I was asked an interesting question by one of my Twitter buddies this week, it was:
“Is getting big chunks of your stack in pre-flop really giving you a good ROI?”
He asked me that after I went on Twitter to complain about AK getting busted after I 4bet jammed 50big blinds against a loose, aggressive player who snap-called the 4bet with AQ.
Of course, once he flipped his cards, I had obviously made the right move in this exact moment, but poker is a long term battle, so getting it right in one place at one time is not the point.
Before I launch into what’s masquerading as a strategy article, let me press a few salient points.
The things I think are only ever relevant to micro-buyin tournaments, I have no comments to make on tournament buyins over $11 because I don’t often play them, and if I do it’s because I’ve micro satellited into them.
I don’t have the pedigree of people who usually write strategy articles, but to let you know where I am, I started playing very seriously at micro-level 8 months ago and have a 10% ROI on $12k investment over 2000+ microstakes large field MTTs.
My average buyin is $5 and my ITM% is 19.5.
As you can probably tell from those stats, I am a long way off “crushing” large field micro MTTs. I clearly have an issue with making the money too often whilst not making enough final tables/top three cashes. I think my main problem is I am just too nitty later on, and am not good at spotting decent bluff spots, which is vital to very deep runs.
That said, these particular strategy musings are definitely relevant to the early/mid part of large field, 9-handed MTTs, when there are more players who are less experienced and there for a punt.
Once you go deep, you are more likely to be playing against better opponents, and so the following ideas on 4bet jamming for value become less and less relevant.
I don’t play much 6-max and I don’t ever play cash, so how relevant this advice is to these formats is very unpredictable.
Please bear all this in mind before applying this approach consistently, at any stage of a tournament, busting with a medium holding on the bubble and saying “Kat StupidFace Arnsby told me to do it”.
When I write strategy for micro-players, I’m always happy with contention/correction because I want to improve my own game and get my ROI higher than it is so that I can afford a holiday sometime.
In addition, I am looking here at a very particular spot, specifically when we open, get 3bet and are considering whether to 4bet-jam FOR VALUE or fold.
I say 4bet-jam for value, because (unless we have some very detailed reads/info on a particular opponent) in most tournament structures we won’t have a decent enough stack to allow for 4betting and trying to play poker after the flop, or 4bet>folding in the early/mid part of tournaments, so another specific point here is that our stack is between 25 and 50 big blinds.
If you think you can 4bet and get a fold, then that is a different situation, but my experience of micro-tourney players (early/mid stage) is that once a player has 3bet, a 4bet bluff against them is an ambitious project.
It is also worth noting that there is the occasional supernit/TAG player at microstakes, and if they are 3betting you, watch your back.
I use my HUD stats to help me make decisions, and my thoughts here relate to the large sub-set of micro-players who have around a 25%VPIP, about 17% PFR, and 10% 3bet figure (give or take).
If you’re not using a HUD (why not?) or you can’t on the site you play on, these numbers translate (very approximately) to a guy who’s voluntarily putting money in about 2/3 times an orbit, open-raising roughly 3 times in two orbits, and 3betting at least one time in ten against an open (usually from any position).
Spotting the one time he calls anyone else’s 4bet-jam with A9 suited is worth making a note of if you don’t use a HUD, even if he was good in that case: at micros it’s unlikely that he seriously worked though his opponent’s possible range, it’s far more probable that he just liked the look of his “pretty tickets”.
Your average micro-player fancies any Ace, they get tumescent over two broadway cards, they are properly tugging one out over a suited Ace, and any pair is basically the money shot.
It is this psychology that my 4bet-value-jam philosophy relies on.
In addition, micro-players do consistently have an “at least I won’t be out” mentality, meaning that if they have you covered, even by just 5 big blinds, they feel a lot happier about calling you off than if they would be eliminated.
I think this is because of the famous “chip and a chair” phrase that every gambling/recreational player has heard; they always think they can mount a miraculous comeback.
On this basis, here’s the pre-flop 3bet>call range I assign to a micro-player with similar statistics to the ones detailed above:
There is a possibility that you think this is a little bit wide, so I also constructed a 2nd range, taking out some of the more skanky Aces and including only pairs 77 and above:
I prefer Range 1, I honestly think it’s more realistic. I think I have also been quite generous to average micro-players in that I have not included and really crap hands.
I have noticed that micro-players are not adverse to a cheeky attempt at a 3bet bluff, and (especially in bounty tournaments) hate to pass once they get caught at it. They also like J10s and middle-suited connectors, but since I’m trying to construct consistently helpful, standard/default ranges against the type of micro-player we’re talking about, I decided to keep it simple.
That brings us to our own hands. I’m going to assume we’re always 4bet jamming with KK/AA in a micro-tourney unless there’s a bloody good reason not to, and in my opinion, in the early/mid stages of micro-tourneys these reasons are harder to find than a good tune on a Justin Beiber album.
This gives us the following equities with the following holdings against the two hand ranges:
Hand Range1: AK 58%, QQ 67%, JJ 62%, 1010 57%, 99 53%, 88 50%
Hand Range2: AK 57%, QQ 65%, JJ 59%, 1010 53%, 99 48%, 88 45%
If we take that info and assume that 88 or less is a punter’s bet and make our 4bet value-jam range 99+, Aqs+, and AKo, we will end up with average equity of 63% against Range 1 and 61% against Range 2.
Truth is, even if we throw AQs and AQo into our 4bet-value-jam range we’ll still have 58% against Range 2, and if we think that Range 1 is most likely then even including AJs and AJo gives us 59%.
There’s a chance all these statistics are melting your brain, fair enough, it’s pretty boring, but the short conclusion is that if you raise with 99+, AQs+, AKo with a dream of 4bet shoving, you will have around 60% equity against the average micro-player’s 3bet>call range.
So… to answer my friend’s question, which can now (after a bit of study) be re-phrased as:
“Do you really want to get large chunks of your stack in pre-flop with average 60% equity?”
The answer is “Yes. Yes I do.”
Tournament play is never secure, you risk blinding out if you sit around waiting for “the perfect spot”; in the majority of tournaments, this spot will never come in time.
In large field micro-tournaments, you can potentially win a lot of cash from a very small investment, but it will never be easy, at some point your tournament life will have to go on the line; it is my opinion that I’d rather do this when I have a chance at becoming a monster stack in a decent spot, rather than waiting for a spot where my opponents are making a smaller calling mistake against me due to my teeny-tiny stack.
If you only have time to play one or two tournaments a week, and just enjoy chilling-out in front of the PC with a beer and football on in the background, then maybe a tighter, lower variance strategy is better suited to what you want to get out of the game. It can be very annoying to bust out with 1010 against A9 too early when you just want to have fun for a couple of hours.
If you’re looking at being a more thinking micro-reg and have the time to play enough volume to combat the variance, then don’t be afraid to 4bet-value-jam those hands… it would seem that in the long-run, it’s the right move.
Never forget the conditions discussed at the start of this and only apply this strategy to the right players at the right time of the tournament. Watch out for thinking micro-regs, they will adjust to you in the same way you adjust to them, so tighten (or loosen) that 4bet range accordingly as the game moves on.
I’ve put myself out there a bit with this blog, and I hope I haven’t inadvertently exposed myself as a complete tard. I’d love to know your thoughts/opinions/arguments… and watch out for me at the tables, now you know my 4bet-value-jamming range, you can exploit me all over the shop!