push fold poker tournament strategy charts

Push Fold Strategy in Poker Tournaments: Beginner’s Guide with Charts!

It happens in most poker tournaments.

Your stack gets short and your preflop options are reduced to two: push all-in or fold.

Playing optimally in these push-or-fold situations is one thing that separates tournament crushers from average joes.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. What is Push/Fold Strategy?
  2. ICMIZER and Chip EV Explained
  3. 10bb Push/Fold Charts
  4. 15bb Push/Fold Charts
  5. Conclusion

Let’s dive in.

What is Push/Fold Strategy?

Push/Fold is a common strategy used in tournaments in which you either go all-in preflop or fold. Push/fold should be utilized when your stack becomes short — around 15 big blinds (bb) or fewer.

There are a ton of different push/fold charts available, but we will be using the program that those charts get their data from — ICMIZER. Bare in mind that the charts in this article are not the be-all end-all when it comes to push/fold poker.

In fact, the optimal push/fold range can change depending on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Stack sizes behind.
  • Ante size.
  • The structure the tournament.*
  • ICM conditions.

*E.g. 10bb in the Sunday Storm is different than 10bb in the World Series of Poker Main Event.

ICMIZER and Chip EV Explained

The program used to generate these ranges (ICMIZER) measures the expected value in chips (chip EV or simply cEV) of each hand if played as a push. Chip EV is measured in big blinds.

If the hand you are looking to push is above +0.2cEV, then it’s a slam dunk situation to go all-in. To put this in perspective, winning at +0.20cEV every hand would mean you are winning 20bb per 100 hands over the long term. That’s an incredible win-rate and is simply too great to pass up.

Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
 

10bb Push/Fold Charts

We will go over push/fold ranges for the following positions at a 9-handed table:

  • Under the Gun (UTG) and UTG+1
  • UTG+2 and Lojack
  • Hijack
  • Cutoff and Button
  • Small Blind

Note: UTG/UTG+1, Middle Position/Lojack, and Cutoff/Button are grouped together because the push/fold ranges are virtually identical for these position pairings.

UTG and UTG+1 (10bb)

utg and utg+1 10bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

As you can see from these results, the *slam dunk* all-in hands are highlighted in bright green as they are above +0.2cEV. The hands highlighted in light green have a positive expectation if played as a push, but the profit is small enough that doing so may not be worth risking your stack in some situations.

UTG+2 and Lojack (10bb)

mp and lojack 10bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

Hijack (10bb)

hj 10bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

Button and Cutoff (10bb)

button and cutoff 10bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

Small Blind (10bb)

small blind 10bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

As you can see from the screen grabs from ICMIZER, the further around the table you go, the wider of a range you can profitably push all-in.

The main reasoning behind this without going into too much math is the fact that there are less players you are ‘pushing’ into. If you only need to push your 10bb stack through 2 players as opposed to 7, then you are more than likely going to get it through with little resistance.

We generally need a stronger range pushing from Under the Gun due to the fact that if someone does call you, they are generally going to have a stronger range due to you also having a tighter / stronger range.

15bb Push/Fold Charts

Same positions as last time:

  • Under the Gun (UTG) and UTG+1
  • UTG+2 and Lojack
  • Hijack
  • Cutoff and Button
  • Small Blind

UTG & UTG+1 (15bb)

utg 15bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

UTG+2 and Lojack (15bb)

middle position 15bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

Hijack (15bb)

Hijack 15bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

Button & Cutoff (15bb)

Button and cutoff 15bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

Small Blind (15bb)

small blind 15bb push fold chart

Bright Green = Very Profitable All-In | Light Green = Profitable All-In | Red = Losing All-In

You may have noticed there are significant differences in EV when pushing all-in with 15bb as opposed to 10bb. For simplicity’s sake, you should still only be using Push / Fold when you are slightly deeper (up until around 20bb+) until you are more comfortable with your postflop game (which the UpswingLab will definitely help you develop!).

Once stack sizes generally become larger than 20bb there are definitely more +EV lines you can take by just Raising First In.

2 Observations from the Push Fold Charts Above

1. Be wary of jamming your weak off-suit aces. While they may seem like profitable hands to push at any stack depth under 15bb, they are not.

This is a major leak for newer players. As seen in the charts above, weak aces are losing pushes from UTG and middle position, even with 10bb stacks. This is because they are often dominated and thus do not perform well when the push is called.

That is why a hand like J♠ T♠ is a WAY better all-in hand than, say, A 3♣. Jack-Ten suited is flipping vs almost all Ace-x hands and all pairs below 99, and it has some equity vs AK and QQ+.

But don’t just take my word for it. As you can see from the equities below, JTs has almost 40% equity vs a pretty strong range:

Versus the same range, A3o has a quarter less equity:

2. Your chip EV is higher versus players who call too tight versus all-ins.

The best way to show this is with a small blind vs big blind example. If you push with as wide of a range as you should from the small blind, but the big blind isn’t calling as much as he should, you actually win way more chipEV than usual.

Check out the big blind’s equilibrium calling range versus a 10bb all-in from the small blind:

bb call range 10bb vs sb shove

Bright Green = Very Profitable Call | Light Green = Profitable Call | Red = Losing Call

As you can see from this range, the big blind is “supposed” to call very wide.

In practice, however, many players are not calling with marginal hands like Q2s or J9o, especially at low stakes. If your opponent is folding hands like these, your marginal hands will win way more chips by going all-in than ICMIZER initially calculated.

Final Thoughts

Remember to push all-in with a relatively tight range when you are in earlier positions around the table, and wider your range the closer you get to the button/small blind.

By the way, we are having a handy PDF made with all of the push/fold charts from this article. Check back mid-next week to download it.

Ready for more tournament knowledge? Check out 3 Key Hands from a Sunday Million Final Table.

Note: Learn step-by-step how to become the best player at the table when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Elite pros have been adding new content every week for the past four years, and you get all of it when you join. Learn more now!

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Home > Push Fold Strategy in Poker Tournaments: Beginner’s Guide with Charts!
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About the Author

Josh Jones

Just an MTT player trying to get to the long term #variance

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