The Biggest Mistake Small Stakes Tourney Players Make With 75-100 BBs
I have played relatively small stakes tournaments for the vast majority of my poker career. During this time, I have made and witnessed others making some pretty big mistakes. Fortunately, I no longer do these things on a regular basis, but instead I now try to take advantage of those who still do.
In the coming weeks, I will tell you what I think is the biggest mistake I see small stakes tournament players making with various stack sizes and how I take advantage of those mistakes. We'll start with a discussion of the biggest mistake players make with relatively deep stacks of 75-100 big blinds.
The reason for each of the mistakes I'll be discussing in this series is actually the same. Most small stakes players play the game recreationally. This means they play to have fun and folding is not very fun. This results in them calling bets with weak ranges.
Early in tournaments when players are around 200 BBs deep, it is very hard to bet them off of marginal hands. It may take your entire 200 BB stack to convince them to let go of second pair, but some of them wouldn't dream of folding the hand for only half of it. Even if they are wrong, they still have 100 BBs left.
For this reason, I mostly take advantage of their weak ranges by value betting very big when they are super deep and save my most ambitious bluffs for later when they are a bit shorter.
Once they get down to around 75-100 BBs, their stacks suddenly come into play before they realize it. I've seen some of these players quickly call off more than 80 percent of their stacks with marginal hands, but fold almost their entire range once the last 20 percent comes into play. The biggest mistake that these type of players make when they have 75-100 BBs is raise-calling three-bets with too wide of a range from out of position.
For example, let's say our villain raises to 3 BBs from middle position off of a 100 BB stack. With position on him, I will three-bet to 9 BBs with a hand like -suited. This villain makes the mistake of four-betting with only his best hands and calling with several hands he should fold like -offsuit.
On most flops, this player will flop at least a weak pair or a backdoor draw, and in his mind he has way too many chips to fold it to a standard continuation bet of (say) 10 BBs into a pot of around 20 BBs.
On the turn, his pair will often pick up a draw or his draw will pick up a pair, or perhaps the board will pair giving him more confidence in his weak pair. Maybe he is one of the more astute calling stations who will recognize than an on the turn is a good barrel card for me. For any number of reasons, this player will often convince himself to call again on the turn if I bet 20 BBs into the pot of around 40 BBs. Besides, even if he is wrong he still has 60 BBs behind.
This player type will convince himself to call a turn bet with a weak hand, but he will very rarely just call it with a strong but vulnerable hand like two pair, for example. This means that going into the river, his range consists primarily of one-pair hands and weak ones at that, especially if the flop contained no big cards. In those cases, top pair will often become second or third pair by the river.
That thought of "even if I am wrong, I'll still have 60 BBs behind" which led him to call too often on the turn is the exact same thought that leads him to fold too often to my river shove in the cases where his hand does not improve.
Additionally, I can further exploit this player by making another half-pot bet of 40 BBs into the 80 BB pot. Often he will call this bet with a weak top pair or strong second pair from his 60 BB stack, but fold these hands if I instead shove the river to put his last 20 BBs and (more importantly) his tournament life at risk.
I see a few players make this mistake on a regular basis. I am able to win massive pots off of them because of it. The smarter ones recognize what is happening and decide to abandon ship on the turn, letting me win only a medium-sized pot. Rarely do I see players fold to the three-bet or the c-bet with their weakest made hands, so I am almost guaranteed to win a few small pots off of them.
As long as they find it fun to open too many hands and call three-bets with them, they will soon find themselves down to a 50-75 BB stack. Next week, I'll discuss the biggest mistake players tend to make in tournaments with that stack size.
This strategy article by Carlos Welch for PokerNews is sponsored by partypoker.