Poker ICM: When the Small Blind
shoves on your Big Blind

Poker ICM: When the small blind open shoves and you're in the big blind, most of the time you'll have a no-brainer fold or a no-brainer call, but some of the time the correct decision won't be so obvious.

That is why you need to think about these things when you're not actually playing. You should establish a default action for every common situation that arises. Doing that will help you make more accurate decisions. It will also help you make those decisions more quickly - a definite plus for those that play many tables at the same time.

A Super Turbo SNG is perhaps the most easily analyzable form of poker you'll find online today. But very few will ever do much of the analysis. Be happy for that. It gives you an opportunity to gain an edge.

This article describes the process I went through to determine default calling ranges for various early to middle stage blind-vs-blind situations that I frequently experience in Super Turbo SNGs.

These default ranges are just a baseline. You'll need to be able to deviate from them based on the situation. Also these ranges assume there are six or more players remaining in the sit-n-go.

First I'll summarize the suggested default calling ranges.

270/30 (270 chips at the 15/30 blind level)

44, A6, A2s, KT, K9s (default calling range vs small blind pushing 41%)
44, A9, A8s (default range vs a "semi-loose passive" sb pushing 25%)
22, A2, KT, K9s, QTs (shoving range vs an "s.l.p." sb open limper)
33, A2, K8, K6s, QT, Q9s (calling range vs small blind pushing 60%)

260/40 (260 chips at the 20/40 blind level)

22, A2, K8, K5s, QT, Q9s (default calling range sb pushing 52.6%)
22, A2, K2, Q5, Q2s, J7, J5s, T8, T7s, 98s (sb pushing 91%)

250/50 (250 chips at the 25/50 blind level)

22, A2, K2, Q8, Q5s, J9, J8s, T9s (default calling vs sb pushing 62%)
22, A2, K2, Q2, J5, J2s, T7, T4s, 98, 96s, 87s (sb pushing 93.3%)

Below I explain how I determined these default ranges. You should not simply follow these defaults as they are. You'll usually need to adjust based on the actual situation.

270/30 (270 chips at the 15/30 blind level)

This is the most common super turbo early game scenario where you have 300 chips in the big blind (before posting) and the small blind, who just posted the big blind on the previous hand, starts this hand with 270 chips (255 after posting his blind). Usually there are 7-9 players remaining. A competent player will probably be shoving over 60% of his small blind hands into you (for example I recommend shoving 75.9% of small blind hands by default in this situation), but a normal player often doesn't know he can profitably push such a wide range.

If the small blind player pushes a more typical 41%, which is everything down to K2, you can call with your top 20% of hands (even after allowing a little bit extra edge for your skill advantage over the field). Also I am excluding AA and KK from his range, because almost nobody will open shove those hands from the small blind for 9 BBs. They'll usually make a small raise or just limp to try to trap you. So that leaves me calling with the following hands (top 19.8% of hands):

44, A6, A2s, KT, K9s (default calling range against unknown players)

You'll need to beware of players who limp a lot, but are now pushing on you from the small blind. Their average pushing hand tends to be pretty strong. If they have a VP$IP / PFR of something like "18% / 5%" or "26% / 7%" and they open shove from the small blind, you need to tighten up on your calls from the 20% suggestion above. I would expect an 18/5 player to be shoving something like 25% of his hands (excluding AA / KK). In this case I would call with only 11.3% of my hands:

44, A9, A8s (default calling range vs a "semi-loose passive" player)

It's a bad idea to go to war this early against a "semi-loose passive" type with any hands weaker than that. These guys show up with strong hands too often in that spot. On the other hand, if this type of player open limps from the small blind, you can shove over his limp fairly liberally. He'll often have hands like 97, Q8s, etc and be forced to fold. He'll also probably trap with his big hands, but on average his hand will be weak enough for you to take the pot away. So if he open limps, I'll shove (coincidentally) about 25% of my hands:

22, A2, KT, K9s, QTs (default shoving range vs a "semi-loose passive" small blind open limper)

If the small blind is a known winning regular that is presumably shoving a more optimal range, you should loosen up on your calls. But since he knows that you know this, expect him to tighten up a little on his shoves against you (you being another known winning regular). Instead of shoving more than 70% of hands like he would against a typical opponent, I expect to be shoved on in this spot about 60% of the time (again excluding AA and KK). So I'll call about 29.3%:

33, A2, K8, K6s, QT, Q9s (calling range vs 60% small blind pusher)

WARNING: Don't shove over this player's limp! When this type of player open limps from the small blind, don't shove on him unless you are REALLY strong. These guys aren't limp-folding for 10BBs or less. Just click "check" and hope you flop two pairs.

Same thing if this type of player open limps from early or middle position and you're in the BB. Unless you have a monster hand, just click "check" and don't put another chip in the pot unless you flop two pairs or better.

Exception: If you check with something like A3 and the flop is something like A62, you should be ahead. He'll often have KK. The line I would take is to lead out with a tiny bet. If he calls, just keep making tiny bets. It'll be hard for him to fold. If he raises, then you have to play some poker. I would probably not fold if he raised. It's just hard to put him on a better hand, other than pocket aces. And minbets often induce raises.

Anyway, this type of player will usually have a VP$IP / PFR of something like "18% / 15%" or "16% / 14%". So when they open-limp, alarm bells should be going off in your head. He's not limping with 66, AQ or QJ. It's a big pair. And if you ever find out differently, definitely make a note on him.

