Tournament poker can be the most glorious form of the game, or the most brutal.
When variance is on your side and you win one, it feels like you’re the best player on the planet. On the other hand, when you are running bad and busting tournament after tournament, it feels like you can’t do anything right.
All you can do is work on your game and trust that the variance will even out in the long run.
Fortunately Upswing Poker has multiple proven MTT crushers on their coaching roster to help you make more deep runs. The newest is Moritz “Mo” Dietrich (MuckCallOK on PokerStars). Mo is a former student of Doug Polk and he crushes high stakes online MTTs to this day.
In this article we’ll review 4 interesting hands from a Play & Explain session Mo recorded for the Upswing Poker Lab training course. In this session Mo is 6-tabling tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $100 to over $500.
Stick around until the end to watch a bonus clip in which Mo analyzes a few hands from a $530 Bounty Builder final table.
We’ll start with a simple all-in or fold spot and move on to more complex decisions as the hands go on.
Hand 1: 66 UTG on a Short Stack
In this hand Mo is dealt 66 UTG sitting on an 18bb stack.
The table is 8-handed and the ante is 10% of the big blind. It’s a close spot where some players may move all-in or raise small, so let’s see what Mo has to say about it:
66 here is a bit tricky because we’re on 18 bigs and we should be looking to open blockers here rather than direct equity. So, opening a hand like A5s is way better than opening a hand like 66 or 87s, for example. I’d rather just fold this and take a more plus EV spot later on.
It’s worth noting that 88 would be an unexploitable jam in this situation. Or, if Mo had 16.5bb instead of 18bb, then 66 would also be an unexploitable jam (according to SnapShove).
Results: Mo would have flopped a set on Q♣️ 6♣️ 5♣️, but he would have ran into UTG+1’s flush at showdown!
Hand 2: KQo in the Small Blind vs. a Hijack Open
This hand begins with the hijack raising to 2.1bb off of a 20bb stack. Action folds to Mo, who is in the SB with K♥️ Q♦. There are 30 players left in the tournament and 20 will make the money.
Mo may only be 20bb deep versus the hijack, but he’s also got a player in the big blind with a 50bb effective stack to worry about. Here’s what he had to say about the spot:
We’re gonna 3-bet and [call the hijack’s all-in] with this hand because we are 50bb effective against the BB and don’t want to stack off against him, but against a 20bb [stack] from the hijack this hand is definitely good enough to be stacking off with. However it is somewhat at the bottom of my range.
Expanding on Mo’s words, 3-betting small accomplishes a couple of things:
- It allows us to fold if the big blind wakes up with a monster and 4-bets.
- It forces the hijack to fold a significant part of his opening range.
KQo also blocks a lot of the premium hands that the hijack could have, and it performs decently against the hijack’s all-in range.
So, a majority of the time both players will fold and Mo will instantly win more than 4bb. When he does have to go with it versus the hijack, it will be a close to break even spot with the extra dead money in the pot. These factors make KQo a profitable 3-bet in this spot.
Results: Both players fold and Mo takes it down preflop.
Hand 3: 54s in a Limped Pot
In this hand the cutoff limps off of a 70bb stack, the small blind completes with 16bb behind, and Mo checks his option in the big blind with 5♣ 4♣. There is 1.5bb in the pot from the antes.
The flop comes 6♣ 9♣ 7♦ and checks through. The turn brings the 7♠ and the SB bets 2.5bb into a pot of 4.5bb leaving 14.5bb behind.
Mo discusses his options:
Here, the question is whether we’re going to raise or call. Given how short we are, and how likely it is if we raise he’s just going to put it in — and we’ll have to call with 5 high — I think it’s better to call in position and play our hand on the river.
[The open-limper] is not a big concern here because he’s not going to have very many strong hands that check the flop and he’s not going to have very many 7x [in his limping range]. So, I’m not really concerned with getting raised. Even if he does raise and the small blind shoves, we can still fold.
