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Bullying a Bully

14/08/2019 by Jonathan Little

I was recently reviewing my hands from a recent tournament series and I spotted a hand illustrates an important concept that you must master if you want to win as much money possible from poker tournaments. This hand took place on the bubble of a $1,000 buy-in 6-handed event. My table was somewhat deep stacked, but the rest of the field was quite shallow, with the average stack being about 25 big blinds.

A strong tight, aggressive player raised to 2.5 big blinds out of his 100 big blind effective stack from the hijack seat (second position 6-handed), and I called on the button with AT.

Some players may elect to take the aggressive line of 3-betting due to being in position on the bubble, but I much prefer calling because it makes it difficult for me to go broke due to the small pot size. If I 3-bet and happen to find myself in a set-up situation where we both flop strong hands, I may end up bubbling, which would be a disaster. Also, my opponent’s raising range from the hijack may be quite strong, given I have position on him with a big stack, meaning my ATcould easily be crushed. So, I do not want to bloat the pot, even in position with a decently strong hand.

The small blind, with 35 big blinds, called. The big blind, a world-class, overly loose aggressive player 3-bet to 12 big blinds out of his 55 big blind stack. The initial raiser thought for a while before folding.

Now, I have to assess if the big blind is messing around or if he actually has a premium hand. While it is impossible to know for sure, given I know this specific opponent loves to apply aggression when he thinks he can steal the pot, I thought he would be bluffing more often than most (if not all) players. Even if he has a premium range, he may be inclined to fold some portion of it to a 4-bet, due to being on the bubble and going broke for 55 big blinds would be a disaster. Also, the fact that I have an Ace in my hand makes it less likely that he has A-A, A-K, or A-Q, and even then, I will outdraw him some portion of the time.

If I 4-bet to 22 big blinds and he goes all-in, I will be forced to call off due to my pot odds, which doesn’t sound like a great spot to be in. Going all-in risks a lot of chips, but even if I get called and lose, I will still have 45 big blinds and can almost certainly coast into the money. I could also call, given I am in position, but I don’t like that route because it allows my opponent to see the flop and better realize his equity. He will also be able to bet me off the best hand, such as when the flop comes Q-8-6 or 9-7-5.

Taking all of this into account, I decided to go all-in. The small blind immediately folded. The big blind acted annoyed, probably because he knew I was capable of having many non-nut hands in my range, but also realized there was nothing he could do about it with his hand (as well as most of his range). He thought for about five seconds before folding.

While this hand may not seem too impressive because I only profited 17 big blinds, it gave me a solid chip lead on the rest of my table and allowed me to push around my opponents until we got in the money. If I failed to take this risk, the big blind would have chipped up significantly, which would have made it much more difficult to apply immense pressure on everyone at the table for the remainder of the bubble.