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Hand 2 Hand Combat - James ‘Andy McLEOD’ Obst Goes Into Depth About Stack Sizes and Bet-Sizing

Hand 2 Hand Combat - James ‘Andy McLEOD’ Obst Goes Into Depth About Stack Sizes and Bet-Sizing

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: May 06, 2011


Event PokerStars no-limit hold’em tournament
Buy-in $300
Players in the Event 875
First Place $50,120

James “Andy McLEOD” Obst raises to 600 with the 6♠ 6♣ from middle position.

Craig Tapscott: Share the thinking behind your bet-sizing preflop.

James Obst: I base my preflop opening-raise sizes on the stack sizes of my opponents yet to act behind me, because I believe that optimal sizing should be dictated by stack sizes. Contrary to the popular idea that you need to keep your sizing the same to balance your play, as long as you are using the same sizing “system,” so to speak, for all hands, you are both balanced and playing more mathematically soundly.

Villain1 calls. Villain2 calls from the cutoff.

JO: I expect both villains to have at least moderately wide calling ranges in this situation. Since Villain2 just called with his stack of 23 big blinds instead of moving all in, I feel comfortable in labeling him an inexperienced player and proceeding accordingly.

Flop: 7♣ 7♥ 3♦ (pot: 2,475)

Andy McLEOD bets 722.

CT: You’re betting into two opponents here. How do you think they will react?

JO: Villain2’s stack is quite short in relation to the pot size. So, in all likelihood, if I bet a normal amount and he wants to continue, he will act by moving all in. I expect to be good a decent amount of the time on the flop, but I also recognize that I’m often beat, so I will exercise caution with how I continue out of position. I continuation-bet here because I didn’t want to sacrifice the initiative. There are arguments for a check-fold being the most sensible play, but I decided to bet a small amount in relation to the pot, with the expectation of occasionally taking the pot then and there, and also making it a cheap way to get more information from my opponents.

Villain1 and Villain2 call.

JO: The first player called after a bit of thought, and the second player, whom I’ve labeled as inexperienced, snap-called within a second.

CT: OK. So, let’s continue to learn how you choose bet-sizing throughout a hand.

JO: My small flop bet means that I’ve given my opponents excellent pot odds to continue; their calling certainly doesn’t mean they have monster hands, but it does mean that I can eliminate suited Broadway-type hands and narrow down both ranges somewhat.

Turn: 9♣ (pot: 4,641)

CT: Can you bet again into two players?

JO: Well, at the moment, I’m feeling stubborn.

CT: How so?

JO: Neither player has shown an abundance of strength by just calling my small bet. In particular, I feel that I can get the second caller to fold to another bet, since I’ve pegged him as having a moderate-strength hand. The 9♣ brings a flush draw, but would appear to be a good card for me to continue my story, since I would expect both players to have reraised me with 9-9 before the flop. Now, there’s an unpaired overcard on the board, and I can’t imagine that an inexperienced player likes to see that. If I bet now, I’m projecting extreme strength by betting into two people. And I’m hopeful of getting

Villain1 to fold a hand like 8-8, or perhaps an A-Q that would have nine outs if I checked.

CT: Do you once again take into consideration their stack sizes before you decide how to proceed?

JO: Clearly, I’m working with extremely short stacks in relation to the pot size at this point, so my continued betting is both highly ambitious and generally unadvisable. Yet, I elect to make another very small bet, which may look as though I want to induce more action but keep the pot growing. I’d point out that my bets are almost pure bluffs at this point. Even though I can beat a decent chunk of the ranges I put both players on, I feel there is more value in making a cheap attempt to take the pot uncontested than there is in hoping to get to a showdown and be good on the river.

Andy McLEOD bets 1,250. Villain1 and Villain2 call.

River: 10♦ (pot: 8,391)

JO: The river changes little. Again, I expect neither to have called with tens preflop. So now, the questions that come to mind are: Am I good? Am I beat, but should continue with a third bluff? Am I being trapped, and need to cut my losses after a couple of cheap attempts to buy the pot? After the turn, my opponents must have at least two pair each. There is a real chance that Villain1 could have been trapping all along with quads, threes full, or even nines full if he just called with nines preflop. My range of 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, and 8-8 for Villain2 is pretty concrete in my mind, despite thinking at the time that he may fold these hands a decent amount of the time on the turn; but, there’s a good chance that he simply wouldn’t. While I fare reasonably against that range, Villain1 is likely to have me beat more often than not. I believe that he’d have no choice but to fold 4-4, 5-5, or 6-6 on the turn.

CT: You certainly can’t fire a third bullet, can you?

JO: This is a tournament in which my edge is significant, and I don’t expect a third bluff to be prudent here. The only hand I am confident of getting Villain1 to fold that beats me is 8-8, and there are too many hands that he won’t fold.

Andy McLEOD checks. Villain1 checks. Villain2 shoves all in for 4,231.

CT: What do you make of Villain2’s shove?

JO: At this point, I’m highly suspicious. Considering that no big bets were made and
Villain1 and I have checked the river, he can’t believe I’m very strong. This instantly smelled of 4-4 or 5-5, which this inexperienced player was not prepared to fold on the turn, but was now choosing to turn into a bluff on the river due to our display of weakness.

CT: So, what else could he be representing?

JO: He represents two or perhaps three hands on the river: tens full, quad sevens, or a sneaky nines full. I’ve eliminated nines full and quad sevens, since I wouldn’t expect an inexperienced player to call so quickly earlier in the hand as disguised strength.

Also, it’s rare in today’s game that a player wouldn’t move all in with tens preflop in Villain2’s position, but, of course, if anyone wouldn’t, it’s an inexperienced online player or a particularly passive lower-stakes player to whom a $300 buy-in represents a major bankroll shot.

CT: So, you’re feeling pretty good about your hand after thinking it through?

JO: Sure. Suddenly, my chances of winning the pot are looking up. I have to ensure that Villain1 will fold after me, which I’m confident he will do if I move all in. It’s almost inconceivable that he would have checked a monster like a full house or quads on the river, so I’d now narrow his range to 8-8 or possibly a big pair with which he was trapping by calling preflop. He knows that I can easily just call and not risk the extra chips that I’d be risking by moving all in, so if I move all in, I expect him to fold a lot of hands with which he’d make a crying call if I were to just call. Even though I perhaps wouldn’t play a full house or better in this way on each street, considering how much strength I’ve shown, it’s extremely hard for someone to dismiss it completely.

Andy McLEOD moves all in. Villain1 folds. Villain2 reveals the 10♠ 10♣. Villain2 wins the pot of 16,853.

JO: Oops! He had the one hand that made sense post-flop that I didn’t expect to be in his preflop calling range. Interestingly, Villain1 claimed in the chat afterward that he folded two aces, so it really would have been a steal if the hand had played out in the same way but Villain2 had two fives instead. The last thing worth mentioning is that if I’m going to play a hand like this in this manner, I’ll have to be sure to mix in the small continuation-bet with my big hands. I don’t often make such small bets in relation to the pot, but having a 23-big-blind stack in there really necessitated it in this situation. ♠

From the moment that Australian native James “Andy McLEOD” Obst burst onto the online-poker scene, he was considered to be one of the most talented players in the game. By the time he was 19, he had won more than $1.5 million in online tournaments. His largest online-tournament cash to date came in April 2009, when he won the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker $3,000+$150 six-max mixed hold’em event, for $184,000. He has more than $3.1 million in career tournament earnings. He is also a successful regular in high-stakes cash games, and is a member of Team Victory at