A long time ago, poker legend Doyle Brunson wrote that the key to no-limit hold 'em is to put a man to a decision for all his chips. He was right, and Doyle's Law is fundamental to accumulating chips in tournament poker.
We all know those spots. Your opponent puts chips in the pot, and your decision is to shove or fold. The key to winning pots without a showdown is to threaten your opponent with decisions for his entire stack. The cheaper you can do this, the better, because if you're risking less to win the same pot, your bluffs are more profitable, and since you're leveraging an opponent's entire stack, your value hands will play for the whole pile regardless.
I recently moved to Mexico to resume playing online poker legally. It saddens me that I had to leave my home, the land of the free, to freely practice my occupation. I chose this hand out of the 29 tournaments that I played today to share with you.
The tournament was a $55-buy-in, no-limit event with almost 2,000 entrants. We were down to about 240 players, with the top 198 making the money and first place taking home just over $12,000. Blinds were 300-600, with an ante of 50. I had a stack of about 22,000.
Action folded to the button, an aggressive player with 27,900 to start the hand. He made it 1,200. The small blind was also an aggressive and aware player. I was in the big blind, thinking to myself, "I'm going to three-bet this guy, because I know he's light quite often." The small blind, who had 20,668, reraised to 3,000. My turn, and I had 6h 8d.
Clearly, this was a fold. However, if I reraised, then I would be leveraging my opponents' entire stacks. It would put both the initial raiser and the re-raiser to a decision for all of their chips. Granted, they could just call, but nearly every player knows that it's fundamentally unsound to call a significant portion of your stack preflop without the intention of putting the rest of it in after the flop. When faced with such a decision, most good players either fold or reraise all in.
I had two cards. What they were didn't matter. My hand could fall into either of two categories: one that would fold to an opponent's shove, or one that would call a shove. If 7-7 fell into the fold category, then it had no more preflop strength in this situation than 7-2 offsuit.
There was 5,300 in the pot. I believed there was a good chance that the initial raiser was full of it. I believed that the small blind knew this and might, therefore, be full of it as well. Thus, if I believed that these two clowns would fold to my reraise more than half the time, I could reraise profitably with any two cards.
In this case, I did believe that they would fold often enough. I had enough chips in my stack to cover the reraiser and was just shy of the initial raiser. A cold four-bet is awfully strong, and with the bubble looming so close, it would be silly for these two guys to punt their healthy stacks. Knowing all this, I made it 5,888, risking 5,288 to win 5,300. More important, I was leveraging the entire pot and both players' stacks with a little more than 5,000. That's pretty powerful.
The reraiser, however, shoved his stack down my piehole, I folded my hand, and I eventually busted out somewhere around 30th place for peanuts.
Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. Known as "Devo" on the tournament circuit, he has amassed more than $1 million in career earnings.