Aggressive poker is winning poker. But still, most players aren’t super comfortable going all-in preflop with less-than-premium hands. This is an effect of not understanding the EV of shoving preflop, especially since the EV (expected value) of going all-in can be a bit counterintuitive. So let’s go through a few examples together and see when getting it all-in preflop is profitable!

3-BET SHOVING WITH J9

This hand comes from Tim who wants to review this hand played in a tournament. In this hand we have J9s, there’s a \$40 ante, the blinds are \$150/\$300, and in this exact situation there’s a raise from DIOGEN, it folds around and Tim decides to rip it.

So what is the EV of 3-bet shoving here? What even goes into calculating the EV in a poker hand?

Tim says the villain had just joined the table and he had no HUD stats whatsoever. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given any other information. I don’t know where we are in terms of payouts. I don’t know any of that kind of important MTT information – which makes this very very difficult to analyze and give correct tournament analysis from it. But that being said I still want to show you how to proof this hand mathematically and that’s what we’re going to talk about in this video/guide:

To do this we’re going to use a custom spreadsheet that I created. Essentially we throw in some information, we get the EV, and then down below I created this little custom graph which shows us what are current EV looks like but also what things look like in a better case scenario and a slightly worse case scenario and for me I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to this kind of stuff so I appreciate having all the extra information at my fingertips. To figure out the EV of our show we just need to start filling in some simple information.

Let’s start from the top. Pot size before we shove, what was that? That was \$1560. How much do we have to call? At this point that’s another \$450, perfect. How much are with shoving for? \$7508 because our opponent covers us. Equity when called, we’ll have to figure that one out. The last thing we need is our equity when called and let’s plug that into equilab. We have Jack 9 suited. Let’s think about the kinds of hands our opponent would open raise from there and then call our shove with. Let’s just say TT+/AK.

Okay maybe you agree with that, maybe disagree with that. We’re just going to use this for the time being and that’s 28% equity, perfect. There we go. We notice that in this situation if villain never ever folds and this is where we are that we are making a horrifically terrible shove and this would be really really bad. If that’s the case, what this is essentially saying is we’re making the assumption if he’s never folding of course that this is the only stuff he opened right? This is his open raising range from early middle. If that’s the case and that’s his only range from there obviously this shove is terrible.

But chances are he opens probably wider than just 3.5% of hands. I think that’s probably pretty reasonable. If you thought that he were opening something like say 22+/AQ+, which is 8.5% which means he’s folding a decent chunk of the time, then we’re in a situation where this could look a little bit better. Let’s say, instead he’s actually folding half the time, we’ll start with that first. Okay, that’s not too too bad but still negative. Better than what it was. If he’s folding a ton of the time we’re making some profit but not very much right?

Learn the art and science of visualizing ranges, densities, and more hand reading in 3bet pots using this powerful 3bet ranges guide.

This is not a ton of profit considering the risk. We are shoving a lot of money to win that and we’re making the assumption that he’s folding a huge chunk of the time. Given that, this does not look like a good shove unless you have a dead on read that this dude is going to fold a ton of the time I’d say this is probably not the best shove in the world and you probably could have waited for a better spot. Unless you have some really crucial information, chances are I don’t love this shove all that much. Now you know how to solve for this situation. It’s not too too complicated.

But otherwise, just understanding how this is solved, where the EV is coming from and the really crucial point is understanding how often you need your opponent to fold. Of course in this situation if you expect him to fold a ton of the times so he open-raises preflop really wide and then continues very tightly, this could be okay but overall I think this is going to be not the greatest shove in the entire world. I just think that it’s a little optimistic and there’s not a lot of buffer considering how many big blinds you’re ripping into this pot.

Unfortunately we do end up getting called by Aces, end up losing the pot, and it is what it is but at the end of the day the most important thing is that we know how to solve for it. Tim thank you very much for the hand!

Still Not "Getting" Poker Math?

