Should I fold AA preflop?

Situation: 20k tournament and we are at the bubble - there are 11 players left and 10 places paid. On the other table left in the tournament there is a player with about 400 chips left who appears to be away - they will blind out in 3-4 more hands.

I am on the small blind with AA. There’s a limp and the player in front of me raises. Now what?

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There appears to be some confusion here. The hand from this link has you in the Small blind and you folded. The next hand shows you as the button. The CO goes all in and you fold again. Is that the hand you mean?

Under the circumstances you describe, you likely made the right move by folding. I concur your most important duty here is to get into the money.

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If you run like me, you can fold everything up to pocket trips here :slight_smile:

IMO, as a short stack at the bubble with 2 players on larger stacks having already acted and 1 player about to blind out, its a crying fold.

Thanks @Alan25main for clearing this up - yes, I am in the small blind with AA not the button. I have edited the original post.

The right move is to shove, not fold.

I don’t care if I have 10 chips, I’m still looking for a way to win the tournament. This is your best chance to get back on track, you can’t throw it away.

If you are practicing proper bank management, the 20k won’t mean anything. A minimum cash won’t mean much either. Doubling or tripling there gives you a shot at making a deeper run, and I think it pays more in the long run.

As far as I’m concerned, if you aren’t playing to win you’re playing to lose.


From a tournament earlier today…

Calling here…

Lead to here…

Risky? Yeah, sure. Sometimes risk pays, sometimes it doesn’t, but trying to avoid all risk rarely wins the day.

Interesting. Does your strategy change around the bubble at all or do you always go for it and try to push any edge? In the spot in my original post, how wide a range are you shoving? Is there ever a spot for you where bubble considerations or payout jumps would make it correct to fold AA?

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“Around the bubble” is my “Stage 3,” and I tend to play more aggressively. I would be the guy min raising and getting you to fold aces. :slight_smile:

Picking on those trying to coast into the cash is part of my game, though there is a lot more to it than that. By then, you should have a pretty good idea of how everyone is playing, you have to pick your spots, as always.

I won’t say my exact shove range there, but it wouldn’t be very wide at all. Big stacks will often call knowing they are a little behind just to get lucky and knock you out. My exact range is situational there.

The only time I would even consider folding aces for a payout jump is if 4-5 people were already in for enough to finish me, and probably not even then.

Just for a data point, I win 4% to 6% of the MTTs I enter. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying my game is pretty dialed in to the med MTTs I play. Check the med MTT leaderboard for the last few months if you doubt this.

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Sure, if I am a big stack then I am doing this too. Here though I am short stacked and not the first to act so that isn’t an option.

I don’t doubt that you are successful in the games you play, and that’s why I asked you to elaborate more on your strategy for this spot. You mentioned “Stage 3” but I am not familiar with that term. Could you please explain what your stages are and how your approach changes in each?

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I look at MTTs as having 7 distinct stages., and I do have a different baseline strategy for each. If you know that pre-bubble/bubble is stage 3, figuring out the others shouldn’t be that hard. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to you Tacos, but I won’t go into great detail about it.

I think most people know that “switching gears” can be a good thing, but how many have made the effort of studying exactly how and when to do it for best effect?

I will say that switching gears creates “transitions” where the table thinks you are playing one way while you are playing another, and that these transitions can be devastating.

Yeah, but people expect big stacks to do it, so it’s less effective. People don’t expect it from medium stacks as much. Actually, I’ve seen many big stacks turn into small stacks by trying to do it too much. IMO, big stacks should be looking to preserve their stacks, not trying to pick up a blind or 2 here and there.

Short stacked, I’m looking for a spot to get it in, as I’m sure most are.

I just reviewed the hand and I agree with @SunPowerGuru. I would have shoved all-in with Aces with that stack. You gotta ask yourself: “What’s my goal?” If your goal is to at least min-cash then you can fold and wait for the player at the other table to bust. If your playing to win you gotta take the risk and go for it with the Aces.

If your playing to win a tournament, at some point in each tournament your gonna have to risk either a majority of your stack or all of it and your tournament life. Your going to have to win some flips to be a tournament winner. The key is to know when to make those decisions. Make educated decisions that will allow you to win those flips when you need too. I always prefer to be the player going all-in rather then calling an all-in.

I hope the advice is helpful.



What if this was in your once in a lifetime trip to the WSOP Main and just cashing is $15K better than bubbling out? If you were certain a small stack would be blinded out in a few hands and you’d have secured $15K without losing another blind in chips by folding, why wouldn’t you? His stack was so short that securing the cash would seem to be smart, assuming this was for cash and not play chips. Even if he got the folds or doubled up, his stack was small enough that he’s still not in good shape to run deep. So, at what point does real money change your decision?

@Marc978 I’d be interested to hear what other hands you are shoving with here. Where is the borderline for you and how do you decide?

I am primarily a ring player so not used to thinking about these bubble/payout kind of considerations. In a ring game I can look at the math to answer this question by looking at my equity vs my opponent’s range and make a decision from that. In a tournament, I can calculate that shoving is +EV in terms of chips but is it +EV in terms of prize money? Can I use ICM to calculate this?

My bank on Replay would allow me to play 938 20K MTTs. Losing one won’t hurt, min cashing one won’t help.

If I had $9,380,000 in my real money poker fund, the same would apply.

In my “once in a lifetime trip to the WSOP Main” in 2006, I shoved AQs at 3 am on my day one and got called by (and lost to) J6o. I could have folded and made it to day 2… no doubt about it.

Would I have folded AA on the bubble? No, I wouldn’t.

Yes you can.

OK great. How do I use ICM to calculate this?

…and should I? or is there a better way to look at this analytically?

Well find an ICM calculator, bang in the prize distributions and stacks, and see what it says.

Should you? Sure, why not? Let us know the results!

I dunno if there is a better way, but I would expect the big stack to be raising there pretty wide. Like I said, I would be looking for a spot to get it in there, and aces would 100% be that spot. Is this optimal? I don’t know, but I suspect it is.

I never claimed that I always play optimally. Haha. I make plenty of bonehead moves, maybe not folding is one of them. I’m still shoving though.

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It is so cool that you got to play in the Main Event! That’s amazing. I’d love to see what its like just once but that’s a lot of money. I’ve never played anything bigger than $500 live or online. I like pushing the aggression up near the bubble but I guess I’m just a wimp on exact bubble situations.

I don’t know how to use it but its called ICMIZER. I think its free to download. If you do the calculations, I’d love to see what it shows.