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Winning Poker Tournaments Part III – Hand No. 34

by Matthew Hilger |  Published: Jan 22, 2014


Matthew HilgerWinning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time Volume III by Jon “PearlJammer” Turner, Eric “Rizen” Lynch, Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet, and yours truly, analyzes 50 online poker hands. In Volume III, PearlJammer, Rizen, and Apestyles analyze the same hands and then I give a summary of lessons learned at the end of the hand. This article looks at hand No. 34.

Of course, A-A is easy to play. But it is critical to maximize your return when dealt premium hands, since they don’t come along very often. Many players like to focus on how to play trouble hands, or hands like 10-10 and J-J. But maximizing the return on hands like A-A, K-K, and A-K is just as important. One of the first decisions is always when you should three-bet and when you should call. This hand was submitted by a member of my forum at, Brent Catalano, screen name “yankees31.”

Seat 1: 91,010
Seat 2: 174,692
Seat 3: Yankees31 84,418 (Hero)
Seat 4: 188,330
Seat 5: 52,990
Seat 6: 47,297 Button
Seat 7: 106,118 Small Blind
Seat 8: 66,036 Big Blind
Seat 9: 52,415

1,400-2,800 Blinds, 350 Ante

Setup: This is a $200 Sunday major with 3,787 entrants. 522 spots pay, and there are currently 125 remaining. The current payout is $757, and first place pays $134,000.

Seat 9 is a loose and aggressive player. He is a break-even player at low buy-in tournaments, so is most likely a satellite winner. Seat 4 is very loose-aggressive and has been three-betting with a high frequency. You just sucked out on him with A-Q versus his kings.

Preflop AHeart Suit ADiamond Suit (7,350): Seat 9 raises to 5,600. The action is folded to you.

What do you do?


The decision about whether to flat-call or three-bet is rather close, and I could easily go either way. Seat 9 has just under 19 big blinds, which would normally lead me to believe that he probably won’t raise/fold in this spot, and thus three-betting and getting him to commit his chips to the pot now seems like the ideal play. However, my notes on him as loose, aggressive, and a low buy-in player cause me to question that commitment, and believe that he may be going for a cheap steal under-the-gun (UTG) before he gets too short stacked. If I had seen him raise/fold with a similar stack already, then I would definitely just call, as he would probably fold to my three-bet anyway. The flat call could induce someone behind me with a good all-in squeezing stack (Seats 5, 6, and 8) to shove, or the very loose-aggressive Seat 4 to make a play at the pot. Even if I end up heads-up in a small pot after calling, I should be able to get a decent amount out of my loose-aggressive opponent postflop.

Calling in this spot can sometimes be risky, because it could induce a few more opponents to call and create some very difficult situations postflop on certain boards. Yet, because three of the remaining five players to act all have good shoving stacks, and are unlikely to flat-call behind me, I am not very concerned about creating a four or five-way pot. I thus prefer flat-calling rather than three-betting in this precise spot. I call.

It should be noted, however, that if I had a relatively aggressive image at this table, I would continue in this style and three-bet to about 12,000-to-13,000, as I would be much more likely to get action than if I had a tight image.


Given that Seat 9 is a loose-aggressive player, it’s possible that he is opening with a wider range than most. That being said, I don’t just want to call here and encourage other players to come along, so I would go ahead and reraise. Since Seat 9 is loose and aggressive, I might make my reraise a little smaller than usual to try to induce him to perhaps make a bad call, or even come over the top of me, thinking he has fold equity. I would raise to about 12,000.


The question with pocket aces is always: How can I maximize value? If Seat 9 is super loose-aggressive and opening with weak hands from early position, I would recommend calling, so he can’t fold any of his range. Since I expect Seat 9 to fold to most reraises, calling is the best way to maximize value. If Seat 9 were a good player, he might realize my range for calling an UTG raise with effective stacks of 18.7 big blinds is extremely tight. In fact, most good players would realize I’m almost always trapping here and I would effectively be turning my hand face up. I normally three-bet or fold almost my entire range with these effective stacks. So, against a good player, I would three-bet to keep my range wider, but against weak opposition, calling is best.


This is another hand where we evaluate whether to simply call preflop with aces or reraise, and the best play isn’t straightforward. Once again, the best play depends on your opponent’s style. If he is a weak and really loose player, it is best to keep him in the pot simply by calling, as a reraise might end all of the action. If he is a good, solid player with an advanced level of thinking, a three-bet is preferable to balance your range when you three-bet against more observant and better opponents.

One benefit of calling is that you invite a squeeze play from a player behind you. In the actual hand, Seat 4 reraised to 21,000, Seat 9 pushed all in for 46,465, you pushed all in for 78,468, and Seat 4 called. Seat 4 showed AClub Suit KDiamond Suit and Seat 9 showed JDiamond Suit JSpade Suit. The board came KClub Suit 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit 10Diamond Suit 4Club Suit, and you won a big pot.

Check out our iTunes app Poker Coach Pro for iPad or Holdem Pro for iPhone featuring automated analysis for the Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time series. The series is also available at and Amazon in both print and e-book format. ♠

Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books.” The latest Dimat release, The Math of Hold’em, is now available in bookstores everywhere.