Do you shy away from the math even though you know it would help you play better poker? If yes, this workbook will help you memorize the key formulas, internalize the calculations, and build your intuition to make better decisions at the table.

Get the full-color ebook with 1,500+ questions and a complete answer key today.

GOING ALL-IN PREFLOP WITH AT

This hand was sent in by Scott, who also included a lot of tournament information about this spot in the write-up that he sent me.

He said, “This was deep in the nightly \$55 tournament on PokerStars with a \$25k guarantee. There are nineteen players remaining in the field, which is why play is six-handed in this hand. And most of the players at this table were pretty fishy and they had minimal MTT experience according to SharkScope. None of them had previously done any 3betting preflop. And here I played about 50 hands with each of these players up to this point.”

Shy of giving me all the payout information and all that, this is a great piece of information, Scott. Thank you so much for sharing this. And for all you other MTT guys that send in hands, this is the kind of information that’s really, really helpful. That way I can do my absolute best to make sure I give really, really good advice and the best advice possible in these spots.

On to the actual hand. There is a fold. There is a fold. There is a steal. There is a call. There is a call. And Scott at this point is deciding what he wants to do. Should he just call? Should he just shove? What’s the best play?

Now, Scott did end up shoving and we’re going to talk all about this exact shove, but what I want to quickly say is this. I am not an MTT pro. So if there is anyone who is an MTT pro watching this who’s like, “Ah, I don’t really agree with this,” or, “This is the way that I would think about it in this spot,” I am all ears.

I’m not claiming that I know the end-all and be-all strategy for MTT poker, certainly not by any stretch. So I’m going to show you how to solve this mathematically and explain what would go through my head. But that being said, if there are any MTT pros who want to correct me or want to chime in the conversation, I am all ears and I really, really appreciate that.

But in this exact situation, we have the cut-off who opens, and Scott said, “At this point, the cut-off is only opening about 18% of hands.”

Now, what I would say real quick is was he opening 18% of hands overall? Do you think he’s opening 18% of hands in this situation or was that before when stack sizes were different and blind levels were different? As obviously the blinds get higher and higher, even tighter players are going to start stealing a little bit more because they simply have to to keep their head above water.

He may have been stealing 18% before, but over 50 hands is not super, super usable. You’re probably just getting down to the 6-max level where people can easily start changing their playstyle very quickly from a folding game. I would say that even though he was 18% before, he may not be opening just 18% of hands right this moment.

Let’s get into actually solving in this situation. In this spot, hero does decide to go in for the jam. And we can prove this very easily using a fold equity calculator. But, essentially, we just throw in all the information. The pot size before we jammed is \$23,575. Let me get that backup. How much do we have to call is just \$3,425. How much are we shoving for a total is \$55,567. And in this situation, obviously, it’s a little bit difficult to say exactly because player 5 has a smaller, effective stack than that. So does player 1.

We’re only really risking our full-stack against player 6. Definitely make sure you keep that in mind. You get a little bit of a rebate back if you get it in against player 5 or player 1 and end up losing the pot, which changes the fold equity at least a little bit. And then the last thing we need to know is our estimated equity when called.

In this situation, there are two different things that I would think about. There is the range against player 5, and then there’s the range against player 1 and player 6. What I mean by that is player 5 opened the pot, so they can have hands like Ace King and KK way more easily than player 6 or player 1 can. Those players are more likely to show up with things like maybe 88, 99, maybe an AJ or AQ kind of hand. You’re going to have two slightly different equities and there’s definitely some complicated ways you can solve this. I’m just going to take a blend of the two and go forward from there. And it’s not perfect. It’s just what I’m going to do in this scenario.

So in this spot, let’s just analyze the CO first. Let’s say they’re going to get it in with 88+, AQ+, and let’s just say that for the time being. Evaluate it. Notice that we have 20%, let’s just say 30% equity against that.

