Ask Anything on Shove-Fold Poker and ICMizer

Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
Katie and I have been getting a lot of questions recently on shove-fold poker:

** What hands should you shove or call all-in with in different spots?

** Should you really shove 22 over a previous raise?

** How do bounties and pay-jumps change the ranges?

So I'd like to try a fun little mini-AMA on the topic. Katie and I will answer your questions here, and anyone is welcome to join in asking or answering any type of question at all on pre-flop all-in poker.

Additionally, I spoke with Q from ICMizer who said he will come on to answer any questions on his software. This is the main program that I use to study shove/fold spots. So if you want to ask him about creating this type of software, how it works, explaining any features, interesting results, etc, feel free to post those as well.

So, fire away!
 
Phoenix Wright

Phoenix Wright

Legend
Loyaler
Joined
Feb 18, 2020
Total posts
2,587
Awards
4
I have a question :D

Why are suited broadway cards the preference to shove in the 30 Day Course "magic range" given? Is it because they are seldom completely dominated and the course was targeting newer players who might not make optimal shoves?

As I've gained a little more poker playing experience, I've come to discover (through some trial and error as well as intuition) that different portions of this range perform better in certain situations.

For instance, high pocket pairs (my personal preference in this range as of now) seem generally strongest preflop, but they are in really bad shape against a higher pocket pair when we are only about 20% equity to win. Therefore, I find these high pocket pairs very useful to the player who can recognize they are behind and instead fold something like QQ when the "default" is surely to shove.

Conversely, suited broadway cards (and even Ax suited to some extent) have more potential to flushes and straights - even if they are behind at the time of the All-in shove, they have outs to improve.

(p.s. for those unaware, the "magic range" discussed here is a range of hands to shove when short-stacked and perform better than some might expect. This range is all pocket pairs, all suited broadways and all suited Ax hands.)
 
F

fundiver199

Legend
Loyaler
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Total posts
10,282
Awards
1
Hi Collin

How do you deal with situations, where most players will split their range? Like we open from CO, the player in big blind, who is sitting with 14BB effective (we have him covered) jam, and the action is back on us. If we plug this into ICMizer, the program will suppose, big blind either fold or push, but in reality most people will also have a calling range.
 
V

ValentinKuzub

Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Total posts
26
Hey guys, Valentin Kuzub here, the creator of ICMIZER.
Thanks for your questions, I'd be glad to answer them. Since ICMIZER is a preflop calculator and cannot work with post flop actions and assumes that all actions are made preflop, and then players either fold or the dealer simply deals 5 cards to see the outcome of preflop al-ins, it is best to review tournament situations in ICMIZER which are likely to be played out like that. If there is a high likelihood of postflop action which mostly happens when we're working with a deep effective stack ICMIZER can be less efficient.

The obvious and best type of preflop situation that ICMIZER is perfect for is a situation when the preflop actions become limited to push or fold. This type of situation is pretty popular in modern tournaments where blinds grow fast and antes are also large making preflop pot pretty big compared to the average stack.

A couple of typical situations are - you are facing an all-in or are short-stacked and can push and limit opponents' actions to either push or fold. In these situations, the Nash equilibrium preflop shoving ranges that take into account tournament payouts and ICM pressure that ICMIZER can calculate for you provide you with a great edge. Compared to a player who is not studying with a preflop calculator and who is playing by feel and expects to make all the complex math and take all of the variables into account in their head there is going to be a night and day difference in the effectiveness of these 2 strategies.

Now to the questions.
 
V

ValentinKuzub

Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Total posts
26
I have a question :D

Why are suited broadway cards the preference to shove in the 30 Day Course "magic range" given? Is it because they are seldom completely dominated and the course was targeting newer players who might not make optimal shoves?

As I've gained a little more poker playing experience, I've come to discover (through some trial and error as well as intuition) that different portions of this range perform better in certain situations.

For instance, high pocket pairs (my personal preference in this range as of now) seem generally strongest preflop, but they are in really bad shape against a higher pocket pair when we are only about 20% equity to win. Therefore, I find these high pocket pairs very useful to the player who can recognize they are behind and instead fold something like QQ when the "default" is surely to shove.

