Should you call, isolate or fold when you can win a bounty with a full table left to act? Dara O’Kearney shares some insights…

Dara O Kearney
Dara O’Kearney 

A short stack with a juicy bounty shoves under the gun, you are next to act with a middling stack and a decent hand, but you have a whole table – many who cover you – left to act behind you.

Do you go for the bounty or play cautiously? If you go for it, do you flat or isolate?

This is among the trickiest spots in PKOs and to be honest the only way to get your head around them is to run these spots over and over.

With that said, I do have some rough heuristics on how to proceed in these spots that I would use in the absence of any reads.

Flat your strongest hands

You want to trap with your biggest pairs and biggest Ax, here we are hoping somebody else rips it in behind you trying to steal the bounty from you. This should be wider than your normal ‘flat to trap’ range because your opponents will squeeze much wider in PKOs.

Flat hands that play multiway

One of the most useful parts of my book PKO Poker Strategy is actually quite a simple guide to the equity of every hand preflop against typical ranges. Amongst other things it shows the hands that play well multiway, which is something you need to know in PKOs. The big finding is that suited Broadway hands perform much better, relatively, against multiple opponents.

A hand like KJs for example, something which can be considered a ‘trap hand’ in vanilla tournaments, can make strong one pair hands against a single opponent, and strong straight/flush/two pair hands against multiple opponents. Hands like AJo, by comparison, do well against one opponent but shrink in value against two or more.

These hands make good flats in these spots because you are happy to play heads-up vs the bounty and you don’t mind if there are further calls behind. You can also get away from it if somebody who covers you squeezes and you don’t get a favourable price to call.

Dara O Kearney
Base your decions based on whether you are happy with one or more callers

Shove raw equity hands

Some hands are strong against one player but shrivel up against multiple opponents. Middle pairs and weak offsuit Ax spring to mind here. These are the hands you want to isolate with by shoving over the top of the short stack.

Call/Fold the hands below these hands

There are some hands that are worth trying to take the bounty with but not worth risking your tournament life for. Small pairs and offsuit Kx are the likely candidates here. When the bounty is juicy enough they are worth taking a punt with, but fold if you get too much heat behind you.

PKOs will never be solved and two seemingly identical spots might actually be very different if the stacks and bounties differ slightly. By all means follow these heuristics, but always study the spots afterwards.

Dara O’Kearney’s new book Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book is out now.

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