Deep in a tournament, outside the bubble. Call or fold AKs?

It’s late in the first hour of a 67-player MTT, and closing in on the bubble time. You’ve been playing well, but have gotten bounced around a lot due to rebalances, and are on your 8th table, and you havne’t been sitting long enough to have a great read on the play here. You got a couple of good hands early, hitting two A-high spade flushes early, a straight, and a few other small hands, and have only lost one showdown when you raised AJ to 1200 chips, got a call from TJ, and TJ flopped Tens and you missed the board.

You’re sitting on the BB seat, when you’re dealt AKs. You’ve got 7000 in front of you, less the 600 BB. It’s a 9-seat table, but 3 empty chairs, and you’ve got the 2nd shortest stack. UTG is sitting on 11K, then around the table it’s 4.6K, 15.8K, 12.1K on the button, and the SB with 10K.

UTG limps, rest of the table folds around to the SB, who shoves.

What do you do?

1 Like

How close to the bubble and could you have basically folded your way in to the cash? Normally with 10BB that’s an easy call but if you could fold your way to a cash, folding is a thought. Farther from the bubble its easy and inside the bubble its also easy. If you were right on it, I think you can make a case for a crying fold. I guess it would also depend on whether the double-up would put you in a good position to run deep or not. You’d be at ~22BB if you won. Where would that have put you in relation to the average? If it wouldn’t give you a good shot to go deep, and you could fold your way to a min-cash, I would probably fold.

1 Like

the math says… ship-it and take ur chances.
The biggest problem “playing to cash” has, is usually thats all you do, barely cash.

Well, I finished 13th. Money to the top 10. I might have been able to hold on, but I had about 7BB left, and felt that kinda forced me to call here. I was planning on shoving it if there was no action ahead of me, and didn’t mind the extra 10K thrown in to sweeten the pot, although I was fairly sure that it meant I was looking at a big pair. I was just hoping it wasn’t Aces, and that I could hit a pair myself, and of course AK hits a pair about one in 20, when I’m holding it.

Thanks for posting!

Without ITM pressure, this is an easy call with AKs with 11 BB’s. You don’t even need to define his shoving range, but it seems like AJ/Qo+, 88+, maybe KQs… Ranked 9000th, he doesn’t seem very tight.
With the ITM pressure, this still is a call.

All in all, to me, this was +EV and also +$EV… We were talking about that with you in that SNG hand, but this is an easier spot.

Sadly you lost this, which sucks, but that’s due to the crap thing called “variance”, right ? :slight_smile:


I think you have to call there. Maybe if you folded, you could coast to a min cash, but you should always be looking for a way to get back in there with a chance to win the tournament. Better to be the one shoving, but if you won’t risk it there, what will you risk it with? You have to call, you don’t have to like it.


I’d play it
Dick B

Mandatory call with 11 bb’s 3 off the money!

1 Like

If only there was some way we could figure this out without guessing. Someone should create a machine capable of doing vast numbers of calculations very quickly. Then someone should write a program to simulate these types of situations in poker tournaments near the bubble. That would be so cool.


Regardless of nearly all other circumstances I would shove… I’d prefer to go out and miss cashing, than limp along, draw AA (first hand after making the money) and having no chips to bet. Has this ever happened to you? What were your sentiments at the time? How did you fair after making the money?

A chip and a chair is the siren call of every player who finds themselves with only a chip and a chair. Granted it can be done (you don’t really do it, you just overcome really long odds), but only once have I come back from a single chip to win a tourney and it certainly wasn’t here on RP. I would hazard to suggest it never could occur on RP given the propensity of a lot of players to call with any two cards, under any circumstances.

My keen powers of observation detect a slight hint of sarcasm there!


It is a tough one. I think I might fold, especially if in a high entry tournament, because my aim is always to get into the money first, then try to win. For example tonight I played a tournament in which I finished 3rd, made 4 million chips profit after paying for entry, and hit a new chip count high and RP high as a result.

Last night I played the same tournament and went out early when BB called my large raise with AK suited and the flop came ace 4 6, with a 6 on the turn, and a blank on the river. Villain shoved the river, and I foolishly called, being under the impression that he did not want to be called, and he turned over a pair of 4s. He went on to win the tournament, but I had the pleasure of eliminating him on the bubble tonight.

AK suited as two unpaired cards is an UNDERDOG to any pair, slightly more so if that pair blocks possible straights for the AK. My view is that given the situation there is a lot of merit in folding. On the next hand you might shove yourself from the SB with complete junk and still have a better percentage of winning the hand if you add together fold equity plus card equity.

In the situation in question, at the time of calling you do not know if the UTG limper is also sitting on a small pair, and might call the shove. If you are playing AK against TWO pocket pairs, your odds are much worse. Against a pair of jacks alone, which are of different suits to your cards, you are at 46%, but if we add a pair of 2’s into the mix, you go below 40%.

Nobody could really say you were wrong to call in that situation, but I can tell you that I have been eliminated from tournaments many times with AK, but have never been eliminated with any hand where I shoved and nobody called.

I start playing shove or fold once I get down to anywhere close to 10BB’s preferably keeping my stack above 10BBs, because once you go below, your shoves become increasingly less scary.

But, it at all possible, in MTTs I prefer to always win pots that I raise or shove, rather than calling other people’s shoves unless I have AA or KK, which I think you have to call, and given that you are a 2:1 favorite over AK and AQ if you have KK, and better with AA. QQ is a good call when the shover is a small stack and desperate, but even then he/she will often have an Ace in the hole cards.

Remember that in a tournament, you only have to win one set of blinds in each circuit to win, so why put you entire stack at risk if you don’t have to. One of the biggest differences in cash games is that you can lose your entire stack, and then buy right back into the game. In a tournament, you may have played beautifully for an hour, or two hours, or more, and just losing one pot puts you out for ever.

The other factor that cannot be underestimated is that as long as you are still in the game, there are other players making errors on every hand, the the more hands they play that you are not in, the more likely they are to eliminate each other.