Conversely, suited broadway cards (and even Ax suited to some extent) have more potential to flushes and straights - even if they are behind at the time of the All-in shove, they have outs to improve.

(p.s. for those unaware, the "magic range" discussed here is a range of hands to shove when short-stacked and perform better than some might expect. This range is all pocket pairs, all suited broadways and all suited Ax hands.)


Hey Phoenix Wright,
Curious question in this thread and since you are not mentioning ICMIZER directly and are working with some "magic range" that I am not really aware of I might be missing some parts of input data that are required to answer perfectly.

But I already see an opportunity to educate and explain a few concepts. When we are calculating a pushing range in ICMIZER we run 169 calculations for each possible preflop hand and check where the push option has a better expectation than the fold option.

These hands will go into pushing range, and the rest into folding range. Interestingly the pushing range usually seems to have a shape of the "magic range" that you mention, pairs, broadway, and some suited aces, then some offsuit aces but with higher non-ace cards (usually).

Now some hands are obviously weaker than the other so if you can push for A2s+ your expectation when you push A2s is lower than when you push A9s. However, your opponent cannot know which hand you actually have so he has to work against your entire range of preflop cards, not the actual A2s that you happen to hold.

In your scenario you mention that you're worried that your pair can be dominated by the other pair and if that happens you'll only have 20% equity. That is true but you need to think about expected value of the entire range of possible outcomes, not one particular outcome that is not looking good.

Also note that in tournaments, for example on the bubble if you're a big stack your optimal pushing range can be pretty wide. While that is optimal play it doesn't mean that the range is particularly strong. In fact, if you're called in such situations you're usually not excited about it at all because your opponents are limiting themselves to the strongest hands which can be as strong as TT+ and maybe AQ+ in some bubble situations.

So you are not happy to see them call you with such range when you hold a profitable 98s shoving pre-flop hand. Generally, you are likely to lose when you're called. However, note that you are not guaranteed to lose, even if they are tight you usually have at least 20% to win, but the majority of the +EV equity of push comes not from being called, but from your opponent having to fold very often because he doesn't have the hand he wants to call you with often enough.

So you may push 4 hands in a row and grow your stack significantly. Then you may get a call and you only have 30% to win. But you do happen to win 30% and can continue the pressure. This is something that is often happening on the bubble of sit-and-go tournaments. Every other player wants someone else to call the big stack and is waiting for a great hand to call. Meanwhile, everyone is being quickly blinded out and the big stack is growing his stack steadily without even a need to show his hand pushing one hand after the other.

Why Arag or AXs can be a part of this shoving range? There are 2 parts of strength that can make a hand a push
1) Strength that comes when you get called. This is pure hand strength, a feature of a strong preflop hand QQ or AK.
2) Strength that ensures that you do not get called - this usually is true for AX hands, as you having an ace limits the chance that your opponents happen to hold a strong AX hand that they will call you with!

Most players assume they always need to think about the strength of the first kind, but that's the strength that is needed when you make a call and thus guarantee a showdown and need to demonstrate a hand that wins against an opponent's hand.

When you push through, you do not always get called and thus you happen to also hand hands that are strong based on 2nd strength definition and limit the chance of being called.

Something that can be seen as 3rd type of strength is relative hand strength against potential opponent calling range. To understand this you need to realize that if your opponent is only going to call you with AK then even AQ will be dominated if called.
However, a hand like 98s will have pretty good equity vs AK.

Normally, ace helps a lot and adds to hand strength of 2nd type, but this 3rd type of strength can explain some of ICMIZER ranges which happen to have seemingly weak hands as push recommendation and stronger "in the vacuum" hands as fold recommendation. It usually means that if called the "stronger" hands actually end up weaker against tight opponent ranges due to them being dominated by stronger aces.

Hope this helps a little!
 
Last edited:
johnnylawford

johnnylawford

Rock Star
Joined
May 11, 2019
Total posts
443
Awards
2
Nice thread! My general question is with satellites how close to the bubble do you tighten up if you're on an 8-10 bb stack? I'm thinking particularly of Hyper Turbo sats where blinds are going up every 1-2 minutes.
 
