Poker players: comfort me, tell me I did right

…or rip me a new one, either way really.

Playing a live multi tonight, 125 players start, 1.25 million in chips in play. Down to five, I have a little over 600,000. Next highest stack is on my left with about 200,000. Everyone else is short stacked, no more than 50-60,000 give or take. Blinds are 4000-8000 and I’m SB. Player 1 goes all in for about 30,000 over the top. Next two players fold. I have A9 os. I go all in. BB 2nd stack calls. Player 1 has AQ os and BB has KK (the third time he’s had them at this final table no less). K on the flop. An A and a 9 fall on the turn and river but my two pair isn’t enough to save me. Player 1 is busted and I’m out about 1/3 of my stack.

Other than playing the DEATH HAND (A9) at all I think I played this hand right. My hand isn’t tremendous but it’s better than a lot of what desperately short stacked players will go all in with so I have to think that if I am behind in the hand it’s not by much. By going all in I make the BB have to drop a marginal hand that if I just call or raise less than all his chips he might decide to play. Even against the KK I’m not dead, and even though it turned out I was in with the worst hand if he doesn’t catch his K on the flop I bust two players out with my eventual two pair and control around 75% of the chips. If I drive out the BB and lose to the short stack I still have close to half the chips and he’s still not much of a factor with around 80,000.

I ended up taking second. Lost to the BB on a couple of heads-up hands where he caught a pair on me and finally went out after getting whittled down to about 150,000 calling his all in with A3 to his pocket 99. Caught a 3 on the flop but it wasn’t enough.

So go ahead, critique me.

Ahead that far with an ace in my hand I would have played aggressively, too. BB got lucky, but that’s poker.

If you’ve got 'em pinned down, try screwing them. Sometimes you’ll lose, but a lot of the time you’ll knock people right out of the game.

I do think you misplayed the hand somewhat, and not just because you lost. You certainly were right to call the all in, as short stack could be pushing with just about anything. The problem is your attempt to isolate. I would isolate in a case where, for example, short stack had 40k and you had 100k. By pushing in as many chips as you did, I think you showed weakness rather than strength. If you had a premium hand you would have raised a little or just called, inviting further participation.

As it is they would have pushed you anyway. I would have called the short stack, and folded to the inevitable double all ins behind you. 30k is such a small portion of your stack (5%) and A9 is so vulnerable that it allows you wiggle room if someone pushes back at you. There is very little doubt that if KK pushed back at you all in you would know you were beat. By going all in you lost the chance to gain information about the hands to act behind you.

I understand that you would be dominating the table if you won this hand, but your position isn’t half bad if 2nd stack takes out two players to bring it down to three. Tough call though, it is easy to say call and fold, which would clearly be the move on a full table. Shorthanded it is much harder to lay down an ace.

fruitbat there was only the BB left to act. Player 1 was all in UTG and players 2 and 3 folded. If there’d been a call in front of me I might have called but most likely would have folded.

You could have just raised it to, say, T75,000-T100,000. That way, if the BB had gone all-in (which he’d be stupid not to, at that point), you could have figured (correctly) that you were behind and folded.

But being the big stack makes it easier. I think the mistake was made by going all in with the second largest stack still left to act. If the BB was another short stack, no problem. But you don’t want to tangle with the second stack if you don’t have to or if you don’t have a great hand. I agree with fruitbat, you should have called the first player’s all in or raised a small amount, rather than go all in yourself.

Another consideration which hasn’t been mentioned so far is the prize structure in the tournament. When you’ve got a couple of players short-stacked, with a big stack yet to act behind you, you have to pay attention to the expected value of your play. If it’s winner-take-all, then you have to be aggressive, but if you’re sitting in 4th, and the top 3 players get a significant bump in prize share, you might want to fold in marginal situations like this and wait for a bit of attrition.

But overall, I think you played okay. I do like the idea of making a small raise to force out the big blind if he’s holding garbage, and to gain information if he isn’t. In this case, had you raised 100,000 or so, he probably would have gone over the top all in, and you could have folded. But that’s hindsight.

It also depends on how good a player the big blind is. Raising all-in against a short-stacked player who’s all-in does show a bit of weakness - it telegraphs a hand like you had, or a small pocket pair or something like that. A good player might figure that out and come in over the top with a big raise to force you out, leaving your dead money in the pot.

I think by posting this, you pretty much already know that you misplayed the hand…
It is a tough call… and I may have even played it the same with such a big chip lead.

but I would agree with Dr. J… a moderate raise would have shown what the last player was holding… Hard to risk a third of your chips on a A9 os.
Obviously you know how to play… finishing 2nd out of 125, but it sounds like you got a little bit too confident with the chip lead.
No reason to call or raise any bets at that point without a great hand.

