Monday, October 20, 2008

Decision Making in Tournament Play

Posted February 24th, 2008 by phillau

Poker's all about making the decision with the best expected value at all times. This applies even more when it comes to tournament play, when the "value" in a hand doesn't only embed in the chips in the pot, but also the players you can potentially eliminate. I made a decision last night at a tournament that costed me my tournament life and got me feeling really blue. But thinking back, is it really that bad of a move?

I was playing in a single table tournament last night, the pot was about $2,300USD, and the structure was winner takes all with deals allowed. The game was down to 5-handed and I was the chipleader. I had 7000 chips, which was about 30% of the chips in play, and blinds were up to 200/400 with 25 ante. The table had been on all-in mode for the past few hands when I was dealt AJo. I'm UTG so I decided to set a trap and flat-called. Within my plan, Button moved all-in for 1/3 of my stack. However, out of my expectation, BB also moved all-in, his stack being half of mine. The logical move here was to lay down my AJ, but there's an external factor. Of the 4 players left on the table whom I'm playing against, Button and and BB were by far much better players than the other two. I figured that if I could knock them out in a single hand, the tournament's mine. In addition, my gut feeling is neither of them had AA, AK, or AQ, so I assumed my Ace was live. I decided to gamble and called. To my relief, Button showed pocket tens, and BB showed pocket nines. Wow! Even my Jack was live! I got double my assumed outs! Unfortunately I totally missed the board the the pocket nines actually hit his set on the turn to miraculously take down the pot. Very online-poker-esque.

According to the odds calculator, the winning percentages of the three hands (AJo vs TT vs 99) are 36.51% vs 45.25% vs 17.96%. I mean, it wasn't a bad call. I had the right odds (2 to 1) and I could potentially take out the two better players at the table. In contrast, if it were the two weaker players making the same shoves, i would've been more likely to fold as taking them out would yield much lower utility. It seemed like a loose move after the cards were shown, but if I were given another chance, i would be at least 50% likely in calling again.

oh well, that's poker, I guess.

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