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Call or Fold with Pocket Tens

Last Sunday, I hosted the $1,000 buy-in UltimateBet.com Online Poker Championship Main Event. Here's an interesting hand that came up.

With blinds at $700/$1,400 plus a $150 per player ante, I looked down at pocket tens.

The player under-the-gun opened for a minimum raise to $1,400 and then another player moved all-in. Now, in the real brick-and-mortar world, I'd quickly muck this hand. But I wasn't playing on felt, I was playing internet poker. And importantly, I only had ten big blinds left.

What should I do?

Folding my hand still seemed to be the best option. But sometimes poker players are shaded by the way they're running, and on this day I was running badly. I'd been slowly but surely anteing off my chips while patiently waiting for a strong hand to play.

Look, I was frustrated with my lack of playable hands. That's why I decided to play the pocket tens. I made the call.

The under-the-gun raiser snap-called with K-K and the guy that moved all-in showed pocket eights. Long story short, I was cooked, finishing in about 300th place.

After the smoke cleared, I was left wondering about what might have been. The fact is that I had been playing really great poker. Maybe I should have waited for a better spot, and if so, maybe I would have won the whole ball of wax.

Now, a week later, I'm still questioning my thought process and my play. But this much is crystal clear: online poker tournaments have a super-fast structure and I only had ten big blinds left. There's no time to wait!

I discussed the hand with young online poker star Ashton "theASHMAN103" Griffin. He thought that my best play was to fold. My question to him was this: Is it better to get your money in with a hand like 10-10 as the third player to raise it up, or is it better to move all-in with a hand like ace-high in late position? Well, he'd rather move in with ace-high because of the fold equity the chips you can expect to win if an opponent folds his hand. In fact, he'd rather move in with jack-high than call with 10-10 in this spot!

Truthfully, that's not the answer I expected from an aggressive online player like theASHMAN103.

But I kept thinking that you just can't wait for strong hands when you play online poker tournaments. You have to move your chips around a lot more often than you do in the real world. You have to play those pocket tens!

Next, I called Justin "Boosted J" Smith, another well known online pro, to get a third opinion. He said that he'd have made the call in most online tournament scenarios, but not all. He wanted more information, like, how many hands my opponents were playing and what the general mood at the table was.

I told Boosted J that the guy that moved all-in played aggressively and that the player under-the-gun had been making small opening bets on a regular basis. With that additional knowledge, Boosted J liked the call option even more.

Like a lot of situations in online poker tournaments, my decision to play 10-10 wasn't clear cut. Ashton Griffin advised that all options should be considered because every discernable factor could be significant in making the correct play.

Justin Smith had more to say, too. He said that this hand showed why online poker and live poker are so different. In live tournaments, you have the chance to get a solid read on the entire situation and act accordingly. In online play, though, sometimes you just have to go with your gut feel.


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