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The Overbetting/Shoving Strategy

Playing back at loose open-raisers

by Rolf Slotboom |  Published: Jun 11, 2008


In my last column, I gave a few pros and cons regarding two important -- and related -- tournament concepts: overbetting and shoving. I explained that the big reraise has become an integral part of my poker-weapons arsenal, especially in the later stages of an event, when the money is usually quite shallow and/or the pressure from the blinds and ante is high.

One part of this strategy involves playing back at loose open-raisers who may not be strong enough to call your shove. In fact, the prime targets in this situation would be good and aggressive players who like to open-raise loosely but who are a lot less fond of making big calls preflop in pots in which the luck factor could be very high.

An example of this play would be my highly criticized (by the victim) play during a 2007 World Series of Poker event. I made a huge all-in reraise with a mere 9 8 to try to make my opponent -- a bracelet winner -- lay down the two unpaired big cards that I thought he had. If my read was correct, my opponent would lay down more than 30 percent of the time, and even if he would call with an A-Q/A-K type of holding, I would still have around 40 percent pot equity. In combination with the tight image that I had at the time, it was a good way to make an overall positive expected value shove with a rather marginal holding.

The other part of this shoving/overbetting tactic revolves around this: If you are up against players who cannot lay down marginal hands preflop very easily (because they are just weak players, are too committed to fold, or simply don't respect your reraises much), there is another way to use the shove in a profitable manner -- and this is exactly what I did during a recent European Poker Tour event in San Remo.

Seated at an extremely loose-aggressive table with players who were unwilling to lay down any kind of decent holding no matter how much you reraised, I decided to play extremely tight and refrain from any kind of bluffing, yet overbet my big hands grossly. By using this simple strategy, I needed to enter just 20 pots or so over the course of two days to cruise into the money -- and I needed to win only four or five actual showdowns to pull this off.

At my table was the hyperaggressive Dario Minieri, just about the only player at my table who did respect my tightness, and thus would fold his marginal hands against any kind of reraises from me. So, over the course of eight hours, I reraised him six or seven times, including a few times when I didn't have much -- and in all cases, he folded. I correctly used my tight image, and made my moves only in situations in which (a) I read Dario to be weak, and (b) I was in good position to make a move. Just when I thought he would stop giving my reraises respect, I tightened up, waiting for a big hand when he might give me action. When I finally picked up A-A in the exact same situation as before, I again opted for an overbet reraise, and was lucky to find Dario with a huge hand of his own, K-K. All of the money went in before the flop, and when my hand held up, I suddenly had an above-average stack, despite having entered very few pots on that day. Of course, this time I was lucky that he had such a big second-best hand that he could never get away from, but I am convinced that with just an A-Q or so, he also would have put the money in -- simply because I had set up the situation very well.

As for the other -- less-skilled -- players at my table, I didn't need to do any kind of advanced thinking to set up situations. Against them, I just waited and waited; for instance, I reraised a late-position open-raiser for no less than seven times his original raise -- only to have my A-Q get called by his mere A-10 offsuit. And later, having flopped the nut straight on a very draw-heavy board, I simply check-raised all in for no less than nine times the original bet -- and got called by the top two pair. My opponents in both of these hands read my overbets as a sign of weakness rather than strength -- and I took advantage of it very well.

So, by sticking to a very simple, rather one-dimensional approach (playing tight and just shoving at the right time and for the right reason), I took advantage of my opponents' exploitable weaknesses very well -- and in the end was rewarded with a more than decent cash.

Rolf has been a professional cash-game player since 1998. He is the author of the successful Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha, and the co-author of Hold'em on the Come. He is the creator and presenter of the hold'em four-DVD set Rolf Slotboom's Winning Plays. He is the first-ever Dutch Champion, and maintains his own site at