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July 12, 2008

Texas Hold em Sit n Go: Playing the Big Stack

Playing the big stack in a Sit n Go comes with it’s own perks and it’s own problems. Many players are not comfortable playing with a lot of chips, or they think they are comfortable when in reality, they are not. Playing with a lead can be every bit as challenging as playing short-stacked, although it can be quite a bit more fun!

I was playing a Sit n Go on Full Tilt the other night when I ran into a hand that most players would not play, but when you have a big stack, you can take some calculated risks. Notice, I did not say “play like an idiot”, I said take some risks.

Early in the Sit n Go I had more than doubled my initial $3k in chips as was sitting in the Big Blind with $8275. The table folded around to the Small Blind, who put in a 4x raise to  $240. I had T-5 suited. At this point, there are several factors that would lead me to make this call:

1) I can afford it. I have a lot of chips, while the Small Blind only has about $2600. I can at least see the Flop and it will not make any difference to my chip stack.

2) The rest of the table has folded. Because of this, I will have position after the Flop.  Also, I can play heads up post-flop instead of worrying about whether 2 or 3 others hit a piece of the Flop.

3) Because the rest of the table folded, the Small Blind is likely just trying to steal the blinds, chances are, he does not have a monster hand, or even much of a hand at all. Most novice players assume you will fold your blinds to a raise if you do not have great cards.

I make the call for $180 more of my chips. I do not raise here because I don’t have anything. I do not want to invite a re-raise here.( a famous internet play, made by players who shouldn’t even be in the hand!) All I want is to see the Flop.

The Flop comes 7-6-4 rainbow. With a pot of $480, the Small Blind acts first and bets $240. I am getting 2:1 on my money at this point with an open-ended straight draw. Translation: no brainer to call.

The Turn card is a 3. The Small Blind goes all-in. Obviously I call with my straight. He turns over A-J. I win the hand and eliminate him from the tournament. Seconds later I get “well played, moron” typed into the chat box! I innocently ask “why is that” He says “you called a raise with T-5, dumb-azz!”

This is a typical mistake of many novice players. They expect just because they have a hand, others should get out of the way. In doing this, he made a multitude of mistakes.

1) He tangled with the Big Stack. Not a good idea. If you don’t want a call, don’t raise someone who can afford to call it regardless of his cards.

2) He totally missed the Flop. At this point, either bet big or check it down, but by giving me 2:1 on my money, he FORCED me to call with my straight draw.

3) Once there were straight possibilities on the board, he went all in. At this point, that just made a bad play worse. He had nothing but Ace high, but he went in fully knowing that if I had a lowly 5 in my hand he was done. Or, for that matter, a 7, 6, 4 or 3.

4) He was out of position the entire hand anyway, so had no benefit of seeing how I would bet before he did. Just blindly betting on an Ace high is a good way to lose your chip stack, which is exactly what happened.

The lesson here is pretty simple, if you are a big stack in a tournament, you can afford to see some flops and hope to “luck out”. This is not playing bad poker, this is simply taking advantage of the situation which is really what playing good poker is all about.

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