On the bubble? Show me the equity

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A friend called the other day to ask what I’d do in a certain sit-n-go situation. I didn’t think the spot was all that interesting until my friend, who we’ll call Derek, acted so surprised by my answer.

Derek absolutely crushes the low-stakes SNGs online, and if he found the information useful then I’m hopeful you will as well.

It was a 90-player $12+$1 turbo knockout SNG. Nine people made the money but there were four players left. The blinds were 2,000-4,000 with a 500 ante and after the blinds were posted, the stacks were roughly the following:
Derek (Big Blind): 35,000
Seat 3 (Small Blind): 3,000
Seat 2 (Button): 2,000
Seat 1 (Big Stack): 220,000

The under-the-gun big stack raised to 10K and the action folded to Derek in the small blind with {a-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}. Notice the two short stacks barely have one big blind. What would you do in Derek’s situation? Let’s break down the options.

OPTION A, MOVE ALL-IN: Seems pretty standard right? A-K and nine big blinds facing a raise? Most people wouldn’t even hesitate to choose this as their first answer. Play for the win, right?

OPTION B, FOLD: The two short stacks don’t even have one big blind and we can fold our way into second-place money and gamble once we get heads-up.

OPTION C, STOP-AND-GO: Call and if we flop an ace or a king we can shove or check-raise all-in.

You see, A-K loses its value in this situation because Derek’s stack size is so small that the big stack should almost never fold if Derek moves all-in. With that being said Derek is usually only a 50-70 percent favorite against the big stack’s range. So, best-case scenario, Derek doubles up and only has a slightly better chance of winning the tournament. Worst-case scenario Derek loses a coinflip and goes out of the tournament when he had enormous equity to fold into second place. So I told him I’d fold.

There’s a ton of math involved when breaking down the exact edges in shove-fold equity and you can read more about it by looking it up online under “Poker ICM (Independent Chip Model).” But regardless of what you choose to do in these situations, just remember, the goal isn’t to win more chips, it’s to win more money. So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure you’re making the right decision regarding your overall equity, not just your equity in the hand.

— Jay Houston is an instructor with DeepStacks.com and is a sit-n-go specialist. You can email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com