

Let’s give ourselves and A79 flop.

Villain bets 4000 (he’s solid so he’s usually betting the flop regardless) and the action is with us. If we call we push the pot to 18,025 and leave ourselves with 17,000. If villain bets the turn (presumably at least 8,000) then are we really able to get away?

If we reraise to 10,000 (the minimum that is likely to take the pot here) are we really laying down to a reraise all in?

Essentially we find ourselves in situation where against AK or AA we are losing most if not all of our stack and we were behind from the moment the cards were dealt. Surely we should be able to avoid being cold-decked with AQ at such a late stage in a tourney?

If however he has KK, QQ, JJ, TT then he probably still betting out on the flop but is folding to any resistance.

Realistically the largest amount of chips we are winning (profit) is the preflop bet plus a continuation bet (approximately 6,000-8,000 extra chips) and to do this we are running a fairly significant risk of losing a lot more of our chips. If villain doesn’t make the continuation bet, it could be even less.

So the solution? Fold preflop

As said above in many circumstances this would be weak-tight but here it allows us to pick a battle of our own choosing and fight on our terms rather than our opponent’s.

JJ is a similar hand. Once again,

  • there are very few flops where we both hit that we hit better
  • there are lots of flops that we both hit that we hit worse

It may seem crazy to fold JJ preflop when it could easily be coinflip, but what flops are you going to hit that you really like? And do you really want to push and be called by QQ, KK, AA after 3+ hours?

This may all seem very weak, but it is really a way of trying to minimise situations where you feel you are at the mercy of the cards and despite playing “correctly” you bust out. In the right circumstances you should of course be extremely aggressive with a wide range of hands, making the most of position, your table image and the weaknesses of other players.

Sometimes folding hand like AQ or JJ preflop to a fairly small raise is a sign of your confidence in your ability to pick the right situation rather than treating certain beats as inevitable because of playing certain cards mechanically and automatically.

Late in MTTs it is these marginal hands that are often the killers, either by costing us our entire stack or a significant part of it. There’s certainly a time for playing them late in tournies, against a much looser opponent, with larger or smaller stacks and certainly when first to act, but sometimes the problem can be solved by avoiding it completely.

Thanks for reading.

Pokerstove analyis of AQ versus likely ranges equity win tie pots won pots tied

Hand 0: 34.397% 24.06% 10.33% 18542395 7961685.50 { AcQd }

Hand 1: 65.603% 55.27% 10.33% 42587914 7961685.50 { TT+, AQs+, AQo+ }

equity win tie pots won pots tied

Hand 0: 47.621% 40.86% 06.76% 52470381 8685803.00 { AcQd }

Hand 1: 52.379% 45.62% 06.76% 58580813 8685803.00 { 99+, AJs+, KQs, AJo+, KQo }

Article Written by Irexes.

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