Ok Otto, this should make you feel better. I was in a huge multi, $30 buy in 1112 entered. I am a very conservative player so it is not unusual for me to make it to the edge of the money. By that point though I am usually desperately short stacked and have no realistic chance. Not this time. Down to 102, and I am 6th in chips, we are just in the money. I have most of the table hugely outchipped, except for one person, he is slightly ahead of me.

Now what is the first rule of playing poker with a big stack? That’s right, don’t mess with the other big stacks. I was the Yin to this guy’s Yang. I am tight and passive, preferring to let others bet into my monster hands. This guy was a maniac. He had raised four of the last ten hands with ridiculously sized bets that would put most of the table all in. He won two showing down a pair of sixes and A8, the other two times everyone folded. I am immediately to his right.

He makes a huge raise, about 20% of my stack. I am dealt AKs in late position. Somehow I decide that I need to teach him a lesson. In a burst of temporary insanity I push all in. I knew he didn’t have AA or KK as no sane person would play that with such a big raise that everyone would likely fold. Anything else I assumed you would have to lay down. He didn’t even pause to consider as he called. 99 it is, I get no help and I am out.

I could have coasted to the final 20 taking very few risks. I still lament that play, and am sure I could have at least won the several hundred for tenth place. Nothing I had seen from him indicated that he knew where the fold button was.

Well, no, I’m looking for opinions and discussion. I posted this to a poker-specific board as well for more feedback, and the comments are really all over the place here and there. I’ve gotten everything from 100% support for the play to people saying they would have folded.

My first instinct actually was to fold, not for any consideration of stack size or anything technical but because as far as I’m concerned A9 is the devil. I can’t win with it and I can’t beat it if someone else is playing it against me. I’ve lost count of the number of times that hand has screwed me. It cost me 1st place in the first cash tournament I ever played, it’s gotten me busted out of more than one tourney either when I’ve played it and been beaten or when someone else has had it and sucked out on me. I know it’s not a great hand but there are certainly times when it’s right to play it but every time I tell myself I’m just being silly and superstitious and decide to play with it I get screwed.

I’m really OK with the 2nd place finish. Of course I’d have preferred 1st but by all rights I should have busted out a lot earlier in the tournament. I battled back from the brink twice. Once I was BB with T26,000, blinds 1000/2000 and tripled the blind with QQ pre-flop, two callers. Flop was 10 high with two spades, I push T20,000 all in and they both call! One’s on a J-high straight draw and the other’s on a flush draw which he hits on the river, taking out the straight draw who missed completely and crippling me. But I caught a miracle A a couple hands later against him and took a chunk of my chips back so it’s all good. Then when we were down to about 14 I was getting dangerously low on chips (prizes started at 8th place for some odd reason and I wasn’t going to make it without at least doubling up), blinds were going up and I had gotten garbage for like a half hour. Finally I get A-10 os and push all in, two callers, both of whom I have covered by like one chip and both of whom are playing KQ suited! They get no help, I end up tripling up on that hand and knocking them both out and have enough chips at that point to start being a bit of a bully. Perhaps too much of a bully as it turns out but ah well, what can ya do?

It doesn’t look like anyone has just advocated a call here.

Early position (EP) went all in. An “expected” play might be for you and BB to call and check it down. That’s not a play I’d advocate under normal circumstances but you can see it late in a tournament when you’re trying to move up spots.

In this case, the BB would have raised after your call to get your money, and you could have gotten away from it.

A smaller raise is arguable.

What about your play?

I don’t really get it.

Yeah, to the EP. But the BB isn’t desparately short-stacked so he’s only goign to call you with something that beats you.

But there are SO FEW of these hands, and there’s a downside. So, basically what you could get him to drop here is like AT, AJ, maybe 3 or 4 others, a VERY SMALL percentage. And, you’re driving out another guy who can take out the EP.

62o isn’t dead against AA, but it’s not something you really want to play. You’re pretty damn far behind to KK.

In most basic terms, your hand loses you $200,000 when it’s beat and gets you the $8000 (if that) when it’s best. That’s not the kind of matchup I seek out.

I’ve played with the BB probably more than anyone else in this tourney series so I have a decent handle on his play. If it’s cheap he’ll take a flyer on stuff like K-8 os or mid-level connectors that he wouldn’t play in the face of a big re-raise, and he’ll also let stuff like 77 go if the raise is big enough. The only seven hands I was really worried about from him were AK, AQ and a pocket pair 10s or higher.

