Late SNG, small stack all-in, another calls or shoves. Chip leader: call or fold?

During my last week, this situation happened multiple times, at least 4-5, and maybe more than that:

At a 9-seat SNG, I’m sitting on the chip lead with anywhere from 10k-16k chips, the rest of the table is at 1500 to maybe 4-5k.

At some point a small-stack decides to shove, and gets a call. I’m holding cards I might have opened with if I wasn’t facing a raise, and might have called a small raise with. Hands like ATs, KJ, KQ, in one instance QTo.

The shove from the small-stack puts me to a decision of do I want to commit to these cards to see a showdown, and it takes my ability to bluff and bully away form me, so I’m only able to rely on the cards.

But then another player comes into the pot ahead of me, and now I’m thinking it’s best to stay out of the hand, since I have no chips in yet apart from the ante, which is negligible.

So I fold, and I feel like it was the right decision to make at the time. However, as it happened this week, I watched my 2 cards would-have-win in each and every one of these hands, like 6-7 hands in a row. Even QT, which made a wouldabeen broadway straight. So now I’m questioning myself.

Here’s what I think:

If I come in to the hand, the best possible outcome is that I win and KO both of the other players.

The other possibility is that the small stack is eliminated by the other player, and if I came into that hand, I’d probably give away the chip lead to them.

If the small stack wins the hand, then they stay in the game, and so then we’re not through the bubble yet, and they’ve just tripled up rather than doubled up.

This leaves a side pot left over for me and the other player, and it’s possible I might win and KO the other player, but if I don’t, I’m probably looking at the small stack tripling up, the middle player doubling up, and me suddenly dropping from 1st to 3rd or maybe even 4th stack, and suddenly in big trouble to even money in the tournament.

Because of this, I always feel like it’s by far the safest option to stay out of the hand, playing a very tight range, like AA, KK, , probably not QQ or AK, and that’s about it.

Basically, I feel like if I have gotten this far and accumulated this many chips, then I’m running my game about as well as I can, and so I don’t feel a strong need to “gamble” on hands where a big amount of chips go in preflop, and especially not multi-way hands. I’d rather let the smaller stacks knock each other out, taking no risks I don’t need to take, let my opponents make the mistakes, and clean up afterwards with a strong heads-up game.

So even if by sitting out, I allow the middle stack to KO the small stack and end up with more chips than me, or gets even up, I feel better about taking them on heads-up, evenly matched, than I do rolling the dice in a big 3-way hand.

In my most recent game tonight, I found myself in a situation very nearly like the above. Four up, I have a little under 9k chips, I’m in the UTG, and wake up with AKo, which I raise to 2BB, Button is the chip leader with almost 12k chips, and they call. SB is the small stack with just over 1500 chips, they go all-in. I don’t really want to fold AKo in this situation, and I normally wouldn’t mind just calling here, if the most I can lose is the 1500 that the small stack put in. But the big stack is still to act behind me, I don’t want the big stack to come in and put me at risk too. So rather than flat call, I shove and hope it puts the big stack off calling me. I figure AKo is crushing almost all of their range, and I should have pretty decent fold equity here. And I think I’m right about that, even though they decide to call.

The hand runs out to my favor: Small stack held a suited Jack, hits a four-card flush, and is eliminated. Big stack had QTo, flop paired their top card, but gave me a pair for my Ace, and we rode it out, and I held on to win it. For this, I end up with a massive windfall pot of nearly 20K chips, eliminate the small stack, and the former big stack is dropped down by 3/4. So, best possible outcome for me, and went on to win the whole thing, while the former big stack ended up finishing 3rd, when they should easily have been able to guarantee themself at least 2nd by simply preserving their stack and staying out here.

Which, I think, pretty well illustrates my point about being careful about multi-way big pots late in the game when you’re already the big stack. Their call of a 6000+ 4-bet to alll-in with just QT is a very big mistake, and costs them big. But then, I’m very lucky too that my hand held up.

So in not-so-conclusion, this is a spot where it’s pretty easy to make a blunder, and I’m not saying I’m playing these situations wrong by folding most of them, but it does feel like I pass up some opportunities sometimes, and I’m wondering what pro-caliber players do when they face situations like this.

Similar to playing on the bubble in a MTT. My opinion is that it is nearly always better to let the other players duke it out, unless you have a super premium hand like AA or KK. As you say, the power to raise and make people fold when you have inferior cards is more reliable than the chances of a flop hitting your two highish unpaired cards when someone has already called a raise. Even with AK, you really do not want to be calling 2 all-in raises and putting your chip lead at risk, because with the chip lead you can continue to grind opponents down with not much risk to you.

