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Early Deep Stack Tournament Play - Part 1
One of the regular struggles for tournament only players is how to navigate on deep stacks. The reason is quite simple... unlike their cash game brethren who tend to play a lot on deep stacks, tournament players just don't get that much exposure to it. The stacks are typically only deep early in a tournament, with most middle and late stage situations involving medium or short stacks. So while tournament only players may get plenty of practice with push/fold strategies or decisions that end either preflop or on the flop, they sometimes struggle when money is really deep.  

In this article, we are going to address preflop strategy adjustments for early stage/deep stack play, and in my next article we will address post flop considerations.

Let's use with the following scenario, which was recently posted in a public forum:

I really would love your opinion on this whether my move was a bad beat or a bad decision:

Early in a 2.6k$ buy-in 1M$GTD tournament (250 big blinds deep). I Opened 2.2BB with QQ from UTG, folded around to the button. Got 3-bet 10BB from the button. I made it 30BB. He made it 80BB. I jammed. He snap called with AK then he flopped the K and got me busted. Did I make a huge mistake considering 250BB? Should I have folded to 5-bet? Is my move profitable in long run?



Okay, so let's break this hand down at each action point.

"I Opened 2.2BB with QQ from UTG", certainly we are opening QQ from any position, but 2.2BB is way, way too small. This is a typical sizing for MTT players that is quite effective in shallower stack situations. When the effective stack is 25bb's, 2.2 puts adequate pressure on opponents (it's 8.8% of the effective stack) while leaving you some room to maneuver. On super deep stacks, however, like this tournament, not only does it not put any pressure at all on players, it actually invites them to take a shot at you very liberally because it's less than 0.9% of their stack. They are investing 2.2 big blinds, with a potential windfall of 248 more on the offering. It's no wonder players will call this open (correctly) with all kinds of marginal, speculative hands. With this depth of money opening for 5-6BB is more appropriate, it builds the pot with your stronger hands and charges people a more reasonable (for us)  risk/reward ratio for getting involved with us.  2.2x is just giving players a dirt cheap shot at us with massive implied odds.

"Got 3-bet 10BB from the button." This is a nice sizing. The "standard" advice you hear is to 3-bet to 3 times the amount of the open raise, which in this case would be to 6.6BB. While that advice is a reasonable starting point, it's important to adjust up or down from there for reasons that make sense. In this case, because we are super deep stacked and the initial raise is way too small, an upward adjustment is ideal. I think we could reasonably go as high as 12-15BB's in this spot, but 10 is certainly a lot better and more appropriate than 6.6 would be, or the common tournament player's small sizing to something like 5.1.  

"I made it 30BB". A common starting point for 4B sizing is more like 2.2x the 3-bet size, or 22BB to go. Given the depth of money and playing out of position should this go post flop, sizing up a bit from 22 makes some sense. That being said, when we are super deep stacked it's important to think ahead, about how we will respond if re-raised. Let's continue, since that's exactly what happened.

"He made it 80BB. I jammed. He snap called with AK then he flopped the K and got me busted. Did I make a huge mistake considering 250BB? Should I have folded to 5-bet? Is my move profitable in long run?" So our hero responded to the 80BB 5bet by shoving all in for 250BB's. There is really only one hand that is truly worth this much preflop because it's the preflop nuts. And when you are playing on super deep stacks, you should generally only be looking to get all the money in with the nuts, or really close to it.   KK is really close to it preflop, and yet against many players getting it all in with KK here would be a mistake as they will only join you in the middle with the one hand beating you. Getting all in preflop with QQ for a 500BB pot on level 1 of a super deep stacked event is not a good strategy at all as you will be up against KK or AA most of the time when the opponent goes along with you. Try not to get confused by the fact that the opponent in this handmade an even bigger mistake and stacked off AK in the same situation. Both players handled the preflop action very poorly for this depth of money.



The poster then in a results-oriented fashion (because he lost the hand) asks if he should have folded to the 5-bet. The relevant point here is that you want to be asking yourself this question before making the 4-bet to 30bb's. How will I respond to a 5-bet? If the answer is easy fold, or easy continue, then have at it. But if the answer is I don't know what I'll do, that will be a sick spot and I'll want to throw up… then choose a different course of action. Raise smaller to make folding more acceptable. Raise larger to encourage your commitment to the hand. Or, as the hero probably should have done here… don't raise. Given the depth of money, I think calling the button's 3-bet is best. The giant 4-bet will only tend to fold out any 3-bet bluffs (which we are crushing) and get continued action from a strong range.   

To answer his question directly, yes he probably should fold to the 5-bet to 80bb. 4-bet/folding preflop with a hand as strong as QQ, not a desirable outcome. Had the hero flatted the 3B, he would have likely called once on the king-high flop, then folded to further action, costing himself around 20BB or so. And moved on with 230BB, more than most other tournaments even start with. Additionally, he keeps his opponent's range as wide as possible, keeps the pot smaller playing from out of position, and has some real disguised strength working in his favor as well.

When you're playing tournaments, instead of just making bets and raises in robotic fashion, think about the depth of money and what you're hoping to accomplish, and size accordingly. Also think ahead, have a plan for your hand and how it may play out, which will lead you to make decisions proactively rather than reactively.
 
Do you like deep stack tournaments?  Share your stories below!

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