This time we shall cover one of the most awkward and misplayed situations in the Spin & Go: the 10-15 big blind stack.
Being able to put the final raise in is advantageous because it guarantees us both fold equity and the ability to realise all of our equity by seeing all five community cards. Of course, putting the final raise in is really only an effective idea when that raise represents a reasonably small investment compared to the pot-size. Having to risk 20x the pot in order to get the last say is usually not worth it.
Back in Episode 2, we built a min-raise or fold game on the BU with 25BB. The favourable thing about this stack-size was that after we raised to 2BB, there was no overly effective 3-bet size for the players in the blinds to adopt. We saw that a shove offered them a poor risk to reward ratio and allowed us to fold many hands without being exploited. We also saw that the small 3-bet was a fairly bad idea with any hand that is not nutted or happy to fold to a 4-bet jam. In other words, there was no effective way for our opponents to make the final raise. As a result, we chose the min-raise as our sole way of entering the pot.
Now to today’s topic. One player has been eliminated and we find ourselves heads-up on the BU with 12-15BB. The problem with min-raising now is that when we make it 2BB, Villain has a very good risk reward ratio in the form of a shove. He can put in the final raise at a reasonable cost, risking only 4-5x the pot, forcing us to either play with no fold equity or fold. This dramatically shrinks the numbers of hands we can get all-in with profitably. If we were making the final raise, many more hands would become profitable shoves. The effectively sized final raise is a big deal and we should pre-plan the stack to pot ratio to make sure that it is us and not Villain who will have this luxury.
Let’s say the effective stack (the lower of the two players’ stacks) is 12BB. Raising to 2BB offers Villain a very effective shove and we would have to considerably tighten our min-opening range beyond the point where it is worth building one, in order to defend enough combinations.
The first antidote to this problem is to build a limping range. We do not want to be forced to shove or fold a hand like QTo, we would rather play a pot against a wide range. If Villain raises small, we can call. If he shoves, we can fold safely in the knowledge that his final raise is too large to be effective and that we can fold frequently against it without exploitation. Of course, we will choose to shove some hands against a small raise both for value and as a reasonably high equity bluff. We might also choose to slow-play very big pairs like QQ+ here by limp/calling, but this is less true for vulnerable hands like [88-JJ] that would rather deny equity. There will also be hands we limp and simply fold to a small raise and these will be combos with some small merit that cannot afford to make much of a pre-flop investment; Q3s and 87o come to mind.
The second remedy to the final raise problem at 12BB stacks is to develop an open-shove range. This should consist of hands which have decent equity when called but detest playing flops and trying to make their way to showdown on a lot of board textures. Open-jamming A3s, A8o, and 44 is good for this reason. We can also choose to open-jam large off-suit aces like AJo-AKo. These can easily be favourites when called and can be seen as less flop-friendly value hands that prefer to see always all five cards when they invest money.
Here is the overall construction of our BU strategy at 12BB stack depth:
Exploitatively speaking, this is one of the most lucrative situations in the Spin & Go. As we have already noted, these tournaments are full of weaker players who have nothing like a refined pre-flop strategy heads-up on the BU. You will come across players who limp only with hands they are intending to limp/fold. You will find ones who 3x the BU with 100% of hands allowing you the most profitable final raise imaginable. You will even find players who fold 60-70% of their hands as the BU in this situation.
The upshot is that we should not assume our opponents are playing anything like the strategy we have learned in this article. When the tournament goes heads-up you should already have a general profile of the remaining opponent. You will be able to tell a regular from a mile away. As soon as you see frequent BU min-raising three handed and a shove or fold game in the SB facing a BU raise there is a very high likelihood the player is at least semi-competent. On the other hand, if Villain has been limping his BU three handed at the start of the Spin & Go, raising 3-4x the BB, or flatting BU opens from the SB, there is a high chance that he will turn out to be a predictable passive weaker player – the most common type of recreational out there. In this case you can probably get away with limping in 100% of hands heads-up on the BU without punishment.
Keep your eyes open. These ranges are for your own use; your opponents probably have not seen them. You will win more often by noting how your opponents accidentally deviate from them.
The Spin & Go requires a lot of switching between different gears as the effective stack changes relative to the size of the big blind. Being able to effortlessly change from mode to mode is what separates a strong player from an average one. Look out for how your opponents fail to make these adjustments and try to take advantage. We will finish up this series by looking at even shorter stack play at the very end of the tournament.