Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin came out of the gates strong last year, 2009 and is holding up well this year as well. He won his first bracelet in during the ’09 World Series of Poker by placing first in a $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em event, Baldwin also placed third in the $10,000 World Championship pot-limit hold’em event. He has amassed 2.6 million in a very short span of time.
He has become a guru of sorts at playing short hand, all the way down to heads up. Taking a look at Baldwin’s three-handed tournament strategy is a good start for both pro and amateur players.
Let’s take a look shall we?
Know who your opponents are. Let’s say they are of the aggressive type both in the blinds and in their style of re-raising. Baldwin recommends to “tighten up” your raising range.
Depending on the situation you should only open if you are willing to go all the way with the hand pre-flop. It can be frustrating to pick up small pairs and suited connectors here; you dont really want to get them all-in pre-flop, but your opponents are going to make it difficult to see a flop.
Well what about limping you may ask?
Baldwin, will on occasion, toss in a limp with these hands if his opponents have too much to shove. Now, if the other players finish the small blind and/or check the big blind, the recommend action is to see a flop with a good hand in position. If the other card players raise, than you as a player can call – anticipating that they will bet most flops, gives you the opportunity to semi-bluff. If you flop something you have a chance to take a good full pot.
A final word of advice …
When you are measuring your opponents, be careful to recognize that they are also sizing you up. When you do limp, you should do so on huge hands in order to hide your range.
Take the free advise – Good luck!
Its a rare case in todays tournaments that Id get three handed with two tight players. If I did, I would obviously be quite aggressive from the button, and be cautious if my opponents showed resistance.
OK, what about the small blind? Do you use some of the same principles for knowing when to raise into the big blind as you do when considering a raise on the button?
From the small blind Im looking at what has happened in previous small blind versus big blind confrontations with this player. If I raised and got reraised last time, Im very likely to raise again with most hands. This is because I expect him to think, He knows Im likely to reraise him here, and hes opening anyway,” and just give up most hands.
If Ive been raising and taking down most pots and the player appears aggravated, Im not raising very often at all until I pick up a good hand or I rebuild my image a bit. I really just ask myself, How is this player likely to respond? to each possible action. I do this before looking at my cards and act accordingly.
What spots are you looking to reraise from the small blind against a button raise, either as a resteal or for value?
Im paying attention to how often this player has been raising their button. The more often they raise, the wider my range is to reraise on a resteal. Stack sizes are important here. If my opponent has a lot of chips, I need to be aware that my opponent might four-bet on a resteal or call my reraise. If I think there is a decent chance of my reraise getting called, I want to have a decent hand to go to the flop with.
Now onto the big blind. How do you approach this position?
If the button raises and the small blind folds, play is very similar to play from the small blind. One difference is Im slightly more likely to call preflop, given the improved pot odds and knowledge that there is nobody behind me that can raise me off the hand. If the button folds, Im back to examining previous small blind versus big blind confrontations against the small blind.
If hes been pretty weak with his small blind and comes in for a raise, Im going to give him more credit than if hes opening most of the time. If hes really aggressive from the small blind, I need to mix in some resteals and calls more often. Three handed, most of the time, nobody is going to have that strong of a hand.
You cant sit around and wait to make big hands and expect to win. Finding ways to win pots without much of a hand is essential.
Do you think it’s possible to overexploit profitable plays from each of these positions?
Its definitely possible to overdo it with plays. This is where its important to keep mixing up your play. If Ive been stealing a lot and now all of the sudden Im getting played back at, I need to adjust. The really good Texas holdem players can tell when they are about to get played back at. Thats a much cheaper way to adjust your play than waiting for someone to actually reraise you.
So from any position, what are the biggest mistakes you see players making when it gets down to three-handed?
The biggest mistake I see is people relying too much on having or making a big hand.
Is there any other advice you would give to beginning players?
My best advice would be to assess the situation before worrying about your cards. Most of the time you can pretty accurately figure out whats going to happen before it does. Playing off these situation reads can be more important than the cards youre holding.
Later on this week, Baldwin will discuss how these concepts apply to an actual hand he played while three-handed for his WSOP bracelet this summer.