Phoenix Wright

Phoenix Wright

Legend
Loyaler
Joined
Feb 18, 2020
Total posts
2,587
Awards
4
Thanks for participating in this thread ValentinKuzub. We got a bunch of "big names" here now - being the creator of ICMIZER is certainly some credential :)

Also thanks for your response to my earlier question. You can blame Collin for the "magic range" I speak of :D

This is a shoving range that Collin presented in the 30 Day CardsChat course:

https://www.cardschat.com/forum/learning-poker-57/cardschat-a-new-ebook-training-course-455641/

The "magic range" given is supposed to be a range of hands that perform "surprisingly well" in shove-fold situations, but naturally this would be layered with other holdings such as AK.

Finally, special thanks for the attention to the Ax hands in that range I noted because I wasn't thinking in the sense of blockers when I posted this. It makes sense logically, but I wasn't thinking this in the strict situation of shove-fold. I was more thinking of Ax shoving hands as hands with good post-flop potential if called and at least Ace-high with some showdown value if we don't improve. It also prevents us from being too nitty with the shoving since there are only 6 combinations of pocket pair hands, so there are not enough of them for us to be waiting all day if we are short-stacked ;)
 
F

fundiver199

Legend
Loyaler
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Total posts
10,282
Awards
1
The "magic range" given is supposed to be a range of hands that perform "surprisingly well" in shove-fold situations, but naturally this would be layered with other holdings such as AK.

The "magic range" as well as other chart based solutions are approximations, which are intented to make it easier for us to at least get closer to making the correct decisions in real time. A lot of different variables goes into the exact push-call ranges, but in real time we can not use ICMizer to make the analysis because:

a) Most poker sites dont allow it
b) We would run the risk of timing out especially if we multitable
 
V

ValentinKuzub

Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Total posts
26
The "magic range" as well as other chart based solutions are approximations, which are intented to make it easier for us to at least get closer to making the correct decisions in real time. A lot of different variables goes into the exact push-call ranges, but in real time we can not use ICMizer to make the analysis because:

a) Most poker sites dont allow it
b) We would run the risk of timing out especially if we multitable


Hi, thanks for the explanation!
Well, I understand things better now. The poker player career consists of several stages.
At first, you're overwhelmed by information and simply want some simple rules of thumb.
You're making huge mistakes all over the place and hardly understand anything.

At that point, a static "magic table" can help to establish some base. However, note that a "magic table" is like a stopped watch that shows the correct time just twice per day. A static push fold table doesn't take into account the parameters of your situation so it is pretty much never correct!

Now some poker players want to move up in skill in stakes and if they do they quickly realize that the push fold table for the right situation should take into account complex variables like payouts (far from the bubble, bubble, ITM? all different kinds of the situation) or relative stack size (are we a big stack and can bully or a short stack, or maybe a medium stack which requires the most tricky strategy) depth of stacks of players after us, and our position?

So in reality you need a magic push fold table for each specific spot and they are pretty much never the same. This is what ICMIZER can calculate for you. Now you're right, you cannot use ICMIZER while playing as it would grant unfair advantage to you against other players who don't use it.

However, you can use it while you are not playing and while it may seem that learning how to intuitively build a push/fold table while playing and take into account the current factors is outright impossible, in reality, it is very possible. One of the ways of learning that is using SNG Coach - our software trainer that will ask you about push fold decisions in situations that you want to practice. As you answer the questions the difficulty goes up.

The process leads to better intuition in the real world, you start to understand how the situation affects your decision and to make superior decisions while playing and with ICMIZER turned off compared to any "magic table" or even a dozen "magic tables".

It does take practice and effort though but this will allow you to move up in stakes or increase your ROI. This is what separates winning PRO players from losing and beginner players. So once you're past the initial stage of learning and want to improve more you can grab ICMIZER and SNG Coach and practice there.

