Overcalling helps early in tournaments

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One of the spots that comes up a lot in early levels of tournaments is a concept known as overcalling. This spot is described in postflop scenarios when the action has a bet and a call, then at least a third player calls. 

As a hand progresses to the river, the more you do this, the more you will allow opponents to put you on a capped range or being able to exclude the best of the best from your possible holdings. 

Having a capped range is dangerous and allows opponents to bluff us at a successful rate. Overcalling exists preflop, too, but I think the merits for it preflop are a lot more justified in the early levels. As stacks get more shallow, this becomes a play that’s almost always out of the question preflop, too, for similarly theoretical concepts that I plan to explain below.

Let’s pretend we’re playing 100-200 blinds with a 200 big-blind ante nine-handed and I raise to 600 off a 27K stack and the cutoff, button and big blind all call. 

Immediately preflop, I can remove the best hands (JJ-plus, AK-plus) from everyone’s possibilities easily. Well, what about me? I have a clear range advantage here and am certainly the favorite of the four players to win. If the board comes out J-8-5 rainbow, the big blind checks to me and I decide to fire 1,400, if all three players call again, I would likely start making assessments such as this, and let’s assume all stacks are between 25K-30K.

CUTOFF: He has most at risk to flat call with two players left to act on the raise, probably needs to have a better than a five in his hand to call. I would imagine this player isn’t going to call with many pocket pairs from this seat. Straight draws are plentiful here, which freezes most aggression because in weak games, players don’t like folding straight draws. I expect this player to have all straight draws possible (so many combos), and one pair, eights or better

BUTTON: This player should start believing there’s a decent chance one of the two players involved has a pair of jacks or better. If he overcalls, I think he needs better and stronger hands than the cutoff because he has less ability to win this pot without needing to go to showdown.

BIG BLIND: If he calls on this flop, I find it to be really difficult for him to have much more than a draw. Most weak players will overcall here with inferior hands and better players will exploit them by getting folds on later streets.

— Michael Laake is a Florida dealer and tournament grinder since 2005. Email him at Allthingzpoker@gmail.com.