K♥Q♥ in the Small Blind, what do you do here?

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In a Tournament where blinds are 400/800 with a 100 ante it folds to the Hijack who moves all-in for 3,826 (5BBs). The Cutoff calls, the Button folds, and action is on you in the Small Blind with K♥Q♥ (and a 19BB stack). What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are playing in the middle stages of a multi-table tournament. The blinds are 400/800 with a 100 ante. We are dealt KhQh in the Small Blind. Action folds around to the Hijack who shoves all-in for 3,826 chips, or roughly 5 big blinds. The Cutoff calls the Hijack's shove and action folds around to us.

This is a very interesting spot because our KQs is certainly ahead of the Hijack’s 5 big blind shoving range, but interacts with the Cutoff’s calling range uniquely. The Cutoff likely calls with hands including medium to big pocket pairs, some Ax hands, and a lot of suited broadway type hands. Our hand is right in the middle of that range.

If we raise, we potentially isolate a player with a wide range and get to play a ~17BB pot as a significant equity favorite. However, when we do reraise to isolate and the Cutoff calls us, we are likely behind and often out of the tournament. When we decide just call the Hijack's shove as well and see a flop our hand plays well multiway.

In addition, players are less incentivized to bet into a dry side pot as a bluff, since they have to show down for the main pot with the original raiser no matter what. If they are theoretically bluffing less often that allows us to realize our equity more frequently.

Continued below...

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Running this through a simulator the decision is very close. Flatting here has a positive expectation of 0.34 big blinds profit, while isolation raising has a positive expectation of 0.33 big blinds profit. One surprising result of this simulation is that we are calling here with nearly 18% of hands and only isolation raising our biggest hands, in this case 99+, AQ+ and KJs.

The lesson here is that in theory we should be only raising big hands for value and mostly calling hands that play reasonably well multiway and interact with our opponent’s ranges well (like suited broadway hands and pocket pairs).

If are playing against an opponent we observed to have a large range gap in this spot by flatting too many hands here and folding to shoves to often, then we should start making exploitative adjustments to isolation raise much more frequently.

Without that specific read, we should include KQs in our wider calling range and keep a tight isolation raising range. By calling, we let the dry side pot help protect our equity in the hand.

Calling is the best play.

How would you play it?
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