The Tsunami

Strategize. Optimize. Pulverize.


Don’t Be Timid in the Big Blind when Facing Late Position Shoves!

Suppose you’re in a multitable tournament (MTT), and action is nowhere close to being at the final table (in other words, you’re making decisions entirely with respect to maximizing the expected value of your stack). Blinds are T80-T160 with no antes. Action folds to the small blind, who shoves all-in to T1,545. You have 17 hands on the small blind; his VPIP is 0, and his RFI broken down by position is:

Early Position: 0/4

Middle Position: 0/2

Late Position: 0/0

Blinds: 0/1

You’re sitting in the big blind with T2,000 and you have K7o. What’s your play?

The approximate equilibrium calling range in this situation is something along the lines of {22+, Ax+, K2s+, K6o+, Q6s+, Q8o+, J8s+, J9o+, T9s} (38.5% of hold’em starting hands). This range is the equilibrium calling range because it’s the best response to SB’s non-exploitable shoving range: {22+, Kx+, Q2s+, Q7o+, J3s+, J8o+, T5s+, T8o+, 95s+, 97o+, 85s+, 87o, 74s+, 64s+, 53s+} (56.6% of hold’em starting hands). The equilibrium calling range isn’t necessarily the best response to any other calling range; however, sticking with the equilibrium calling range ensures that you’re not giving your opponents the opportunity to exploit you. If you opponent shoves fewer hands than he should, your showdown equity will suffer, but your loss in showdown equity will be compensated by the additional walks where you automatically pick up 1.5bb. If your opponent shoves more hands than he should, you won’t automatically pick up 1.5bb as often, but the lack of free pots will be compensated by the additional showdown equity you’ll have when you call. (if the terms equilibrium and non-exploitable are leaving you feeling confused, then check out these two blog posts: post 1, post 2)

With all the studying that advanced no-limit tournament players have been putting into equilibrium jam/fold preflop play, choosing whether to play equilibrium jam/fold or to try to make exploitative adjustments in responses to perceived opponent weaknesses is largely dependent on your answer to the following:

  1. Am I better off trying to maximally exploit opponents, risking the possibility of getting counter-exploited?
  2. Am I better off playing perfect non-exploitable poker, hoping that my opponents’ mistakes are big enough for me to beat the rake?
  3. Am I better off walking down the middle road, playing a semi-exploitative game that seeks to exploit in a defensive manner?

For those who choose to walk down route #2 (the pure non-exploitable route), calling with K7o is a no-brainer here. For those who choose to walk down the other two routes, this call tends to become debatable; however, as someone who makes a fist-pump instacall here (I go down route #2), I’m going to tell you that calling tighter than the equilibrium calling range here is likely costing you chips in the long run (and at the end of the day, moves that are profitable with respect to chips trump moves that guarantee survival – until you’re at or very close to the final table MTTs with top-heavy payout structures). It’s probably still the case that players generally shove tighter than they should in early position. However, players have become increasingly willing to open-shove light from the small blind, the button, and sometimes the cutoff (so light that you’ll pick off some players who are shoving a bit wider than non-exploitable jamming ranges).

The example hand came from a $12 135-man Rush SNG at Full Tilt. I fist-pump instacalled, the SB had J5s, I held, and I ended up with around 20bb.  Since J5s is in the non-exploitable open-jamming range for the small blind at 10bb with no antes, it’s unknown whether this particular opponent makes an exploitable mistake in the long-run. But as long as I’m willing to call with the equilibrium calling range, I don’t have to be too concerned about it (until no-limit hold’em tournament play gets tough to the point where no one beats the rake…but the game still has quite awhile to go before it evolves to that point).

For those who need more inspiration, here’s a hand from a $20+$2 RA tournament. If I recall correctly, the rebuy period was over (not that my decision would be any different). Blinds were T170-T340 with an ante of T25. Action folded to the small blind who shoved all-in to T34,654. I had QJo in the big blind, and my stack was T6,374. In other words, the small blind effectively shoved to T6,714 (19.7bbs). QJo is in the equilibrium calling range (overall, the equilibrium calling range here is about 34.2% of starting hands, and the non-exploitable shoving range is about 54.4% of starting hands). Therefore, I fist-pump instacalled. The small blind turned over 76s (which is part of the non-exploitable shoving range); I held; I ended up with just over 40 big blinds.

Obviously, you’re not going to be ahead every time you make calls like these. Also, being ahead when you call doesn’t mean that you’re going to win 100% of the time. But none of these things matter. In the end, the only thing that matters is that you’re calling with all the hands that have sufficient equity against your opponents’ shoving ranges.

By the way, if you’d like access to my cheat sheet of non-exploitable jamming ranges, you need a membership (members have access to the cheat sheet as well as videos of me explaining how to use it). Soon, my cheat sheet of equilibrium calling ranges will also be available to PokerPwnage members (along with explanatory videos). I know some of you have been anxiously awaiting the calling sheets for the past 3ish weeks, but big life events took place recently (I got married); I hope that you’ll find that the wait was well worth it!

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

The Tsunami


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Don’t Be Timid in the Big Blind when Facing Late Position Shoves!”

  1. Chance says:

    A lot of thanks to your terrific blog website. I extremely admire it and will likely be visting again to take a look at a great deal more.

  2. Telekinesis says:

    I enjoy being a powerful person… Sweet site!

  3. Maurice Giovanini says:

    I am not 100% on this, but I do like the idea

KillerEV Updates

Leave your email address here if you wish to receive updates when new content is added to

Tony's Books

Tony's Blog

Show By:

  • Category

  • Date