What Not to Do Online: Don't Just Stop Thinking and Shove
Once the pot grows bigger than the stacks left behind, players often tend to underestimate the mistakes that can be made.
The fact is, your poker calculations should not stop until all the money is in the middle. As long as there is something left for which to play, it should always be clear to you when acting whether you are bluffing, value betting, looking to get to a showdown, or looking to catch a bluff.
The following hand of six-handed 100NL provides a clear example of a player reaching that point in a hand where the pot became so big compared to the remaining stacks, he chose to shove rather than to think.
A Raising War Preflop
The hand starts with a break-even regular raising from under the gun 3x to $3. It folds to the small blind where another break-even regular three-bet to $12. After the big blind folded, under the UTG player four-bet to $27.
The players had $115 in the effective stacks. Let's stop the action right here and talk about ranges.
It goes without saying that either player should want to get all in with , but for hands like and it may not be so clear that the small blind will want to go all in and be called.
These hands are actually a kind of semi-bluff when pushed preflop. When the small blind gets it all in with these hands and is called, he is hoping to run into the bottom of the under the gun's get-it-all-in range. When you prefer folds to calls, but have equity just in case, you're semi-bluffing by definition.
For this reason, many players have opted to begin flat-calling in such narrow-range situations. If they call with strong hands like and , they can win money postflop from keeping opponent's bluffs in the pot, hands they often dominate.
This is an important point since the small blind did end up calling the UTG player's four-bet. So we have two ranges — the small blind's, which is quite strong and includes and but not , and under the gun's range, which includes and , but might also include and bluffs. Calls in this situation should be strong, while raises could be weak.
Getting to the Turn
The flop came , and the small blind checked. Under the gun kept the lead with a small bet of $14 into $55. The small blind decided this was the time to raise, making the price of poker $47. That seemed to be representing , though such a hand could easily slow play as well. Under the gun called.
The pot had ballooned to $149 with just $55 effectively behind when the turn brought the , putting two diamonds on the board (along with the jack). A lot of action had taken place, but the hand, and hence the decision-making, was not over.
Now let's consider under the gun's most vulnerable hands on this turn card, and . If the small blind goes all in, maybe UTG will call, maybe he won't. He could fold such hands given that so much pressure has been applied and the board now has multiple threats to his hand. It is hard to see what pocket queens could be ahead of, no matter how good the price to call. At the same time, just paired up and would have no intention of folding.
That is why small blind should be interested in shoving this turn card with bluffs and checking to call with value hands. The small blind can always put the last $55 into the pot with a hand like or on the river if this turn checks through.
What is not going to happen when small blind moves all in here is for under the gun to call with something weak (i.e., with something he might have bluffed with had the SB checked).
Those considerations may seem unimportant, but small blind in this instance happened to be holding , a hand with which he had flat-called UTG's four-bet preflop, got into a situation on the flop he liked enough to check-raise, then turned an ace.
And that's when the small blind went all in.
With his exact hand, check-calling all in on the turn would clearly have been the superior play. For one thing, he is never getting an ace to fold by shoving. Also, by shoving he could get — his main value target — out of the pot, which he doesn't want, either.
Think Further Than Results
It would not have mattered in this instance, since under the gun held and had turned top set. The small blind was behind at every decision point of the hand. But that won't always be the case.
We need to keep thinking in spots such as this. Sure the pot is already big and the next mistake won't be as big, perhaps, as the last one was. But that is not a reason not to play with precision.