The river is the T♣ making the final board 6♣ 9♣ 7♦ 7♠ T♣ and the SB checks. Obviously we’ll be betting here, but for what size?
I think given the fact he called from the small blind, he’s not going to have many boats here since he shoves most of his pairs pre. Therefore his calling range mostly consists of 8x and a couple of traps. [Most of] his traps are going to be nut flushes, however I think he sometimes includes those in his river betting range and isn’t checking them very often.
So, now we can decide if we want to use a small bet to try to get calls from 9x or Tx or go for all of it and try to pressure his 8x or 7x. I think my hand doesn’t really block anything and is strong enough to be shoving with, so I think we should put this hand in a shoving range instead of a [small] betting range.
The takeaway here is when you’re considering what size to use for a value bet on the river, you need to think of not just how strong your hand is, but also how strong your opponent’s most likely calls are.
Results: Mo shoves and his opponent folds.
Hand 4: 98s in Small Blind vs. a Cutoff Open
This hand begins with the cutoff min-raising to 2bb. The action folds to Mo in the small blind with 18bb and 9♥️ 8♥️.
I’d usually shove this against the cutoff with 18 bigs, however this guy seems really tight and I don’t really know him so I went for the call instead. I think that the big blind is not going to exploit us very heavily here because he can’t really shove wide [since] the opener is very tight.
Here, Mo touches on one of the biggest issues with flatting out of the small blind: it opens us up to being exploited by the big blind. By calling rather than raising, you’re telling the big blind that you don’t have a premium hand, which allows the him to 3-bet bluff mercilessly.
However, since the original raiser here is a tight player and is likely playing a strong range, the big blind should play fairly straightforwardly. This allows us to have a calling range.
The big blind calls and the flop comes 6♣ 2♣ T♦. All players check and see the T♣ come on the turn.
Our flatting range definitely consists of a couple of Tx and a couple of suited hands that now have flushes. So, we do want to have a betting range and, because I’m going to shove a lot of the offsuit combinations pre, I’m not going to have a lot of flush draws that I’m going to be betting with. So, gutshots are a good hand to include in your betting range.
As far as bet sizing goes:
I think it’s enough to bet around 40% because our flatting range is already pretty strong and our bluffing range is not going to be overly wide. Even though we do have a bunch of hands that want to bet, we don’t have a lot of preflop flats in the first place, and that board connects with our flatting range, therefore we don’t need to bet that big. Against our strong value range the other hands don’t have that much equity anyways, so I like around 40%.
The big blind calls and the preflop raiser folds.
The river is the 7♣ which completes Mo’s straight and puts a 4th club on the board.
Now the interesting decision is whether generally we should be betting a lot of our range or checking a lot of our range. Since we don’t have a lot of one card flushes but I do have a couple of two card flushes that means my two card flushes should probably be checked more often because I block an additional call.
Same goes for Tx and my particular hand. It depends on his sizing whether I’ll be calling this river now, but I don’t have that many high card flushes and I don’t have a lot of hands that are better than my hand, so I should probably be calling my hand vs a small size and fold some Tx instead.
Results: The action checks through and Mo wins the pot versus 6♦ 3♦.
Final Thoughts and Mo’s Bonus Clip
Tournament poker is interesting because there are so many more variables to consider than normal 100bb deep cash games.
With differing stack sizes, antes, player tendencies, ICM implications, and structures, it’s rare to ever have the exact same spot twice. This is why consistent hand review is vital to a tournament player’s success.
Want another quick read that will help you improve your tournament results? Read 3 Strategic Mistakes to Avoid in Tournaments.
$530 Bounty Builder Final Table Review (Lab Preview)
High Stakes Thursday MTT Review is a 6-episode Play & Explain series Mo recorded for Upswing Lab members and, in the series finale, Mo makes the final table of the $530 Bounty Builder on PokerStars. Watch the first 8 minutes of that final episode below.
Ready to learn mo’ tournament tactics? Get instant access to Mo’s full session (and many more) when you join the Upswing Lab. Upgrade your poker skills now!