In Part 1 I talked about it never being correct to fold AA preflop in the early stages of a MTT, and explained why, even in a multi-way all in situation, your edge is way to great to fold. I promised in part 2 I would share with you a time when it actually is 100% correct to fold AA preflop. I’m actually going to share two times it would be correct. They are not contradictory to my article, because they occur at the end of the tournament, in very specialized circumstances… never early in an event.
The first is a situation I see from time to time that’s a horrific mistake which should be obvious, but often it isn’t. It occurs not in a regular MTT (that is, a MTT with a normal payout structure where the largest payouts go to the top 3 spots), but in satellite tournaments. A satellite tournament is one in which players are competing for a seat or seats into a target event. For instance, a $1000+$100 satellite to the WSOP Main Event will award a 10K seat in the ME for every 10K in the prize pool. In this case the payout structure is not top heavy, it’s flat. For instance let’s say you played in this satellite and there were 80 total runners, creating a prize pool of 80K… the satellite will award 8 seats to the main event, and 8th place pays the same as 1st, your seat in the big dance. In satellites therefore, the goal is *not* to win the event, but rather the goal is to make it to 8 left. So here we are in our satty, and we’re on the bubble, there’s 9 of us left with 8 winning seats. The blinds are at 1K-2K with 300 antes. The stacks are as follows:
P1, the chip leader, has been going all in preflop every hand for 7 hand in a row. He does so again this hand from UTG. Everyone folds around to you in the big blind, and you look down at AA. In a normal tournament, where the payouts are top heavy to 1st place, this is a dream scenario to be getting your money in preflop! In this satellite however, this is a very easy fold. Why? Calling can only hurt you, and not help you in the least. If you call and get sucked out on, you’re busted in 9th and don’t win a seat. If you call and win, you’ll have 360K and win your seat shortly when one of the shorties busts out. But, if you just fold every hand, even AA, to the one stack that can bust you, you’re guaranteed to win the seat anyway with this chip stack. If your chances of winning a seat are already 100%, then calling the one stack that can mess that up is all risk and no reward. With the end goal being locked up already by virtue of your big stack and several short stacks present, you’ve already won essentially, so folding is correct... calling all your chips puts the seat in jeopardy needlessly.
A second time it would be correct to fold AA also comes up at the end game. Let’s say it’s 4 handed, in a tournament with a normal (top heavy) payout structure. The stacks are as follows: Chip Leader has 20 million chips, Player 2 has 1M, Player 3 1.5M, and you have 100K. Player 2 goes all in preflop, player 3 also goes all in, and then the chip leader goes all in, and you have AA in the big blind. Here’s a chance to move up from 4th to 2nd place if they both bust out to the big stack, which is a very significant pay jump. Even 4th to 3rd would be a significant increase in earnings. Normally you’re always playing for the win of course, but this is a unique situation that’s different. If you get all in and win, you’ll have 400K, which has a very minimal impact on your chances to actually win this event as you’ll still be a 50-1 chip underdog to the chip leader. Since winning the hand and quadrupling up has essentially only a negligible impact on your chances to take first, there is more EV in folding the aces and hoping one or both of the shorter stacks bust out. You’ll make more money in the long run taking this counter-intuitive strategy.
It’s important to note that both of these situations are special, unique circumstances that are actually pretty rare occurrences. The vast majority of the time, you should be willing to play for stacks preflop with AA, and that includes all the time early in tournaments.