Twitch poker superstar Arlie Shaban had an incredible start to 2021, first taking down a $22 buy-in PokerStars Blowout Series event for $19,707 in January, then following that up with an $11 buy-in PokerStars Turbo Series title for $7,117 in March.
As a BBZ student, Shaban is always keen to improve his poker game. “I’m always looking to learn and getting some one-on-one value is super exciting,” he says.
The man providing the one-on-one value is none other than BBZ himself, Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond. The two sat down to record our Low Stakes HH Review w/ Arlie Shaban video in which they break down many interesting hands.
What’s great about this hand review is that it’s from a low-stakes tournament. Many of you reading this will no doubt be regularly battling in $11 buy-in tournaments, so there should be some helpful takeaways in this article.
Let’s go through three interesting spots from the video now.
SQUEEZING ALL-IN WITH SMALL PAIRS
Shaban is in the big blind with 24 bigs and picks up 4 ♦ 4 ♥ . The cutoff (42 bigs) min-opens to 2x and the button (60 bigs) flats.
We really have two options here: call and hope to flop a set, or shove and hope to get folds. So what would you do in this spot?
“These spots are sensitive,” says BBZ. “A solver might tell you to pure call, but the reality is that the EV difference between shoving and calling is mildly negligible. It won’t matter too much.”
When he checks the charts (see above), pocket fours are indeed considered a pure call, while pocket fives and up are shoving 100% of the time. But as BBZ points out, there are some specific assumptions you can make that will make shoving substantially outperform flatting.
“What’s supposed to happen here is the flatter (i.e. the button) is supposed to flat uncapped,” he says. That means they should often be calling with both the top and bottom of their range, as you can see below.
“It’s not uncommon for people to flat with pocket aces here, but most people don’t,” BBZ continues. “The button should have a high frequency flat with pocket aces and pocket kings, but if those are missing [from their range], then shoving [pocket fours from the big blind] goes up in EV.”
This is an example of an adjustment BBZ would make when playing in lower stakes tournaments. Now you can do it too.
In the hand itself, Shaban shoved and both players folded. Job done.
BATTLING FELLOW BIG STACKS ON FINAL TABLES
We’re now fast-forwarding to the final table, the crucial stage of tournament poker that Shaban admits he wants to work on the most.
At this point, just six players out of the 4,935 entries remain and Shaban is chip leading with 65 bigs. The second-largest stack has 49 bigs and opens to 2.3x under the gun.
It folds to Shaban in the small blind and he’s picked up J ♣ J ♦ . BBZ asks him what he’s thinking in this spot.
“Well, they’re second in chips and a lot closer to me than anyone else,” Shaban answers. “In a situation like this, I’m thinking that I want to maintain the chip lead and keep a lot of pressure on the player in second place.”
But in this type of situation, BBZ would be thinking about the strength of hands that the second-largest chip stack would stack off with against our 3-bet. After all, with four shorter stacks on the table and with ICM and pay jumps in consideration, it’s going to take a super-strong hand for them to risk their tournament life.
The two agree that the opponent would probably only stack off with pocket queens plus, so what does that mean for us attacking them in this spot?
“That means you probably want to flat here,” says BBZ. “if he’s going to get it in against you with aces and kings and that’s it, you can deal with that by structuring a more polarized, higher bluff-to-value ratio strategy.”
What BBZ means by that is that there isn’t much merit to 3-betting pocket jacks in this spot. When we 3-bet, they shove, and we call, we’re often behind those exact hands we just mentioned.
If we fold to the 4-bet shove–and our opponent should be shoving with hands like A 5 sometimes–that straight-up sucks. Calling it off doesn’t work for us.
“So we should just flat,” BBZ continues. “We should recognize that in this spot you have the power, you have the leverage, you get to throw your elbows into their face and they have to deal with it.”
The way you take advantage of that power is by 3-betting with the nuts–aces, kings and ace-king suited–and also bluffing a lot. That way you’re only 3-betting with hands that are very comfortable getting it in, and your bluffs which you can easily fold to a 4-bet.
“The bluffs get drawn from hands which duplicate aces, kings and ace-king,” says BBZ. “So we bluff with ace-highs and king-highs, and that’s it.”
BBZ points out that while ace-highs can be both suited and offsuit, your king-high bluffs should be suited to give them more playability post-flop. Everything else–pocket jacks, pocket queens–just flats pre-flop.
In the actual hand, Shaban 3-bet the jacks to 11.2 bigs and the opener folded. “He’s going to fold a lot,” BBZ concludes. “But that’s why we bluff a lot. We just don’t need to put jacks in that range.”
JAMMING WITH SHORTER STACKS REMAINING
In this final hand we’ll go over, four players remain and Shaban picks up 10 ♥ 10 ♦ in the small blind. He’s now second in chips with around 35 bigs and the chip leader opens the cutoff. It folds to Shaban.
“I remember this as an interesting spot and I wasn’t sure at all what to do,” admits Shaban. “I didn’t want to have to be the one to call off with pocket tens as I was in second place, so I thought I’d just rip it in and try to take down the pot.”
BBZ then pulls up the small blind range from BBZ charts (see above), albeit at 40 big blinds and on an eight-handed table (in this spot, we’re four-handed).
“If everyone has ~40 big blinds, pocket tens is nowhere close [to shoving],” says BBZ. “There’s more ICM when there are eight players so that matters. But it’s a starting point for whether or not we should flat or call.”
However, when he looks at the same spot at ~30 big blinds (eight-handed) pocket tens becomes almost pure shove. This puts Shaban’s 35 big blinds in a tough spot in between.
To actually solve this exact spot would take many hours of running sims, so we don’t get to find out the GTO solution, but BBZ says that while he would probably just call, he actually thinks it’s probably a jam.
In the hand in question, Shaban jammed and got called by pocket nines. He held and doubled up, and went on to win it all for $7,117.
These are just three of many interesting hands BBZ and Arlie Shaban cover in our Low Stakes HH Review w/ Arlie Shaban video. You can pick up the full video for just $9.99.