Final Table Puzzles, Pt. 1: Thinking in the Face of the Big Shove
Come, walk with me through a final table.
It happened Sunday morning, an ordinary $30 turbo, six-max on PokerStars. The kind you register to fill that extra table slot. I came into the final table with a huge chip lead on account of running unconscionably hot.
Once we were in the money, I shoved , got called by and , and scooped. Unconscionably. Hot.
But the deck’s kindness can reverse itself at any time, and once we reached the final table I was made to work for it thereafter. Let’s review that toil, starting with a difficult decision soon after the final table began.
A Raise, Then a Push
Once we lost the sixth-place player, here were the stacks in question:
Hero (UTG): 55 BB
Cutoff (CO): 47 BB
Button (BTN): 20 BB
Small Blind (SB): 19.5 BB
Big Blind (BB): 22 BB
And here were the remaining payouts:
On the first hand of five-handed play I am dealt -offsuit, min-raise, and face a shove from the BTN. The others step aside. My opponent is a regular, which leads me to believe (among other things) that is not in this player’s shoving range.
So I assign the player the following range of possible hands:
- down to -suited)
- through -offsuit)
- pairs from to
I think our villain would three-bet smaller with some nut set of hands. This range may be wide enough to include and higher pairs plus , but I cannot be sure about that. Many regulars in this situation induce with a wider range than they should in theory.
Giving my opponent credit, or hedging if you like, I took out and , but kept those other strong hands.
Now the BTN also might have flat-called with some of those hands, such as suited hands like , , , and . To solve this problem as we work out the player’s range, I’d point out two things.
First, if -suited flat-calls but isn’t in the shoving range we’re assigning, that does not perturb our calculation.
Next, look back at those stacks in the blinds. This is a very precarious position from which to flat-call. Indeed hands like or might be the best flat-calls and nothing else because of the prospect of a three-bet squeeze coming.
My central argument would be that this regular will recognize that some hands that I benefit from having in a shoving range when I hold — hands like --suited and -offsuit, for example — will be folding or shoving because flatting is visibly precarious.
A Changing Landscape
So now that we have our opponent’s range, we can plug this situation into ICMizer’s future game simulator which in turn tells us this is essentially a break-even call, dollar-wise.
Of my four opponents, this player is the second best. If I fold I will have a similar stack, more or less, to the CO player on my left. If I call and lose, I’ll be down to 35 BB, and I’ll still have an advantage on the two blinds to my right. If I call and win, I’ll have the clear big stack at the table and the opportunity to wreak havoc. The player on my left will no longer enjoy parity with me.
I think this is close.
We are not going to be making a huge mistake either way, in all likelihood. I think my options are going to largely remain intact when I lose. I don’t have a positional advantage to maintain with a fold, but I can inaugurate a reign of terror if I call and win. I think that clinches it.
I called, my opponent had -offsuit, and I continued running well above expectation.
In the next part we’ll look at some postflop situations I found myself in as play became short-handed.
Gareth Chantler is a professional poker player who encourages you to check out the interviews, videos, promotions, and strategy articles at the Full Tilt Blog.