Making the Second All-In Call by Jon ‘Pearljammed’ Turner
When a short-stack moves all in and you have him comfortably out-chipped, your decision is usually straight-forward. You consider what range of hands he could have, gauge the likelihood that your hand is best, do some quick pot-odds math, and either call or fold.
However, when another player who is not quite so short-stacked calls in front of you, your decision becomes infinitely more complicated. Suddenly a hand you were dying to call the original all-in bet with becomes marginal at best. And with the pot having swollen substantially, your decision becomes even more pivotal.
I recently played in a No-Limit Hold ’em tournament where I found myself in this extremely tricky position. The blinds were 150/300 with a 25 ante, and I had one of the larger stacks at the table, about 25,000 in chips. I was in second position with pocket Kings and raised it up to 750.
A player in middle position, the button and the big blind called my raise. So we went four-way to the flop, and it came J-8-2 with two hearts. I felt good about my hand, especially considering I had the King of hearts. The big blind checked, and even though I figured my hand was best, I checked for several reasons. The stack behind me was very deep, and I didn’t want to play a big pot against him out of position. Also, I had recently been seen checking flops and giving up on pots after raising pre-flop, so I chose to mix my play up here to add deception to my game. After the player to my left and I both checked, the button moved all in for 6,300.
It was a great spot for me because I highly doubted that he had my Kings beat. But it stopped being such a great spot for me when the big blind called the 6,300, leaving himself with about 9,000 chips behind his call.
The big blind was a tight player who generally thought through every decision carefully and rationally. I thought about the hands he might have, and I figured A-J was possible, as was a set. I doubted he would make that call with the nut flush draw. So I studied him for about two minutes, doing my best to try to get a read on him. I don’t study someone like that very often, but this was a case where I desperately wanted to look for signs of whether he did or did not want me to re-shove and put him all in. I tried to determine if he was comfortable enough with his hand to play for his whole stack. And finally I reached the conclusion that I didn’t believe he was. Rather, I believed he made the call knowing that he would fold if either of the two players behind him shoved.
So I shoved, the player behind me folded, and then the big blind showed me the A-J as he folded it. The button turned over Q-J, and my Kings held up.
I had a difficult decision, trying to determine if the big blind flat-called because he was hoping someone else would push all in, or if he flat-called because he wasn’t willing to put all of his chips at risk. In the end, I made the correct read and the correct decision. But I only made that decision after thinking the situation through extremely carefully, which is how you have to handle spots like that if you’re going to succeed in No-Limit Hold ’em tournaments.