Poker ICM Article FOOTNOTE: VP$IP means "voluntarily put money in the pot". PFR means "preflop raise". They represent the percentage of the time a player enters a pot and enters a pot with a raise (respectively). If you're running pokertracker and a HUD, you should be able to see these stats while you're playing. They are very helpful to your hand reading accuracy.

Here are my defaults for 260/40 and 250/50 situations as long as 6 or more players remain.

260/40 (260 chips at the 20/40 blind level)

22, A2, K8, K5s, QT, Q9s (This is my default calling range against typical or unknown players)(small blind pushing 52.6%)

Most good players will be shoving close to 100% of hands at this stage. Let's say they are shoving 91% (excluding just AA). Now you can call with something like 51.2%, which looks like this.

22, A2, K2, Q5, Q2s, J7, J5s, T8, T7s, 98s (calling range vs 91% pusher)

If you're not very confident that the opponent if shoving that loosely (91%), then you can tighten up from the suggested range. But you should be calling with hands somewhere between the two ranges shown above against most opponents in this situation.

250/50 (250 chips at the 25/50 blind level)

22, A2, K2, Q8, Q5s, J9, J8s, T9s (This is my default calling range against typical or unknown players)(small blind pushing 62% - excluding AA)

I am excluding AA from his shoving range, because I expect him to often limp or minraise with aces. A good player will know you are going to hard to trap with a limp, so he will probably shove most if not all big pairs against other regulars. So I won't exclude KK for this calculation.

22, A2, K2, Q2, J5, J2s, T7, T4s, 98, 96s, 87s (calling range vs small blind that pushes 93.3% - excluding AA)

Remember that these defaults are for when there are 6 or more players remaining. When there are fewer players than that, you're chip position and other factors often dictate a much different calling range.

Again you should adjust your calls based on how loose you think the small blind is shoving. I chose 93.3% instead of 100%, because I can never be sure an opponent would shove 100%. But I know he isn't shoving more than 100%, so the average would fall below that. I chose 93.3%.

Still I'll often not call with the very bottom hands in the suggested range, because I won't be that confident he's pushing that wide. For example, T7 is the weakest offsuit ten-high calling hand on the above list. But sometimes I would fold T7 or even T8 because I suspect he's not pushing 93%.

This shows why it's important to make notes on players when you observe them shoving with weak hands or folding a lot of small blinds after everyone else folded.

Even though I often deviate from the default range, it's helpful to have a default or baseline calling range determined ahead of time (like the ones above) then adjust from there when the moment arrives.

Without a baseline calling range, you might make some terrible folds such as folding J9 when even J5 is likely profitable. Or (less likely) you might make bad calls. It's a yucky feeling when you make a call, then later discover (during a SNG Wizard review session) that even if the opponent was shoving 100%, you shouldn't have called with the hand you did (although such big errors usually happen on the bubble when ICM dictates plays that sometimes feel very unnatural).

You can expect some bad experiences when making these seemingly very loose all-in calls suggested above. You'll call with J6 and get shown KJ or you will call with Q2 and be dominated by 88. Don't let that deter you from making the correct decisions in the future. He would have shoved 94 if that's what he was dealt. You just ran into the top of his range. It happens.

You need to be making these calls. On average they are money makers (assuming you are good at estimating the opponent's shoving range).

You should not be worried about making some embarassing calls from time to time. There will also be times when you call with J5 and he has 85 and you look like a crazy genius. When that happens, expect the chat box to blow up. Not only are the calls positive EV, there's an extra benefit. Players will start shoving on you with fewer hands in the future.

Poker ICM article tip: If you're almost never getting all-in with the worst hand in super turbos, then you're not playing well. In a no-limit hold'em cash game with 100 BB effective stacks, the opposite can be true.

If you sense that players are adjusting to you by shoving less, you'll need to tighten up some on your calls to compensate. The main point of this article is that you often need to be calling pretty loosely in middle game blind-vs-blind situations - a lot looser than you probably currently do.

Why is this leak is so common?

Even players who frequently review their hands in SNG Wizard, often do not call nearly loosely enough in blind-vs-blind situations. The reason is that SNG Wizard's default opponent pushing range is often way tighter than reality. Therefore your incorrect folds aren't being flagged, so you never take a closer look at these hands and the leak never gets plugged.

Poker ICM Example: You are in the big blind and are dealt J6s. You started the hand with 300 chips and the small blind (a regular winning player) open shoves for a total of 250 chips. The blinds are at 25/50. Common sense tells you J6s feel like a fold here, so you fold. Later you review the game in SNG Wizard and there is a checkmark next to this hand (meaning you played the hand correctly). You think nothing of it and move on. But this was actually a major error. Why didn't SNG Wizard mark it as an error? Because it set the small blind's shoving range at 42% (in which case J6s WOULD be an easy fold).

But good players like the one shoving on you here are probably pushing nearly everything. If he's shoving 93% of hands (excluding AA), then folding J6s is a significant leak. It was an error equal to about 0.8% of the prize pool. If this was a $28+$2 SNG, that was a $2.02 real money mistake (on average). If you play 50 of these every day, you might be making this same mistake five times per day. That's a $10/day leak.

If he's a regular, but you're not convinced he's shoving 93%, then don't call with the weakest hands I suggested calling with against a 93% pusher, but don't call as tight as you would against a 62% pusher. Winning regulars definitely push wider than that.

END: Poker ICM article (When the Small Blind shoves on your Big Blind)

return from "Poker ICM Article" to "Early Pushing Hands"

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