June 20, 2024

On the button with the “computer hand”

Last Sunday, I played an interesting hand which, at first glance, seemed innocuous enough, but in game, I had a eureka moment which nudged my decision away from indifference. Allow me to set the scene:

It was a €109 ($118) buy-in Estrellas Barcelona €2,000 ($2,164) Package satellite. Fifty-seven players had entered, generating a payout structure whereby the top two players won a package while 3rd-10th won €200 ($216) and 11th got €100 ($108). Fourteen players remained and the average stack was ~20,350 chips. I was the chip leader with ~53,700 and the blinds were 250/500 with each player paying an ante of 60.

Already, this is a “meh, shrug” spot.

Seven-handed, it folded around to me on the button with the Q♥-7♥, affectionately known as the “computer hand.” The player in the small blind was unknown to me and was playing a stack of ~14,500 (29 big blinds). The villain in the big blind was a satellite regular and had a stack of 3,950 (just shy of eight big blinds). Already, this is a “meh, shrug” spot. The Q♥-7♥ is a rock bottom open and it is absolutely fine to edge pass such spots in satellites. So what did I do? What would you have done? 

Choosing my own adventure

Three spots from the first payout is bubble adjacent, but the risk premium is not what it would be were this a normal tournament with an incremental payout structure. In this spot, the villain’s stack was pesky because I knew I would be indifferent to calling off his shove. If we were approaching the bubble of a regular MTT, I think I would open this hand and make a tight fold to a shove, giving him credit for a stronger range than usual. However, with smaller ICM implications, I felt like it would be virtually neutral.

I raised to 1,000, the small blind folded, and the big blind did indeed shove. It was 2,950 more to win a pot of 8,570, so I needed 34.5% equity for chips, maybe 36% factoring in a little bit of risk premium. As a useful reference point, Q♥-7♥ is 37% versus a top 25% hand, something I would have surmised but was confirmed by solver analysis.

I remember laughing in-game because I opened the hand genuinely not sure what I would do if he shoved. Of course, spots like this are so close that neither decision can be much of a mistake, if any, but I still had to choose my own adventure. Then something dawned on me.

A neutral spot became a slam dunk

There were three minutes left in the late registration period and we were just three entries away from generating a third prize package. Last minute late registering satellites is very +EV so there’s a good chance that there were a few players hovering in the lobby, waiting to hop in. It occurred to me that there might already be three such players but anything that I could do to help make that more likely to happen would be good for my equity. Let me elaborate.

anything I could do to assist in making that happen would be a net positive for me

The villain would certainly re-enter if he busted, adding another €100 to the prize pool, meaning we would need just two more entries for the payout structure to switch from two packages with lots of booby prizes to three packages. If that happened, equity would be stolen from the short stacks and given to the larger stacks. Even if we tipped over to three packages and one or two booby prizes, that would also be beneficial. Therefore, anything I could do to assist in making that happen would be a net positive for me.

If I called and busted my opponent, I would have a larger stack and it would be more likely that we would be playing a top-heavy tournament for three packages. If I called and lost, then I would have a slightly smaller stack and the tournament would be more likely to have 11 or 12 payouts. Both scenarios seemed good, compared to the one in which I folded so I flicked in the call. To my mind, a neutral spot became a slam dunk decision with this added factor.

As played

As played, I made the call and won a race versus pocket sixes. The villain re-entered, as did one other player who busted a minute later on the other table. Then, with 20 seconds or so left in late registration, a player hopped in and the payout structure shifted to exactly three packages.

I made the correct deviation when you factor in the potential payout structure shift

My friend and “The Chip Race” podcast colleague Barry Carter was kind enough to run the spot for me afterwards and it turns out that in GTO-land, Q♥-7♥ is an open and it is actually the best hand that folds to a shove. Both K-7 and Q-8 suited are calls so it is literally one pip light. I was happy to hear that analysis because I think it means that I made the correct deviation when you factor in the potential payout structure shift. In fact, I suspect that I could have been 2-3 pips light and justified this play for the same reason.

The fact that it worked out perfectly for me with the third package was a bonus and probably the reason that I reflected more on my decision. I think my logic was sound regardless, even if my decision led to an additional payout (which would be worse for me as my equity in that payout was close to zero) because the equation shifts so massively when the third package is reached.

Out of the box

In the end, I was fortunate enough to hang on to a big chip lead for the rest of the tournament, always pulling away from the pack and never being the player in bubble jeopardy. Satellites can be very grindy and tough through the endgame, but occasionally you have those easy ones where you coast home.

Satellites have always been my strongest and most profitable format and I’m obviously lucky to have satellite Jedi Dara O’Kearney to bounce hands off of. I sent my VSO News colleague this particular one and, prior to solver confirmation, he eyeballed the spot exactly as I did, reluctantly opening and feeling completely indifferent to the call.

When I explained my insight, Dara approved of the deviation, calling it some good “out of the box” thinking. I joked that it made a pleasant change for me to conjure an advanced move that had nothing to do with stalling. Maybe I shall use my powers for good more often going forward. 

The post Nudged Away From Indifference in a Satellite Hand appeared first on Vegas Slots Online News.

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