Five Winning Moves To Add To Your Game

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1. The re-steal

What is it?

In the last few years tournament poker has become more aggressive, as players have embraced the concept of raising with an increasingly wider range of hands. This means many players are raising with far from premium hands, which in turn has led to the adoption of the ‘re-steal’ move. It’s become more than a sophisticated weapon to have in your no-limit tournament arsenal – it’s now standard practice to attack many late position raises with big three-bets.

Why has it become popular?

Most tournament structures rely on a constant accumulation of chips. Therefore it’s vital you continually put pressure on opponents by attacking their raises and taking down pots preflop when you think you can force players to fold. If you suspect that someone has been raising with far too many hands you can take the educated risk of re-raising or shoving all-in (with decent and premium hands) and brushing them to one side. It does have some risk attached to it if someone has a genuine monster, but in most situations this powerful semi-bluff will get through because your opponents’ raising range is much wider than their calling range.

How to defend against it

There are a couple of ways to combat late position re-steals. Either stop stealing in late position with hands that can’t stand a re-raise, or be prepared to call or shove with a much wider range. Assuming that you haven’t got a genuine hand against loose-aggressive players who you suspect to be re-stealing, you’ll have to weigh up whether you have the right pot equity against their range and how it will affect you if you win or lose the pot.

2. Min-raise

What is it?

A raise of three times the big blind used to be a standard preflop raise. Now, smaller raises of around two to two and a half times the big blind have become de rigeur for many tournament players, especially online when the blinds get bigger and antes come in to play.

Why has it become popular?

With stealing and re-stealing being embraced by players at all stakes, a smaller preflop raise can save you vital chips those times that someone comes over the top and you have to throw your hand away. By making smaller raises you’re risking fewer chips to win the same amount of blinds and because you’re not risking as much you can attempt to steal more and attack a greater number of pots. The drawback is that you’re often giving players, especially the big blind, better odds to call and see a cheap flop, but even if they do you’ll still have position, and you’ll be able to make smaller continuation bets as the pot is smaller. You’ll also be in control of the pot because you were the preflop aggressor. What’s more, when someone gets sick of your small raises, and you do have a genuine monster, there’s a great chance you’ll get paid as your hand strength will be well disguised.

How to defend against it

Be vigilant. If a player is raising a lot preflop then you can assign him a much wider hand range and choose your moment to three-bet. The min-raise helps to keep the pot smaller so you won’t have to risk too much of your stack for the times when your opponent comes back over the top and you have to make a laydown.

3. Shoving light post-flop

What is it?

There was once a time when a raise, a re-raise and an all-in meant you were almost certain to see premium hands locking horns. But times, and more importantly raising hand ranges, have changed, meaning these days you’re just as likely to be looking at middle pair against a flush draw.

Why has it become popular?

Shoving light is a direct result of the increasing number of players entering pots with far from premium hands. Because of this, the extent to which you must connect with a board reduces, particularly when facing the now obligatory continuation bet. It’s becoming far more common for a successful aggressive player to slam their chips in with a flopped draw, a pocket pair or even overcards to the board if either they or their opponent are approaching a short stack.

When the stacks are a little deeper, shoving back into a position raiser when you’ve caught a fraction of the board also has the advantage of making hands that you’re currently behind to buckle under the pressure of your all-in.

How to defend against it

Weigh up whether a continuation bet or checking behind is the right thing to do in each given situation. Flush draw and straight draw shoves tend to lose their attraction if you check to the turn as there’s only the one card to come.

4. Inducing the squeeze

What is it?

Everyone loves to see a pair of Aces pop up in their hand, but unfortunately, you’re only get them once every 221 hands – maybe once or twice in an online tournament if you’re lucky. Understandably then, many players don’t want to ‘waste’ them when they arrive by simply raising and taking down the blinds or three-betting and scooping a small pot. Instead a lot of players have started to flat-call an earlier raise with the hope that an aggressive player behind them will attempt a ‘squeeze’ play. And, worst case scenario, if no one bites the Aces are still going to be good on a lot of flops against the original raiser. Indeed by under-representing your hand you can often force a mistake from someone overplaying an underpair or top pair on the board.

Why has it become so popular?

Two words, Dan Harrington. His Harrington on Hold’em series of books championed the squeeze play after he highlighted his famous move with 6-2o at the 2004 WSOP final table. And as with the continuation bet, everyone was suddenly squeezing at every opportunity. So poker evolved and ‘clever’ players began flat-calling with their monster hands knowing that many players would
not be able to resist the squeeze play.

How to defend against it

Don’t squeeze without the goods is the simple advice, but then poker is not a simple game. The warning signs should begin flashing if a player with less than 20 big blinds flat-calls an under the gun or early position raise, and they should really go off if that player is aggressive. A flat-call of an early position raise by someone in mid to late position is much more likely to be a trap to induce the squeeze than if someone flat-calls from the blinds. Even with a monster hand most players aren’t comfortable playing out of position.

5. Overbetting with monsters

What is it?

In the not-so-distant past, when players made a monstrous hand like full house or the nut flush, they would often put out a small ‘value’ bet in order to ensure they got paid. And usually they got called and picked up some extra chips. Then some bright spark thought, ‘Hey, maybe I should get paid more when I make a big hand? After all, anyone who has called my bets to the river will often have a very good second best hand and be forced to call.’ And so good players, especially in cash games, started betting more with their monsters (and bluffing occasionally with a pot-sized bet so they were hard to read) in order to get more value for their bigger hands. And now it seems every Tom, Dick and Harry is catching on...

Why has it become so popular?

As poker strategy becomes ever more mature, certain concepts become more and more evident. Betting for value on the river is one of those strategies. Because a big bet used to frequently be seen as a bluff it now works in that no one knows what you have – is it a great value bet or a steal? And then there’s the maths. Betting the pot has to work a lot less frequently than a small bet to produce the same expectation.

How to defend against it

You need to have a solid read on an opponent before assuming that because there are two Aces on board and he’s betting the pot he must be bluffing. Reconstructing the hand to make sure their betting pattern makes sense is something you need to get used to doing. As for exploiting it, you need to mix up your play and not size your bets based purely on hand strength. If you’ve been seen to take an opponent to value town with the nuts, next time bet the pot when strong. Opponents’ stack sizes and tendencies are obviously vital. Psychologically, players hate calling off more than half their remaining chips on the river, but you should charge calling stations as much as you think you can get away with.

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