Awkward Stack with A♦T♣, what do you do here?

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The money bubble just burst in a tournament where blinds are 6,000/12,000 with big blind ante and 36 players left. It folds to you in the Cutoff with A♦T♣ and a 168,000 (14BBs) awkward stack. Action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are just in the money with 36 players left in a tournament that pays 36 places. The blinds are 6,000/12,000 with a big blind ante. We are dealt AdTc in the Cutoff. Action folds around to us and we have a decision to make.

Players often make the mistake of not considering making all-in plays until they are below 10 big blinds. Against more passive opponents who don’t reraise aggressively this can often be the correct strategy. In tougher games where players are willing to reshove with a more appropriate frequency, adding an all-in component to your game is very important, even with significantly more than 10 big blinds.

In this particular spot we would consider raising to 27,000 with a range of hands that is polarized, consisting of very strong hands we want to induce action with as well as some hands that are strong enough to warrant a raise but will fold if a player behind us moves all-in. Our all-in range should consists of hands that are too strong to raise and fold with, but that lose significant value when we get action from our opponent’s wide range.

Examples of hands we would raise with to induce action would be something like AA/KK. Hands that we may want to shove would be more like 66 type hands that become very difficult to play postflop but are way too strong to raise and fold to a shove.

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Running this particular spot through a preflop simulator with the choices of raising to 27,000 or moving all-in, the simulator moves all-in with a range of 22-JJ/AJs+/A2s-A8s/ATo+/K8s+/KQo/Q8s+/QTo/J9s+/ T8s+/98s and open raises to 27,000 with a range of QQ+/A9s-ATs/A7o-A9o/KJo/KTo. When we look at the hands that are opened it intends to fold to a shove with A7o-A9o/KJo/KTo. We call and all-in after opening small with the remainder of hands in the range. Note, there is some minor nuance depending on where the shove comes from with AJs sometimes being a fold against a Button shove.

Note that this range is a bit different from a range from the Cutoff on around 15BBs from early stages of a tournament. Once you’re deep in a tournament, factors like stack sizes and ICM pressure from the payout structure can start to have an impact on what the overall ranges look like. So while the charts are super helpful defaults you always want to be thinking about things like ICM and opportunity cost and factoring those into your decisions.

Another interesting takeaway is that in this spot the optimal play includes more shoving hands (17.7% of total hands) than raising hands (7.3% of total hands). This is one reason why it’s important to keep thinking of all possible options in your play.

Certain circumstances lead to some plays that may seem a bit “out of the box” but become much more profitable than more “standard” plays, such as over shoving with more than 10 big blinds versus tough players.

Moving all-in is the best play.

How would you play it?
Share your answer in the comments below!

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