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Poker Strategy With Greg Raymer: More On Bounty Tournaments

Raymer Explains How To Play Against Stacks You Have Covered

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Greg Raymer Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at @FossilMan, or send me a message at info@fossilmanpoker.com.

In Chapter 37 of my book FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, as well as in my last column in Card Player, I discuss how to adjust for a bounty tournament. We discussed how many players underadjust for the bounty in early levels, and then often overadjust for the bounty in the later levels. We also discussed my strategy for properly adjusting, by converting the cash value of the bounty into an equivalent number of tournament chips. Now I want to discuss some other adjustments for you to make.

In any tournament, it is critical that you know your chip count almost exactly. It is also important that you know the approximate chip counts of each player at your table. In a bounty tournament, it is even more important to know these chip counts, and especially who has whom covered.

If you and I have similar stacks early in a standard tournament, I will play my hand the same regardless of who has the larger stack. But in a bounty tournament, it makes a huge difference whether or not I have the potential to win your bounty this hand. While it is always proper for each player to have their chips adequately stacked, with larger denomination chips in front and visible, it is much more important for you to stay on top of this issue. Remind players politely to display their chips properly, and if they fail to comply, ask the dealer to handle the situation. Don’t be afraid to get the floor or tournament director involved if necessary, it’s that important!

Now that you know for sure who’s bounties you can win, and who can win yours, you need to make some major adjustments for this fact. Whenever you are considering playing a hand against anyone, keep in mind who has more chips. If they have you covered, you presumably have a lot less bluff equity, and should consider that in both the decision as to whether or not to play the hand, and how you will play the hand.

For example, imagine you are considering calling a raise with small suited connectors. One reason to play such a hand is that even if you completely miss the board, you might be able to bluff an opponent into folding. However, if they have you covered, and if such a bluff includes going all-in, they are more likely to call, and you should be that much less likely to attempt the bluff. Since you have less bluff equity, maybe the hand should be folded preflop, even if it would normally be correct to play.

On the flip side, you should be much more inclined to play a starting hand against an opponent you have covered. There is the upside potential of winning their bounty, should it come to that. And, if they are also aware of this reduction in bluff equity, they will be less likely to try to bluff you. And this means you gain value from their more predictable play.

What about when you are facing an all-in from a player with fewer chips than you? If you are the last player left with a hand, just do the math as discussed in my previous article and decide to call or fold. But what about when there are players behind you left to act?

Imagine a scenario where a player has been left severely short, and now they go all-in from early position for only a couple of blinds. You and most of the table have dozens of blinds, or more. You hate to fold here, as the bounty might be worth dozens of blinds by itself. But just calling invites other players to also call, severely reducing the chances that you win the bounty. Instead, even if you have a very weak hand, you should absolutely consider reraising. And maybe even make a very large reraise.

In a standard tournament, if a player went all-in for just two blinds, and you chose to reraise, you might make it something like four to seven blinds. This is enough to fold out marginal hands, and you won’t lose too much should somebody make a reraise that gets you to fold. But with the bounty worth so much, a standard raise like this will still get lots of calls. You will probably do better to raise a lot more, like maybe 10-20 blinds. Now you definitely fold out the marginal hands who want to try for the bounty. But keep in mind that if many of these players behind you also have you covered, this plan may not work, as they might instead see a chance at winning two bounties at once, and not be deterred by the size of your raise.

There are times I have reraised all-in with an extremely weak hand, simply because I believed there was a very high chance that doing so would get everyone else to fold. If I can isolate the all-in player, and have a shot at winning 5-6 blinds when it works out, plus a bounty worth dozens of blinds, then it might be the smartest play. Sometimes you crash-and-burn in dramatic fashion, but if such a risky play is profitable, on average, then you need to have it in your arsenal, and use it when appropriate.

I always try to make the play with the highest equity, regardless of risk. If I look foolish when it doesn’t work out, so what? The only question I have after such a move fails is whether I really made the smartest decision, the one with the highest equity, or did I make a mistake in my analysis? Sometimes the smartest play also carries the highest risk, but don’t let that deter you from making that decision. ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.