Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Power Play

I’m sure there is a stamped and authorized name for this play but I don’t know it. I’ve decided to call it the Power Play and it seems to be appropriate.

To set this up I’m playing in a Multi-table Tournament last night at Ultimatebet when the following scenario unfolds. We started with 832 players and were down to 159. I have around 6800 in chips with the average being in the 5,000 chip range. I’m dealt AQo in early middle position and the current chip leader who has about 25,000 in chips limps in on my immediate right. I bet the pot, which represents around 1/5 of my stack. It folds around to the Chip Leader who reraises to 5,200.

The Chip Leader has just executed what I like to call the Power Play. She has feigned weakness, then come over the top when I chased off the other players with my raise. Although this play can be executed with any two cards, I believe only a fool would do so without a very large pocket pair. I’m talking K’s or A’s, possibly Q’s if the table conditions are right. You also want to be one of the large stacks at the table. If you are short stacked it is better to just get your chips in up front.

This is a risky play. If you get a raiser to isolate you from the rest of the field, it’s quite possible they also have a hand, and are willing to call your raise. The thing is, you want them to call. This is why it is best to have a large stack, and in optimum conditions have your opponent covered. I play a relatively tight tournament style. If I’m at a table where the other players are paying attention to that, and folding to my raises, this becomes a nice way to add to my chip count. When reraising you want to force your opponent to make a decision for all their chips. Performing a minimum raise only allows them to see a flop without mortal risk. This gives your opponent a chance to improve on the flop, or get away from their hand. You do not want this. If played correctly you should have the best hand preflop and you want your opponent to join you when you have that advantage.

The play is similar in style to a Stop-N-Go, but in reverse. The Stop-N-Go is used as a bluffing tool to force your opponent to fold. Here we are not bluffing but want it to appear that perhaps we are, thus enticing the call. Since we are only making this play in optimum conditions it becomes a nice way to mix things up without having to consciously make a decision to do so. The caveat is that it won’t always work. You can never foresee someone raising behind you. As such is the case it is best to be UTG or UTG +1 so there are plenty of players left to act. If you get a few limpers and then someone in late position raises, that’s all the better. The early limpers are likely to fold and the late position may have been on a steal all along. It’s possible to take this pot down without having to worry about being drawn out on. In the process you have also added enough chips to nicely enhance your stack.

When does this not work. Well, when no one raises. You are more than likely still best post flop and you should try to take it down at that time. Keep in mind that if you get a lot of callers you need to watch for the flush and straight draws. The discipline needs to be in place to even get away from A’s if your likely beat in this situation. This play can run the risk of wasting a good pocket pair. Remember your supposed to be in a good position before making the play so the short term loss of one hand shouldn’t affect you.

Now back to my situation. The chip leader had not been using her stack to push people around. She had also been playing a tight game. As soon as she made her move I knew I was behind in the hand. My options were to lay the hand down and pick a better spot, or push all in for the remainder of my chips. A call was going to leave me pot committed anyway and when this occurs, it’s best to push. I would spout off all the percentages and statistics that reflected my hands chance of winning against what I thought my opponent had, but I don’t have these things memorized and I didn’t consider them when I made my decision. If I was looking to play a good sensible game I should fold in this situation. By not folding I am giving my opponent everything she is looking for.

I knew I was against a pair of Q’s or better and at best I was less than a coin flip, and at worst a huge dog. I let external influences guide my decision. If I wasn’t going to make the top 8 in this tournament it wasn’t worth my time to continue playing in it. The real money didn’t come till this point and I didn’t want to spend 5 hours only to make $20 or $30. I was also tired and looking for an out. If I could double up through the chip leader it would hurt her and put me within the top 20 in chip stacks. I could then be in a decent enough position to make my run for the final table.

With the decision made I pushed all in and she called. Sure enough she had pocket K’s and I called for an A on the flop. My request was granted and I figured I had the shot I wanted. As fate intervened a K came on the turn so I was drawing dead. She gave me the obligatory “gg” but I knew she was secretly thinking, “sucker”.

The computer was shutdown and off to dreamland I went. At least I got a post out of it.