Our SNG Coach leaderboard shows that some players reach extremely good intuition of situations and after enough practice in SNG Coach can ace even the hardest SNG Coach questions. This indicates that it can indeed be learned with practice and no magic table will help you to reach similar results in SNG Coach or in real world tournaments.

I can also recommend to watch my basic tutorial video where I explain the theory of preflop, ICM and cover the troubles of static push fold tables and present the better ways to learn tournament poker. It can be found here:
 
V

ValentinKuzub

Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Total posts
26
Nice thread! My general question is with satellites how close to the bubble do you tighten up if you're on an 8-10 bb stack? I'm thinking particularly of Hyper Turbo sats where blinds are going up every 1-2 minutes.


Hey, this sounds like a general question that can be very hard to answer. How do you define starting conditions? How tight is "tight"? What kind of satellite it is?

Did you try running the spots in ICMIZER by using MTT mode to emulate pre-bubble, bubble, and ITM hands and checking how the solution changes?

I'd be glad to help with a particular hand. But a descriptive answer to this kind of question will not be as good as checking the actual correct answer in ICMIZER.
 
johnnylawford

johnnylawford

Rock Star
Joined
May 11, 2019
Total posts
443
Awards
2
Hey, this sounds like a general question that can be very hard to answer. How do you define starting conditions? How tight is "tight"? What kind of satellite it is?

Did you try running the spots in ICMIZER by using MTT mode to emulate pre-bubble, bubble, and ITM hands and checking how the solution changes?

I'd be glad to help with a particular hand. But a descriptive answer to this kind of question will not be as good as checking the actual correct answer in ICMIZER.


Here's an example I come across regularly:

pokerstars $1.10 satellite to $11 Bounty Builder (Hyper Turbo 1R1A)
55 seats awarded
70 players left
Blinds and Antes: 10,000/5,000/1,000
Current stack: 85,000
Avg. Stack: 110,000
Next level: 12,000/6,000 (<1 min)
Structure: Blinds increasing every 3 minutes

What would be your opening range here and would it always be push/fold?
 
Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
Hi Collin

How do you deal with situations, where most players will split their range? Like we open from CO, the player in big blind, who is sitting with 14BB effective (we have him covered) jam, and the action is back on us. If we plug this into ICMizer, the program will suppose, big blind either fold or push, but in reality most people will also have a calling range.


Great point.

I think that as the big blind against a decent player who's opened against us, the solution is to call with a polarized range: Hands that are profitable to call but too weak to shove like 64s or K2s; as well as some strong hands that play well like KQs. If we're the cutoff and the big blind jams against us, you could modify his range to assume he's polarized. But I think you'd often get a similar answer without doing this process because you'll include both weaker and stronger hands in the big blind's range which may roughly balance out.
 
Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
I have a question :D

Why are suited broadway cards the preference to shove in the 30 Day Course "magic range" given? Is it because they are seldom completely dominated and the course was targeting newer players who might not make optimal shoves?

Very good questions --

As Valentin points out, if you want to study shove/fold at a deep level you have to go beyond ideas like the magic range. But I do think that the concept works very well for getting your feet wet in shove/fold (just like you said) because these hands tend to have good equity against many typical calling ranges.

When it comes to the broadways, suitedness adds at least a few % in equity in most situations which makes these hands perform solidly. They're only crushed by the highest pairs and are either flipping or a favorite against most pairs; and are just a slight underdog against most AX hands.
 
killing_random

killing_random

Rock Star
Joined
Mar 3, 2021
Total posts
351
My question about the shove-fold will be:
Why I need to shove at all unless the size of my stack will force me to? Can't I just feed upon small and medium banks, isn't this would be enough, without that variance nightmare?
Even if there uppears some "push-exploiter", eventually he'll kill himself against another donkey, without my aid. Just make a use of your fold-ev and let fishes swallow each other.
 
Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
My question about the shove-fold will be:
Why I need to shove at all unless the size of my stack will force me to? Can't I just feed upon small and medium banks, isn't this would be enough, without that variance nightmare?
Even if there uppears some "push-exploiter", eventually he'll kill himself against another donkey, without my aid. Just make a use of your fold-ev and let fishes swallow each other.


