I can’t help but notice that lately I’m losing every big hand.
I raise big, with cards like: KK, QQ, AK, AQ, AJ, only to see the cards defy me and I miss the board with my high broadway unpaired cards, while someone calling with a hand like A9, end up pairing their garbage card and win on a pair of 9s.
The usual response to this complaint is “you’re not raising big enough if you’re getting called by that hand.” Maybe so. But to raise much higher than I do, I’d have to put in so much of my stack that I might as well shove. And when you do that, you either get the blinds, or you get stupid-calls that suck out, and while I don’t mind shoving certain hands in certain places, I don’t know that I should be doing it quite so frequently.
Or I raise a big pair, QQ KK, and get calls from people who play Aces, and the board invariably gives them an Ace, usually on the flop. So, I can either c-bet here and hope no one has an Ace, but Aces are all over a player’s range who would call the kind of raise I make with QQ KK. So mostly they’ll call, and so c-betting isn’t super profitable here. And if I check, you just know there’s a strong bet coming whether they have hit the flop or not, because there’s a lot of chips out there and they sense weakness.
Or I shove on someone while ahead, they call me with something that miracle rivers and I get beat. And I’m not talking someone calling on a monster draw, I’m talking they take A2 into my AK when I flop Aces and shove, and they end up rivering a 2.
Particularly this is true of the early stages of a SNG, when there’s still 6+ seated, and the blinds are at 50/100 or below. When the blinds go above 100/200, even just 3BB raises can be enough to steal a pot, particularly once the table is 4-handed or less.
When I play super cautious, betting small, limping more preflop, I can get away from these hands, last longer, win more in the long run, but without taking the big pots from these fast, aggressive hands, I’m not getting a big stack advantage to win these games, and am only able to hold on for a 3rd place win.
So my question is, what’s a proper level of aggression in the early stages of a tournament where you have big hole cards and you’re in position and supposed to open with them? What can you afford to put in preflop that you can back away from postflop if the flop is an absolute disaster for you?
Or is it better to just run hot, and bust out on those hands, playing an all or nothing strategy where the hands you win will put you on a path to win the whole game?