Being first in

Marcus Bateman RSS / Marcus Bateman / 12 September 2008 / Leave a Comment

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One of the most important concepts a player has to get to grips with late on in tournaments is the importance of being the first player to bet - or being 'first in'. This is particularly true when you are so short stacked that the only available move left to you is to go all in (typically when you have between five and ten big blinds).

The basic concept is related to David Sklansky's 'gap concept', which stated that you always need a better hand to call a raise with, than to make a raise with. This is because raising always carries with it that vital extra way to win the pot - your opponent folding. In the case of calling an all in with a short stack, you know that you will have to run the hand out and face the very real possibility of being eliminated - regardless of your hands strength. But by going all in first you have the chance to win without showdown - and thus greatly reduce the risk of being eliminated.

A second important point about being first in is that it takes away all weapons from your opponent other than the cards they are holding. If you are first to go all in, your opponents can't bluff you, they can't see a flop with a speculative hand hoping to hit a monster, and they can't do anything except call or fold. All they can do is compare the hand they hold with the range of possible hands you may be moving in with, and act accordingly.

This is why short stacked poker is always a much simpler game than deep stacked poker, but one which has to be understood well in order to succeed late in tournaments. As the stacks start to get small compared to the unrelenting blinds and antes, you will regularly be faced with tricky decisions with a short stack. By letting the huge advantages of being first in work for you, often you will be able to pick up vital blinds and antes that will keep you afloat, without ever having to show down a hand.

Look for any situation where it's folded to you to move your stack in and put as much pressure as possible onto the players in the blinds. You have to be prepared to die in order to survive in tournaments - and in no situation is this clearer than when looking at the importance of being first in when playing short stacked.

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