OPEN FACE ODDS -- 3-HANDED STRATEGY -- December 10, 2013

Categories: Pivot Points, 3-Handed, Tournament


The hand pictured contains an interesting decision I found myself facing during an Open Face Chinese tournament online. The image above shows the final result of the hand.

The decision point was on 12th street, when I was dealt the 10 of hearts and the board looked like this:

There were only two spaces to fill on my board, so the 10h would either go in the front or back row. Before talking about the pluses and minuses of where to set the card, let's analyze the situation: It is the tournament bubble; we are 3 of the remaining 5 entrants with 4 getting paid. At this level, points are valued at 1,000 chips, so any hand can really sway the momentum. Clear thinking about exactly how many points I'd win or lose from each player is very important at this stage.

Versus the player to the right, I am behind in 2 of the 3 rows. Their trip K's in back beat my AAQQ, and while I had the middle locked down JJ > 77, they are well ahead in the front with Q high > 8 high. My choices are: a) concede the front row and hope for back row improvement; or b) concede the back row and hope for front row improvement. With no further improvement I am looking at a total 1pt loss, or 1k tournament chips, as they would win 2 of 3 rows for one point without royalties.

Versus the player on the bottom right, I am ahead in two of three rows. Their back row straight is also beating my AAQQ, but I have the middle locked JJ > 88, and I am currently ahead in front. If neither of us improved, then I'd be looking at a 1pt loss for another 1k tournament chips, as I would win two of three rows for 1 point but then would have to pay off the straight royalty for 2 pts.

If the situation does not change (which is the mathematically most probable scenario), I am looking at a 2k point loss for the hand. It's not a backbreaker, but considering the high blind level it's not terrific either. It should be pointed out here that the scores in the images reflect the outcome of the hand, so my stack at the beginning of the hand was actually below 10k.


Obviously I'd like to give myself the best opportunity to score points against two opponents late in a tournament. However, there are only three ways for that to happen:

1) Pair the 6 in front (1pt royalty)
2) Pair the 8 in front (3pt royalty)
3) Pair the A or Q in back (6pt royalty)

What are my odds? A quick scan of the board shows I have one live 8, one live 6, and one live of each A and Q. With only one card left to come, the odds are low:

- Pair the front row 6 or 8: 14%

- Pair the back row A or Q: 14%

As you can see, the odds to either improve the front OR the back are exactly the same. This means that as far as the cold math of 13th street improvement, it does not matter one bit whether I put that 10 of hearts in the front or back row. Is one better than the other? Let's revisit the situation:

There are three factors influencing my decision which I can deduce roughly in my head without any E.V. calculator or odds chart:

1) If pairing the front or back row has the same probability of occurring, then I'd rather leave the door open for the event that has the highest royalty potential, and that's the back row full house.

2) Setting the 10 in front, while not guaranteeing the row against the bottom-right player, does make it more difficult for them to beat me there.

3) It is unlikely I can win the front row against the opponent to the right. Overcards to their Q are nearly dead, and even if I catch a Q in front (which I'd be kicking myself for if the back row is closed), it's not hard for them to beat my 8 kicker. In other words, I am ready to concede the front to them and keep hope alive in the back.

So after some thinking through the situation, this decision became pretty easy, and the 10 went in front. I used my tournament extra clock allotment on this hand to give myself time to work out the above variables. I never really expected to hit the full house on 13th street, and that was definitely a stroke of luck, but the goal in any form of poker is to set your hand up properly to maximize any luck that does come your way. It turned out to be a key hand in a tournament that I won, and I'm glad that I took the time to analyze the situation when it arose.


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Content copyright 2013-16 by Open Face Odds.