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Perfect 10s

Getting pocket 10s can trigger a multitude of options and agonising riddles. Here, Liz Lieu shepherds us through the tangles and pitfalls of a particularly prickly hand.

To pick up from last month, there are so many variables to consider when you look at a starting hand in hold ‘em. In this part, I’ll answer that question I get all the time of how to play pocket 10s. I hear it all the time and considering how loaded a question it is, the quick checklist of things you have to consider with every hand in a tournament is worth repeating:

• What are the blinds and antes?
• What is your chip stack?
• Are you familiar with each player at the table? If so, how have they been playing the last two levels?
• What position are you in for the hand in comparison to the button and blinds?
• What action has happened before you look at your cards?
• What is the chip stack of any player who has acted before you, as well as those still to act?
• Where are you in the tournament?

On every hand, you have to consider these questions and their answers, so we’ll examine pocket 10s as a starting point and we’ll look at three combinations of action and position:

• Middle position with an early raise in front of me.
• Big blind with a cut-off raise in front of me and a button fold.
• On the button, and there is an under-the-gun raise and call in front of me.

Pocket 10s

These pairs can be dicey, especially if you’ve been card dead for a couple of levels. Any pair looks great when you’ve been dealt K-5o on 11 consecutive hands, but can you keep your discipline and wits about you every single time?

A. Middle position/raise in front of me: On a short stack, I’m pushing here unless I’m up against a very tight player. With a deep stack, I’m re-raising here but again ready to get away from the hand if I feel I need to.

B. Big blind/raise from the cut-off: Short stack=shove (see a pattern here?). I’m normally raising here if I’m deep, then playing the hand post-flop if the raiser calls. A hand like this is one where you really have to be focused, and it’s where being focused every hand comes into play. The raiser calls you and a king hits on the flop, how do you play that? I’ll fire at that flop if I’ve re-raised with 10s, but you have to keep processing the hand and reviewing everything the raiser has done until then. Is he floating and thinks he can bully you here? This is tournament poker at its finest.

C. On the button/raise and a call in front of me: I may muck here late in a tourney, even on a short stack. You have an early raiser and a caller, pretty strong action if you are short. You aren’t pushing anyone out of a pot, and you may be way behind with your 10s. Deep in a tourney, I probably fold 10s with this action if I’m deep-stacked. When I’m playing good deep in a tournament, I may muck 10s with no action in middle position. What are you going to do if you’re called with 10s? A very dangerous spot late in position.

So last month we looked at gapped suited connectors, this month was pocket 10s. Next month, we’ll go down the food chain and examine baby pairs and examine what they’re good for. But more often than not, they belong in the muck.
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