The Sledgehammer

Over the last three years, I've been lucky if I could make five live tournaments in any given 12 months. That's what happens when a family member has health issues, you go through a divorce, and you make an international move. Money becomes a little bit more important to you, so you stay at home and work more.

Thankfully, in the past three years I've run extraordinarily well live. Despite not being able to play more than 20 tournaments, I've final tabled two (one being a World Poker Tour event), and have cashed in PCA side events, WSOP Main Events, and two other WPT Main Events.

Let's get one thing straight: A large part of this run is me simply running well. I've been playing too long not to know that. I could have just as easily not cashed in a single tournament for three years.

However, I recently decided to stop thinking about just that factor. My day job is teaching people how to play poker. I wouldn't be doing that job properly if I wasn't studying my cash streak. If there's one edge I can hand to my pupils then I have to find it.

One glaring difference I noticed between my play and my students had to deal with how I played 24-32 big blind stacks.

Let me ask you a question:

Let's say you have AKo with 31 big blinds. You are in the lojack. UTG+2 opens to 2.5X. It's folded to you. What do you do?

A large number of pros, including myself, will just jam there.

However, many of my students will opt for one of two options.

Both of which I hate.

Many of them will just call. This does open up the exciting opportunity to jam over someone who squeezes later, but that can often lead to coinflip situations and tournament exits.

What happens most of the time is my students call, then two other people call behind them. They miss the board 60% of the time, piss and moan, and accept their shortened stack.

What happens when they flop a pair? Well, sometimes, admittedly, they win a big pot versus an inferior pair. But many times, they piss and moan because somebody hits a set or two pair on them.

I don't know how you can whine about something you allowed to happen, but I digress…

The other option they do is a small threebet. They go to 5.5X or 6.5X here.

I hate this option because if you do a Flopzilla calculation and put 6-4s as your opponent's hand, you'll notice they have the odds to call you.

If you do a Cardrunners EV calc and put a hand like 6-4s in there, and have the player calling versus you and getting it in on any board they hit, you'll notice they're actually not playing bad! They're losing less money than if they folded.

And the guy doesn't just have 6-high. Often, he has hands that flop much better. Or he has pairs that he can call with, see a safe flop, and check/jam the flop with.

This is a disaster when you're at 30 big blinds. Most people continuation bet almost always when they threebet, so if they get jammed on with a flop raise, then they've pretty much bet themselves down to 20X.

20X is a much worse stack to play than 30X. There's far less tools in that stack.

You want more chips, because the key tool then is that NO ONE CALLS YOUR REJAMS when you jam 25-32X.

No one jams this stack enough. In every one of my deep live runs, I repeatedly put the money in with these stacks, and I'd be flabbergasted by what people fold face up.

The amazing thing was if I jammed people would show me 8-8 and fold. That is amazing.

AKo on average makes about 2.5 big binds. Three big blinds if you're great with the hand. With a shortstack and inopportune position, it's worse than that.

If you shove on one of these frequent live openers, who is opening down to 7-4s and K-2s, then he's folding most of the time, and you're netting five big blinds with the blinds and antes.

You get two of these rejams through and you get 10 big blinds. That's an extra life in tournaments. I've won countless tournaments coming back from 10 big blinds.

If you get called, it's not the worst thing in the world either. Your hand does fine against most calling ranges.

But picking up 500 big blinds per 100 hands with zero variance is what you're really aiming for.

Stack retention is a big deal in poker tournaments. It doesn't matter how many chips you have when you get into a moneyed tournament finish. It just matters that you have chips.

If you want to stick around in tournaments for a longer period of time, I'd recommend brushing up on your 25X+ jamming ranges. This can be done easily with Hold'em Resources, Cardrunners EV, and ICMizer 2.

Good luck to all of you. 

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