For some bizarre reason my usual online odds calculator refuses to display the results when I’m at work so I can’t run the odds. I’ll have to remember to do that when I get home.

There was 50,000+ in the pot before I acted, 12,000 in blinds (4,000 of which I posted) plus the short-stacks 38,000. Which you probably still don’t like a whole lot. If it had been a battle of the blinds I wouldn’t have gone all in. As much as I loathe A-9 I might very well have just surrendered the SB.

I was little sloppy originally.

Here’s a thought experiment: take the EP out of it. Let’s say in this round there were antes, plus the blinds, so there’s $50K on the table.

It’s folded around to you on the SB with A9o. You have $600,000. The BB has $200,000. What’s your play?

I hope you didn’t say, “push it all in.” This is one of those times that you’re only going to be called by a better hand. A worse hand is going to fold. This idea is SO fundamental to poker.

The ONLY time you gain here is when he calls with a worse hand (and what would he POSSIBLY call with that’s worse than A9o) or lays down a better hand (and what’s better that he possibly lay down? 99, MAYBE.) or lays down 22-88 (51-49 hands). This all represents a very small gain for you at a big risk. (*)

Now try this. . .imagine you know the BB is folding. Maybe he left to take a piss and left his BB on the table disgustingly.

What’s your edge against the EP? You’re putting $34000 (complete the SB and cover the raise) in the pot to win $50000. At best, you’re like a 55-45 favorite here, so lets say your expected gain is $12000.

THAT’s what you’re trying to trying to cut the BB out of. $12000 measly T-dollars. (**)

You’re putting yourself in that first scenario for the sake of this second scenario. It’s not worth it.

(*) Actually, since there is dead money in the pot, you have pos. ev. even if he calls with some slightly better hands, but that number of hands isn’t too large.

(**) I neglected the gain you get from knocking him out, but that’s almost offset by the loss you have if he doubles up.

NEVER and i mean NEVER go all in when you are cheap leader unless you have AA, or KK. I repeat never. Its ok to call someone short staked all in with an A9o, but never freely give your money away with that hand

Yeah, as the big stack, I wouldn’t like to get involved with A9o. It isn’t that great of a hand, and you know he’s all in with any ace, so you’re at best only slightly ahead.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and I think a slight raise is in order so you can fold when KK goes all in.

I would actually prefer to sit tight and play only premium and semi-premium (AQ, AJs) hands in this situation though. With almost half the chips in play, I’d let the little stacks knock each other out and prepare for 3-handed and heads up.


Playing another multi tonight and almost the exact same situation comes up again!

Eight players left at the final table, I have about 500,000 of about 1.4 million in play and am big stack. Second stack is on my left with about 250,000, the rest of the chips distributed fairly evenly among the other six. I’m BB, blinds are 5,000/10,000.

2nd stack calls UTG, two folds, one player goes all in for about 50,000, everyone folds around to me, and I look down at another damn A9! Suited this time though. Thinking about everyone’s advice and fighting my conditioned response to the DEATH HAND, I raise to 125,000. 2nd stack calls.

Flop is 10-9-3. Check, check. Turn is 2. Check, check. River A. Check from 2nd stack, I put him all in. He calls and flips up pocket 3s to crush my two pair and the all in’s K-10.

So the moral of this story is: FOLD A9! IT’S THE DEATH HAND! FOLD IT!

I went out in 6th place.

You were at 28%, assuming rainbow hands.


If you keep thinking things like this, you’ll never be good.

A9 is not a death hand.

It can be a tricky hand to play well, but it’s profitable in a lot of situations.

The moral is not “Fold A9”. The moral is “learn how to play A9.”

Let’s change that first sentence to say

“If you keep thinking things like this, you’ll never get better.”

I know it’s not really the death hand, and I know I need to learn how to play it better, and I know it’s just superstition, and all of this is very clear on an intellectual level, but as much as I know it I’ve been screwed so often in so many ways by those two cards. It cost me the win in my first ever placement in a cash tourney. It’s washed me out several times in multis and singles, both when I’ve been playing it and when it’s been against me. Once it killed me in a multi and a single in the same night and both times I held AJ over it only to get rivered by a 9. I have pulled down a few small pots online with it but every time I find myself wanting to play it and prove to myself that it is just superstition I get spanked and spanked hard.

Don’t know what the guy was thinking, calling that raise with a small pocket pair. He’s gotta know that even if neither of us has a bigger pocket pair and he is ahead pre-flop there have to be three or even four overs out against him. I don’t like his call at all, but I gotta give him mad props for slow-playing the hell out of the trips.