In a Satellite with A♥K♦ Facing an All-In, what do you do?


In a satellite tournament where blinds are 900/1,800 with a 1,800 big blind ante there are 11 players remaining with 6 players winning a $7,200 main event seat. Places 7-10 get $1050 in cash and 11th gets $100. You are currently in 6th chip position with 11 players remaining. The Cutoff (who is the short stack at the table) moves all-in for 28,400. Action folds around to you in the Big Blind with A♥K♦ and 28,000 behind. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are dealt A♥K♦ in the Big Blind and it is folded to the Cutoff who moves all-in for 28,400. Action then folds to us and we have a decision to make. With over 28,000 chips to start the hand we are in 6th chip position overall but 4th at our table. This means there are quite a few short stacks at the other table and moving up one position here equates to $950 in real dollars.

With these very flat payout structures in bubble situations the value of moving up the payout ladder is often more important than chip accumulation, especially if chip accumulation comes with significant risk. In this case we would effectively be risking our tournament life, since we barely cover our opponent.

The Cutoff should also be aware of the satellite implications in this spot of risking their entire stack when the rest of the table has them covered. Their shoving range should be fairly narrow. If the Cutoff were to bust out in 11th place when they have what is likely the 7th biggest stack would be a complete catastrophe.

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In a normal tournament situation this would be a fairly easy call as with a standard payout structure AK is well ahead of a Cutoff shoving range in this spot. Given the increasingly narrow range of the Cutoff due to the satellite circumstances as well as the additional risk we would take on by calling our range, to call in this spot should be super narrow.

If we lose this pot we are likely to be out in 11th place, while winning the pot doesn’t even move us up in chip position at our own table. Running this through a solver with ICM considerations factored in does indeed say our calling range here should only be JJ+ and even JJ is barely profitable.

This spot really illustrates how bubble dynamics can be amplified in satellite tournament situations. A hand that may be an easy call in a more standard tournament can be a clear fold in a satellite.

Folding is the best play.

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


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