1st off, lets address that short stack… As I’ve read before from ppl like SPG, Warlock, and others, along with my opinions/knowledge… @ a certain point your stack becomes nominal, and no longer a threat. Playing to increase your stack before that point, is the optimal way to go alot deeper and possibly winning… whereas defensive play might get you a bubble cash, yet thats about it. Consider the short stack a cornered and wounded animal. They have few options on gameplay and usually thier only play is shove/fold once they become very short.

Contrast that with the table/tourn chip leader. Just like the person on the very left of a BlackJack table who must be aware of not taking the dealers’s bust card, so does the chipleader have duties. They are the best, not only, person to keep pressure on those shortstacks and not allow them to see cheap flops. If they put that onus on the med stacks or “stay outta the way”, inveriably they end up 2-3rd stack once the dust settles and the shorts are gone.

“Stay’n outta the way” with a good hand, normally is a bad idea. Also, way too many times as chipleader, if myself and the other bigger stacks play defensively… all too often the shorts start attacking, noone does anything, and very soon there are no short stacks… just a bunch of med stacks.

Lets say Blinds are 100/200 and a person on the BB has 500-800ish chips. Thats fold/shove territory… with almost ANY 2 cards. That person cannot even make a basic 3x raise with so few chips behind and really has to shove/fold.

Most top players I have spoke with or read posts from, say the following… when “they” go deffensive … go on offence more, when they are too offensive … lay back a bit.

I think Puggywug, where your problem lies, is the fact that most ppl around here , in my book, don’t play correctly and that causes problems for you. Lets take the following example… shall we.

Final Table, 9max, 8 players left. A “supershort” stack shoves all in for lets say 3-4x the bb and gets 3 callers. The decision at this point is to take that 3:1 adv to bust the supershort, or does 1 or more of those 3 attempt to take the pot themselve, before a sidepot is established… thus making it prolly a 1:1 to bust out the supershort.

This brings the ugliest word available. Collusion. Yet it also brings into question some of the listed no-no’s listed in either ToS or CoC. While I agree some tactics listed are mainly for, but not Ltd to… Ring Games, as far as being “bad”… most are basic ways to play in tournaments where busting ppl out… Is one the main goals.

While direct collusion is Cheating, indirect collusion is Not. Nor are many of the listed tactics, when used indirectly. They are actually the basics of Tourn play. If 3 players independantly know 1 course of action is the best, and all 3 do this this … Without prodding or any direct signals, then its perfectly legal gamplay.
This is perfectly shown when you look @ PL action. Constantly there are examples of “tag-teaming”, for no other reason that building up the pot so 1 or more players can get to an All-In. Usually this involves 2 ppl on opposite ends of a table , dink raising. Most ppl that limp, will pay a min raise or dbbl that, partially due to the fact that they are “priced-in” to keep calling.

So Puggywug, has brought up an interesting question/senario. As chipleader do you take an active role in the table, or do you sit back and let the field come to you… hoping that you still will be in good shape stackwise when they do. Also hoping that the med stacks keep pressure on the shorts for you… ie- let them take the risk, but also get the reward.

Why play good poker for an hour, then abandon that for crappy poker just cause you are too much protecting a lead… Whatever got you there, keep playing that way.
Even most professional athletes would much rather have thier fate in thier own hands, than to seed that control to others. How many times does a Football team with a lead, revert to playing “not to lose”… and wouldn’t ya know it, they lose because of it.
Same goes for that short stack, you dont keep pressure on… they come back and bite you in the butt.

Lets say a SnG/MTT pays top 3. You have a premium hand but not AA, and are 3rd stack, with 4 players left and a med-low stack, but not the short stack. If your hand was the hand that wouldda busted out the shortstack, and you didn’t play, hoping someone else would… and they 2x or 3x up… not only are you now in 4th place, but premium hands don’t always come along alot. You just wasted a good chance not only guarentee a cash, but chip-up.
If you are the chipleader, your best option is to scoop up the shorts so your opponents DON’T. This keeps your competative advantage stackwise, while smartgameplay should limit your risk to attack them. Problem is the rest of the table might not be playing smart, and should be. Just as AA has certain odds to be the eventual winner, so does a 3:1 adv to bust someone. Why get greedy and lower that to 1:1 ???

To be clear here, I am not endorsing any type of Cheating, but many “nuances”, such as Puggywug’s question, especially in a SnG/MTT, will be determined by the overall, ave skill and tendancies, of the remaining players… Not a Yes/No answer to any 1 question.

Your Question @puggywug, also is clouded by overall stategy. By that I mean, Leaderboard strategy vs MTT/SnG strategy. Obviously if this is your 20th SnG and Leaderboard is Best of 20, and you know that a 3rd place wins the LB, it will effect every decision you make in that SnG, including your question/situation. Whereas if your only goal is winning that SnG/MTT, then most/all your decisions will be different.

In conclusion puggy, USUALLY :roll_eyes: , the right play is … Play your good cards.