When you are playing in a tournament, often when it gets to the final table, it becomes a monstrous drawn-out war of attrition with half a dozen or so equal stacks exchanging the lead, but no one willing to call all-in bets or bluffs and risk elimination.
In these circumstances, sometimes you get a pair of tens in against a pair of nines and neither will back off and the result is usually that the nines hit their set on the river, but occasionally a stack does get eliminated.
But what some players miss is that this is the time to get tricky. Sometimes getting tricky is the only way to break the impasse.
The player on my left was the chip leader and was playing very aggressively in a lot of pots. On the hand below I picked up the Ace and Queen of Spades in the BB and checked to his limp, and this is what happened.
There has been much discussion on these boards about preflop raises and how large they should be, but I am coming to the conclusion that in these tournaments it is best to limp promising hands other than AA most of the time, because raises have little deterrent effect on callers until very late in the tournament, and the effect of, say, raising 3 or 4 big blinds from any position is that you will end up with a pot of about 12 1/2 to 15 big blinds on the flop, meaning that if you do actually hit top pair, top kicker with your AK, you need a bet of about that amount to have any chance of ending the hand then and there, and if an opponent hits two pairs or a set on the flop, you will lose most of your stack, or a large part of it, or maybe all of it.
On the other hand, if the flop misses you (let’s say you have AK, and the flop comes QJ rag, you can totally guarantee that 99 will go all the way to the river and call any bluff, never considering that you might have a pocket overpair, Q, or J.
So I am coming to the conclusion that it is better to sneak into pots with AK, thus disguising your hand when the flop hits you, and not putting your tournament life at stake when it does not.
Of course I am not saying NEVER raise preflop, but you need to have a definite plan based on the size of the pot relative to the stacks, and know what kind of continuation bet will be needed. For example with a preflop raise bluff, you need to know exactly how the SB and BB are playing, the size of their stacks, what size bet they will probably fold to, and so on. If the BB is small stacked, you need to have a plan for if he reraises all-in. If you don’t want to put him all-in, you should probably leave him alone in the first place.
There is nothing worse than helping a small stack to treble up by attacking him with rags.
If you have a pair of Jacks and raise preflop and are called by the BB and the flop comes A, K, or Q high, if he leads out, then he is probably ahead of you, but if he checks to you, you are probably good to take the pot with a continuation bet unless he is slow playing a monster. You do not want to risk half your stack on a continuation bet. Sometimes it may be necessary if you need to win a pot with a bluff to stay competitive in the tournament, but it should be premeditated with consideration of all risk management factors.