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Pushing Around Players Who Are Trying To Push You Around

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Dec 20, 2017


I was recently reviewing my hands from the World Series of Poker and I found a hand that demonstrates an important concept that you must master if you want to maximize your win rate in poker tournaments.

This hand took place on the bubble of a $10,000 buy-in six-handed event. My table was somewhat deep stacked, but the rest of the field was quite shallow, with the average stack being about 30 big blinds.

A good, tight-aggressive player raised to 2.5 big blinds out of his 100-big blind stack from the lojack seat (first position six-handed), and I, also with 100 big blinds, decided to call on the button with ADiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit.

While some players may elect to take the aggressive line of three-betting due to being in position in a bubble situation, I much prefer calling because it makes it difficult to go broke due to the small pot size. If I three-bet and happen to find myself in a set-up situation, I may find a way to lose a large chunk of my stack, which would be a disaster. Also, my opponent’s raising range from the lojack may be quite strong, meaning my ADiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit could easily be crushed, so I do not want to bloat the pot, even in position.

The small blind, with 40 big blinds, called. The big blind, a strong, overly loose-aggressive player reraised to 11 big blinds out of his 60 big blind stack. The initial raiser thought for a while before folding.

At this point, I have to figure out if the big blind is messing around or if he actually has a premium range. While there is no way to know for sure, given I know this specific opponent loves to apply aggression when he thinks he can steal the pot most of the time, I thought he would be bluffing more often than most players. Even if he has a premium range, he may be inclined to fold some portion of it to a four-bet, given we are on the bubble and going broke for 60 big blinds would be a disaster.

Also, the fact that I have an ace in my hand makes it less likely that he has A-A, A-K, or A-Q, and even then, I will outdraw him some amount of the time. If I four-bet to 22 big blinds and he goes all-in, I will be forced to call off due to my pot odds, which doesn’t sound like a great proposition. Going all-in risks a lot of chips, but even if I get called and lose, I will still have 40 big blinds and can almost certainly coast into the money. I could also call, given I am in position, but I don’t like that route because it allows my opponent to see the flop and realize his equity. He will also be able to bet me off the best hand, such as when the flop comes K-9-4 or 8-7-5.

After taking all of this into account, I decided to go all-in. As expected, the small blind immediately folded. The big blind acted annoyed, probably because he knew I had a non-nut hand, but also realized there was nothing he could do about it with his hand (as well as most of his range), so he folded.

While this hand may not seem too impressive because I only profited 16 big blinds, it gave me a solid chip lead on the rest of the table and allowed me to bulldoze my opponents until we got in the money. If I failed to take this risk, the big blind would have chipped up significantly and would have made it much more difficult to apply immense pressure to everyone at the table.

Unfortunately, my deep run was cut short when I lost 10-10 to 9-9 for a bunch of chips and then lost with two-pair on back-to-back hands to bust just short of the final table. That said, I gave myself an amazing shot to win a bracelet, which is really all you can do. ♠

Jonathan LittleJonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker. You can also sign up for his FREE Excelling at No Limit Hold’em webinars at