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This is True #2

Yesterday, I asked the question of which is true:

Statement A:
There is no shame in going out late in a tournament on a near coin-toss.

Statement B:
You should not put your tournament life on the line on a mere coin-toss.

I received a decent amount of responses, with the general consensus epitomized by BSN's comment: "It depends." But really, doesn't it always "depend" in poker? The question wasn't meant to elicit the final answer to the question, since "It depends" is invariably the answer in poker. However, there were some ideas that I thought shed some light on the conundrum that is these opposing statements.

WillWonka chimed in first with some interesting ideas. He voted for A, but only when he was late in a tournament. The logic it is "virtually impossible" to make it through an MTT without winning a cointoss. I've got to respectful disagree somewhat from this analysis. If anything, it suggests to me that you are better to get all-in on a cointoss early. Why wade through the masses if you are going to need a cointoss sooner or later. Just go for it sooner. I think the problem may be that Wonka's analysis makes sense if you are NOT going all-in. Rather, if you are near the end of a tournament and may have to go for a cointoss for most (but not all) of your chips, it may be okay, since it will catapult you to contention for first. It doesn't apply as readily to when you are all in because then, you'd be essentially saying that all of your work surviving is then negated by that end gamble.

Another way to address Wonka's ideas is to look at stack sizes, generally, as suggested by F-Train and more thoroughly by Surflexus. F-Train merely mentioned that it depends on stack sizes, but when I suggested the different ways of addressing stack size, Surf offered a more extensive analysis. He said to look at (1) blinds relative to your stack and (2) chip counts of all other players [his (3) is really a derivative of (1)]. This makes perfect sense. If you are extremely shortstacked with only 3x the BB, then of course pushing for a cointoss is more warranted. This is even more so when everyone else has 30x the BB relative to your stack. You are in desperation mode, so 50/50 isn't a bad gamble anymore. Undeniably, then, there are times that A is true, and you have no choice but to accept and embrace a cointoss due to a dwindling stack. (The "shame" however, may exist in how you got to be a shortstack, rather than in your acceptanced of a cointoss). On the flipside, if you have 30x the BB, one guy has 35x the BB, and everyone else has 5x, going all-in against the 35x guy on an obvious cointoss is clearly a poor play.

The other distinction which I thought particularly intelligent was whether you are the raiser or the caller. This was first mentioned by Bayne and also echoed by Hoy and PokerWolf. As Hoy explains, "As long as you honestly believe you can elicit a fold, I think this kind of an allin raise is justifiable early, middle or late in a tournament." The equity you can make by getting your opponent to fold can add EV to the all-in on a cointoss situation. So, raising all-in with AK to push out a player who might be betting with a weak pocket pair is still a cointoss situation, but since it could elicit a fold, its a better play than if you were calling the small pocket pair's all-in. By pushing, you can win the pot uncontested and rest assured that if he does call, you'll still be almost 50% to win.

One final thought that was only mentioned by Hoy: pot odds. We discuss cointosses and I think everyone assumes its a two-player confrontation, so your pot odds are roughly 1:1. However, if the blinds are big, or there are significant antes, or there are other callers that you can knock out to get heads-up on a cointoss, the pot odds MIGHT dictate a call. I would expect that this is a dangerous analysis, since survival is key in MTTs, but if the odds you are getting are enormous, then it might be a proper play to call an all-in. For instance, you have AKs in LP with 2000 chips, with blinds of 100/200 and 25 antes, at a full table. Preflop, the pot is 550, and by the time the action is to you, one player in MP with 5000 has raised from 200 to 800. Assuming you know the opponent has a pocket pair, an all-in push might be smart here. With the MP raise, the pot has 1150 in it, and you have to push 1975 total to go all-in. MP will likely call you here and you'll have roughly a 50/50 chance of winning. However, for your almost 2k investment, you have the chance of winning 4.5k, giving you better than the 1:1 odds you need to make this a correct move according to pot odds. Maybe I'm making it murky here, but I can see situations where pot odds are a relevant factor.

So, there you have it. As BSN says, "It depends", and as the others have explained, things to consider are (i) your stack size compared to the blinds, (ii) your opponents' stack sizes compared to the blinds and your stack, (iii) whether you are the raiser or caller, and to a lesser extent, (iv) pot odds.

Thanks for all of your comments. I'll have you know that last night, I played the Hoy and went out 7th out of 23, but I made two decent comebacks after horrible suckouts against stacks that were only a tiny bit smaller than mine. In my last hand, I called Lucko's push with 22, knowing that it was a cointoss, weighted in my favor. At the time, I was the small stack, and I needed the chips to get back into contention. I also knew that Lucko was pushing with any two cards, so I was confident it was a cointoss. Considering everything, I'm still not sure if it was a good play.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:37 PM,


At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to take some chances, especially against a maniacal player with the blinds so high. The EV of calling in that spot with 22 agaisnt Lucko who pushes all in with any two cards (great strategy) is better than folding and relinquishing your blind.

You need to employ higher variance plays in oder to be competitive against guys that push all in every hand, otherwise they'll run you over and may even "bad beat" you, but when it's no longer relevant.

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because of the circumstances, whether or not you were raising or calling wasn't very relevant.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger WillWonka said...

Since when do you "respectfully" do or say anything? LOL.

The reason I mentioned late in a tournament is definitely due to the stack size in relation to the blinds. If you calling all your chips early on what appears to be a coin toss, then you are just gambling.. although I do agree with the going all in with enough fold equity to induce a fold.

I will stand by my statement that it is virtually impossible to win a tourney without winning a big coin toss. BTW, to me, a coin toss doesn't necessarily mean a pair vs overcards. It just means that the odds of beeing a 50-55% favorite vs a 45-49% dog. There are plenty of other situations that fill that definition.

At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I will stand by my statement that it is virtually impossible to win a tourney without winning a big coin toss. BTW, to me, a coin toss doesn't necessarily mean a pair vs overcards. It just means that the odds of beeing a 50-55% favorite vs a 45-49% dog. There are plenty of other situations that fill that definition."

I'd also say that's true. To further elaborate -- if one got aces and kings often, they might get all the chips without being involved in any type of coin flip, but it would be even luckier to always have made hands (and have them hold up) than winning a big coin flip.

At 6:01 AM, Blogger Stefan Klein said...

good post, it really makes sense, you should check out the icm model concerning stack size / blinds. Sometimes an allin push is just for the sake of other people folding to you. You already commited yourself to the pot whenever you enter it because you have less than 10 bb and you gamble for your tournament life at that point.


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