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Folding Aces preflop in a MTT – Part 1

By: TheLangolier @ 01:28 (EDT) / 5 / Comment ( 0 )
This is a topic that I’ve seen come up every once in a while in the forums, and it’s important enough that I want to talk about it here in my blog. First of all in part 1 I want to address when someone says they would fold AA preflop at the beginning of a tournament. You should never, ever fold AA preflop at the beginning of a tournament. Usually the argument runs like this: It’s the first hand of the tournament and there’s 3 all ins in front of you, and you look down at aces in the BB. Against 3 players you’re at best a coin flip to win, and I don’t want to flip for my tourney life on hand #1, I’d rather pass that and look for better spots to get my chips in. Often the scenario is laid out as the first hand of a major event like the WSOP Main Event, but it doesn’t matter ultimately what the event is. While I can definitely appreciate the sentiment of not wanting to go to the rail on hand 1 (hey, no one wants that for sure!), this “playing not to lose” mentality is seriously flawed, and I’m going to show you why. First of all, you should always be playing to win. That goes for any normal MTT, normal meaning with a normal pay structure. The largest prizes by far go to the top 3 spots, with 1st place being a huge return. That should be your goal. Even in a satellite, where the goal isn’t to win the event but just to make lowest spot required to win a seat to the target event, you should be happy to get all in with aces on hand #1. If you enter the event with a playing-not-to-lose mentality, it will lead you to making decisions that are not congruent with winning tournaments. You’ll pass opportunities to accumulate chips that are +EV, like this one, because it’s “too risky” in terms of busting out. Yes, it’s true if you take a coin flip for your stack you’ve got a 50/50 chance of going to the rail, but you can’t avoid these risks completely and still win a tournament… you have to pick intelligent spots to gamble. Here’s why this situation is a very +EV spot and a very intelligent spot to gamble. First let’s assess our winning chances with AA: equity win tie pots won pots tied Hand 0: 68.285% 67.79% 00.50% 636060816 4662576.00 { AA } Hand 1: 04.467% 03.93% 00.54% 36834696 5076432.00 { AKs, AKo } Hand 2: 10.264% 10.10% 00.16% 94780584 1528308.00 { KK } Hand 3: 16.985% 16.87% 00.12% 158253048 1114452.00 { QQ } We're a 68% favorite here to quadruple up on the first hand. Ok, that's not really fair that they all have exactly what they're supposed to have. equity win tie pots won pots tied Hand 0: 61.525% 61.36% 00.16% 3869130512 10234014.50 { AA } Hand 1: 08.838% 08.61% 00.22% 543141422 14107520.00 { random } Hand 2: 16.186% 15.82% 00.36% 997819396 22737382.50 { random } Hand 3: 13.452% 12.91% 00.54% 814283444 33908757.00 { random } Hmmm, that didn't work either, if they moved in dark we're still a 61% favorite to quadruple. Let me try another one. equity win tie pots won pots tied Hand 0: 48.476% 48.42% 00.05% 302914980 319806.00 { AA } Hand 1: 18.435% 18.38% 00.05% 114999192 319806.00 { 76s } Hand 2: 15.440% 15.39% 00.05% 96263568 319806.00 { KK } Hand 3: 17.649% 17.60% 00.05% 110083644 319806.00 { JTs } 48% there, now we're at least getting drawn out on more than half the time having slightly worse than a “coin flip” for our tournament life. The folders are saying they'd rather fold than "gamble" on going to the rail 52% of the time on the first hand. That sounds reasonable enough, but here's where that thinking is flawed. If you win the pot, your stack will be at 80K (WSOP ME starts with 20K). Try this experiment: For the next 100 MTT's you play, record how many times you reach a chip stack that is quadruple your starting stack before busting out. Will you get there 48 times? Not likely. It's not even just that, you need to get there more than 48 times to gain the same value from those chips as you do in our WSOP ME hypothetical, because here we gain their value immediately, not at some undetermined future point. You probably need to quadruple up at some future point at least 55-60% of the time to get similar value. If you record 100 tournaments and find that you at least quadrupled up 55-60+ times, congratulations, you might be good enough to pass up this edge and fold. I know I’m not that good. I don’t think anyone is that good. Tournament poker is about chip accumulation. Passing up such a +EV opportunity to accumulate a huge pile of chips on the first hand is not a winning strategy. In Part 2, I'm going to talk about a time when it is actually 100% correct to fold AA before the flop. Until then...
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