If we change it and go for a range that player 1 or player 6 might call us with, well, that looks a little bit different. Let’s just say 88-JJ. Let’s say AQ. Let’s say — Maybe you can consider AJ. Maybe they call to induce, that sort of thing. Evaluate it and notice that we have 32% equity. Either way, we’re kind of in that ballpark of equity. Let’s just plug in 30% and go forward from there.

You notice at that point, we need folds at least 41% of the time. Well, I think that’s pretty reasonable against most of these players, right? If you look at the guy who is opening 18% on the button, if they’re only going to be continuing with this kind of range, which is 5%, that means they’re folding roughly 75% of the time. That’s awesome.

Against player 1 and them, if they’re only calling with these kind of hands, that’s only 4% of hands. And what are they calling with preflop? Are they calling with at least 10% or at least 11% of hands? Yes. I’d say that’s probably pretty fair.

In this situation, this looks really good to me, simply because if we shove and everyone folds, that’s an automatic increase of 50% to our stack size. That’s pretty awesome with no contest. And I think we’re going to pick this up uncontested a very large chunk of the time.

Also, we only start this hand with about 20 big blinds. So it’s about time in my opinion to start getting pretty aggressive when the situations present themselves and this looks like a good spot for it.

So unless you think there’s some trickiness from maybe player 6, or maybe you think player 5’s range is a little bit tighter preflop or whatever, I think this is good.

Scott described player 1 as not a very strong player at all. So this could actually just be a straight value shot against that kind of individual. Maybe they call with, like, KQ or KJ preflop. All that kind of stuff is fantastic for us.

Because of that, this looks like a great situation to squeeze it out. Unfortunately, as played, we do end up getting called by player 6, who ends up having the hand to kind of put us in massive amounts of pain. So it’s something that you want to keep an eye on. Could someone possibly call to induce a good squeeze from you? Could they just have been creating that situation? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s definitely something I would consider.

As played though, just looking at the hand overall from a very mathematical point of view, it looks like a good situation to squeeze from me!

3-BET OR CALL WITH KQ?

Even though 3bet shoving is more common in tournaments given the smaller effective stack sizes, there are 3bet all-in opportunities in cash games as well. Especially in live games where open-raises and isolation raises are much larger than online, it’s not uncommon to see a few opportunities per session.

In this hand, Hero has KQ and is facing a \$22 raise after 2 players limp in. At \$1/\$2 this raise size is a bit big, but not over the top. It folds to Hero who has to decide if he should go all-in with KQ, fold, or call.

While this video doesn’t go into the hardcore math behind shoving here, based upon what you’ve already learned in this guide, you have enough information to proof this spot yourself. Just use these factors:

• Hero risks: \$70
• Pot size: \$29
• KQ has ___ equity
• Hero expects V to fold ___

Hero’s equity is going to vary based upon how wide you assume the SPEWY player is isolating, as is how often you expect them to fold. So take a few moments and run this a few different ways. Run it as though villain will fold often and only call Hero’s shove with monster hands (thus reducing KQ’s equity). Run it again as though villain will call often (thus increasing KQ’s equity but lower the fold equity).

Make a few assumptions, do a few calculations, and remember it the next time you find yourself with small stacks and a big decision. Choosing a line JUST because you have X or Y starting hand isn’t a good idea. Instead, focus on the important variables, make the best assumptions you can, and estimate the optimal line.

The more you practice, the better you’ll do in real-time!

Do you mostly play poker tournaments? This Crash Course from Red Chip Poker breaks down 3-betting in the most crucial tournament spots. Each video looks at 3-betting from a different position and gives you ranges, tools, mindsets, and everything you need to play WAY better preflop.

This is particularly useful if you hate 15bb-25bb play (where 3-betting can be the most confusing). Plus, the Crash Course comes with quizzes, answer keys, and lifetime off-line access. Check out the MTT 3-Bet Shoves Crash Course today →