Because it's your most profitable option. For example, suppose you have 25bb and 22 in the small blind. The button min-raises.

Your stack is big enough that you don't have to play shove-fold. But shoving is usually profitable relative to folding (whereas calling and 3-betting small tend to be -EV plays in this type of spot).

If you believe your highest EV (most profitable) option is to jam, then go for it! Even if it increases variance.
 
Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
Nice thread! My general question is with satellites how close to the bubble do you tighten up if you're on an 8-10 bb stack? I'm thinking particularly of Hyper Turbo sats where blinds are going up every 1-2 minutes.


Johnny I'll leave your specific hand question to Valentin since he's the expert on getting an exact reply to these, but I'd say generally the biggest factor it depends on is stack distribution.

For example, suppose 8 tickets and 12 are left. If you're the short stack with 8bb, I wouldn't tighten much. Whereas if there are six players shorter than you, I would tighten quite a bit facing any prior action.
 
killing_random

killing_random

Rock Star
Joined
Mar 3, 2021
Total posts
351
Because it's your most profitable option. For example, suppose you have 25bb and 22 in the small blind. The button min-raises.

Your stack is big enough that you don't have to play shove-fold. But shoving is usually profitable relative to folding (whereas calling and 3-betting small tend to be -EV plays in this type of spot).

If you believe your highest EV (most profitable) option is to jam, then go for it! Even if it increases variance.

For cash - sure
:dontknow: But for the mtt idk...​
 
Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
For cash - sure
:dontknow: But for the mtt idk...​


Of course, you can play MTTs with any approach you want :)

But if you're folding profitable spots with 25bb because you want to avoid variance, that will put you at a disadvantage relative to players comfortable with this risk and willing to seize +EV spots that put their stack at risk.
 
F

fundiver199

Legend
Loyaler
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Total posts
10,282
Awards
1
Hi Collin

Are there any general population tendencies in online micro or low stakes MTT, which in your experience we just adjust for when analysing a hand in ICMizer? Like people calling to much in certain spots, not jamming as wide as they are supposed to etc.
 
V

ValentinKuzub

Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Total posts
26
Hey guys, sorry for the delayed response, but as CEO of ICMIZER I am quite busy so I will try to hop into this thread when possible.
Hi Collin

Are there any general population tendencies in online micro or low stakes MTT, which in your experience we just adjust for when analysing a hand in ICMizer? Like people calling to much in certain spots, not jamming as wide as they are supposed to etc.



Hey fundiver, I hope Collin doesn't mind my take on this.
Curious question. Given that there are different rooms (meaning different levels of skills for example PokerStars 10$ can be harder than some other less popular room 10$ tournament) and different stakes, it can be hard to answer such a question.

It becomes especially hard when you realize that you're rarely dealing with "general" opponents completely without information. So if someone is playing wide preflop, it can indicate that they will also call or shove (or both) wider than Nash equilibrium suggests, or even than the average player at the limit will play.

So in order to get the best possible results, you need to exploit all of your opponents to the maximum. For that you first need to know the Nash equilibrium strategy. You can learn it in ICMIZER or SNG Coach. Once you know how the optimal play looks like, you can look at the cards your opponents show up with and compare their strategy to the mathematically correct Nash strategy that you now know.

Then you'll quickly see patterns like them calling wider or tighter than Nash suggests, or shoving wider or tighter. This will allow you to adjust to them accordingly.

If we talk about general advice, I think I can still give a few of them
1) The higher the stakes, the more players at the table are aware of Nash equilibrium strategy and the closer their pushing and calling ranges are to the Nash ranges that you can calculate in ICMIZER
2) Most players have very bad understanding of relative hand strength. This means that even on tight satellite bubble they can still call all-ins with hands like KK for example, which can be a very bad play with a medium stack on the bubble.

Now this is an extreme example, but it can be expanded to a wider set of situations. For example they may have trouble folding "strong" hands like AJ or 88 when facing a push from a big stack, even though it may be mathematically correct to fold these in the specific highly ICM pressured tournament spot. (relative hand strength of these hands can be low, even though the hands belong to a narrow top% of hands "in the vacuum" or in a HU situation)

3) Another adjustment which weaker players often do is - they do not push 100% hands when the Nash equilibrium allows them to. They still may fold bottom 20% of hands thinking they are too weak, so their pushing range becomes tighter than 100%, so if you call them as if they are 100% you will be making many mistakes calling too wide.

