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.