Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All in or fold (again)

I just tried another of Carbon Poker's "All in or fold" tournaments. This one happened to also be a bounty format; of the $3.30 buy-in, .30 went to the site, $1.50 went to the prize pool, and $1.50 was your bounty.

The other day I had chatted a bit with Cardgrrl about what the best strategy might be. Her immediate thought was to play ultra-tight early on. I'm still not sure. On the one hand, it's certainly silly to risk your 1500 starting stack just to pick up 30 in blinds in the first round. If you're going all-in, it has to be hoping to get called to double up. That means that you want your range for shoving to be above your average opponent's range, at a minumum--and you might want it to be well above that range, so that you don't put yourself at the mercy of several coin flips or even 60/40 propositions.

But therein lies the great mystery: what are people willing to call or push with? Some are being shove-monkeys and trying to go all in nearly every hand early on, apparently with the idea to either accumulate a big enough stack to pose a threat to others (and be able to withstand some bad beats), or be done with the thing. I can see the allure of that.

So here's what I decided to do. I made my range A-10 and above (suited or not), plus pairs 10s and above, without regard for position, for what my opponents were doing, or whether I was open-shoving or calling. It's probably not optimal strategy in several respects, but this was just an experiment.

About two minutes in, I had ATs and shoved. I got called by 3-6s (this was one of the nuts that was playing about 90% of hands) and by KQs. I won and tripled up. About 10 minutes in I had AKs, and called a shove ahead of me. He had 8-7s. I hit an ace on the flop, but he flopped a flush draw and got there on the river. I was now down to double starting stack. Maybe 10 minutes later I picked up AA, shoved, got no call. Then I went completely card dead.

About 50 minutes in, I was down to 12 big blinds and was the short stack. I decided to liberalize my open-shoving standard to A8+ and 88+, but keep my calling standard the same. It didn't matter, as I picked up no such hands. (I cheated once and shoved with KJs from the small blind and won the blinds.)

One hour in, I was down to 8 big blinds, and was much shorter than anybody else. I decided to open up to any pair and any ace, open-shove or call. The very next hand after deciding that, I had A-5o and called a shove from one of the more liberal blind stealers. He had K-Jo. I was happy with the AA7 flop, but not with the Q on turn and 10 on river for the backdoor straight. Out in 11th place.

This tournament has an abnormally flat payout structure. Top 20 (out of 100 entrants) got paid, though the bottom half of that (including me) got just $1.50. I had picked up one bounty in my three-way early hand, so I made my buy-in back, minus the .30 fee.

These things go incredibly fast, as you would predict. The field of 100 was down to 65 at 10 minutes, 50 at 15 minutes, 35 at 20 minutes, 29 at 25 minutes, and 26 at 30 minutes.

Other than my own, here's the list of the hands I saw with a shove and call, with the open-shove always listed first, caller(s) next. Winner(s) are in bold.

A9s A7o QQ
AA T8o
62s K9o
AKo J9o
AQs A2o
33 JJ 32o
A5o AJo
AKo 55
AA 22
QJs 99
K9s AKo

As you can see, players take a wide variety of approaches to what they will open-shove or call with--and, of course, it changes with their stack size and position. That has to play some part in your decision-making, even early on. If you see that somebody is moving in with any two cards on every single hand, it seems obvious that your range should expand relative to him more than to the guy who has folded 20 times in a row. But how much risk you should be willing to tolerate is entirely unclear to me.

I can't say that this little tourney was fun in the usual way that I enjoy playing. In fact, it's pretty boring to play this way. But it does still hold some intellectual curiosity for me in terms of figuring out how best to approach it, more as a theoretical exercise than because it's something I actually want to be doing a lot of.


astrobel said...

Grump, your ranges should be different depending on your position. You might want to fold AJ early in the tourney against an early position push but shove QJ on the SB if unopened to you.

NerveEnding said...

I was at the Hard Rock yesterday; they have a weekly $20 all-in or fold tournament if you want to try your hand at a brick and mortar casino. I haven't actually seen the HR tourney.

Fred said...

It seems to me that a more aggressive, looser style is a good idea in that format.

Not that you want to be the underdog in the hand, but you SHOULD look for coin-flips and 60-40 situations.

The reason being, you want to hit the positive side of variance and be one of the big stacks. Being a bigger stack would be a HUGE advantage in that format of tournament, because the bigger stack has a MUCH MUCH bigger upside to winning a coin-flip.

The bigger stack gets the chips, plus the bounty. A more conservative player, which may make much more sense in a non-bounty format, may often find himself winning a higher percentage of hands but few bounties.

Similarly, you'd want a much tighter selection of cards, especially early in the tournament, against players with larger stacks, and a relatively looser selection vs smaller stacks.

You might have less of a chance of getting first, but you should make it up in bounties.