In the last, adrenaline-filled, days of a Texas No-Limit Hold ‘Em tournament, when the blinds are slowly eating up your stack and your fingers are about to fall off into poker oblivion, it is understandable why a lot of players cringe when crunch time finally comes. Don’t let that happen to you. Remember that your emotions can totally shatter your hopes of winning and sticking to rather mechanical yet logical approaches to the game will get you the top.
Aggression should start to show up here. Waiting for premium or good cards like A-10 and K-10 should be your calling cards, not the cards you are trying to protect. With a big stack you are confident enough to be picking up blinds and antes, and playing your best poker, however, you want to still be protecting your best chips. That means pairing up your Aces or Kings with a premiumtight card, or setting up a small trap with a tight suited card.
Remember that it is not so easy to steal the blinds with these cards, because the blinds will call an all-in as long as you have a big stack, and unless you steal the blinds with a backdoor full-house, clock is still running. So, you are pressured to make a move with these cards, but the question is: at what point should you call an all-in? I would suggest you call at the beginning of a tournament when you have a big stack, in the middle of a tournament you want to be playing for first place and do not worry about chips, and when you are short-stacked and just looking to steal blinds. A-x should be your calling hand in early position, in middle position you can call with cards like K-x, A-x, and A-ky. Last position is where you can call with any two cards.
If you have played smart, with a bit of pressure on you and have built a rather sizable stack of chips, you will have a decided advantage over the players that survive in the blinds thanks to the clockwise free blind rule. You’ve gotta get that hand paid off however, and the best way to do that is to call the raise.
If you are lucky enough to be in the blinds when the all-in is due, you are a shoe-in to win and double up. If you are not and call instead, you still win the coin-flip and may even be heads-up (although not recommended). If you are called however, you will be out of the tournament.
The other upside of calling is that it can inadvertently win you the coin-flip. mention that out loud, and I’ll emphasize again – you can win the tournament with a call! The best situation for calling is when you are a shoe-in to win. When you are a shoe-in, you are such a shoe that you are practically forced to win. Otherwise you will lose your chips to an inferior hand. freerolls are examples of shoe-ins.
You can call all-ins when you have a good hand and you are a big favorite to win the hand, in other words, when you are a shoe-in to win. When you only have a small hand, you can call the bet in hopes that you will be able to win the pot. When you have a marginal hand, you call the bet because you want to see how the hand ends. You don’t really care about the money so much, as long as you may possibly double up, you are still in the game. In this case calling can win you the pot without having to invest any chips of your own.
This is the essence of the bubble. As your stack grows, so too does your likelihood of simply surviving. Surviving can never be easy, but calling all-ins may be the cheapest option that you have and still let you dictate the terms of the game. Unless, of course, you are depending on luck to fill the vacant spaces.
When you bubble out, whether you apply the squeeze play to survive against the all-in, or survive in the hopes of doubling up and entering the prize bubble, you are depending on the luck of the cards you hold.