4) Some aggressive players overvalue the ICM pressure and a large stack size they get, and may push 100% instead of let's say 70% (that the situation actually allows them), technically making an exploitable mistake.
 
Last edited:
V

ValentinKuzub

Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 6, 2021
Total posts
26
Here's an example I come across regularly:

Pokerstars $1.10 satellite to $11 Bounty Builder (Hyper Turbo 1R1A)
55 seats awarded
70 players left
Blinds and Antes: 10,000/5,000/1,000
Current stack: 85,000
Avg. Stack: 110,000
Next level: 12,000/6,000 (<1 min)
Structure: Blinds increasing every 3 minutes

What would be your opening range here and would it always be push/fold?


Hey. Generally in satellites close to bubble you want to be on the pushers side, not on the callers side. So if you raise 2bb and opponent pushes, you will have to fold most of the hands. So it's far better to push yourself and force opponents to fold.

Now maybe there are some reasons not to open push here, I think it is pretty safe to say you aren't losing a lot by only push/folding.

Here is a sample calculation in ICMIZER.
https://www.icmpoker.com/icmizer/#fCwjOc
https://www.icmpoker.com/screenshot/lFUxGK/

As you can see, the optimal strategy is that everyone should push 100% of hands if given such chance, and rest players should pretty much fold everything except QQ+.



At 1.1$ they are likely not to play as tight as they should according to Nash and may call with "trash" like 99 or AQ or worse.

In that case, you may want to limit your pushing range a little bit.


Here I've assigned players behind you to call with a 4.8% range:

99+,AK, AQs, AQo[50% of the time]
Now we should be pretty tight.
https://www.icmpoker.com/screenshot/lwTNDW/
If they are at 2.6% , we are again super wide:
https://www.icmpoker.com/screenshot/leStyu/

In order to be efficient with these kinds of spots, you need to work in ICMIZER for some hours to learn the optimal strategy and how it depends on your opponents' ranges.
 
I

IDntEatFsh

Rising Star
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Total posts
16
I have a question about ICMIzer & the SNG Coach element specifically.

I am totally new to this tool and I am interested to know how to make the most of it.

How is it supposed to work, you answer lots of questions and over time you develop an increasingly conscious 'intuition' of the right play? I can see that working, maybe, but slowly? Is there some good theory I can learn alongside that will help? Or a suggested approach to incorporating the sng coach into a study plan?

It's VERY possible I am completely missing the point, in which case I welcome being set straight.
 
Collin Moshman

Collin Moshman

Poker Expert
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Total posts
1,317
Awards
3
I have a question about ICMIzer & the SNG Coach element specifically.

I am totally new to this tool and I am interested to know how to make the most of it.

How is it supposed to work, you answer lots of questions and over time you develop an increasingly conscious 'intuition' of the right play? I can see that working, maybe, but slowly? Is there some good theory I can learn alongside that will help? Or a suggested approach to incorporating the sng coach into a study plan?

It's VERY possible I am completely missing the point, in which case I welcome being set straight.


Here's my take on this:

Yes, better intuition, but also to see where you're making the biggest mistakes.

If a question comes up where you're positive on the answer and get it right, great.

If a question comes up that you're not sure or get it wrong, that's where you're going to learn the most. Make a note of it and study similar spots. Your shove-fold game will instantly improve.

So that's the plan -- see where you're making the biggest mistakes and study to improve in exactly those areas.
 
killing_random

killing_random

Rock Star
Joined
Mar 3, 2021
Total posts
351
One more question.
Is your current position has something to do with push-fold?
If I playing SnG or ICM at MTT and I'm >15bb, even 30bb+, but at the last place maybe I should start to push-fold right away. Like this I have pretty good chances to jump from last place to top ~5, I think it would worth the risk.
 
Folding in Poker
Top