A fundamental difference between STT's and MTT's
Normal practice in a full ring (as opposed to 6-max) STT's is to pay out the prize pool as 50% to the winner, 30% to second and 20% to third. Note that the biggest jump in prize money is from fourth to third, so erroneous bubble play can cost you lots of equity. If we look at the prize structure in the recent WSOP main event, we can see that with four players left, the winner took home (after taking out 4th place money from everyone's amount) about $6.4 million, second $3 million and third $1.2 million, for an approximate 61%-28%-11% structure. Here, the jump from fourth to third is pretty small in comparison to the huge jump from second to first (whereas in an STT, the jump is exactly the same).
How does this affect decisions in practice? What it means is that in some circumstances it's correct to make huge laydowns in STT's which you'd never dream of doing in an MTT. It's not quite as extreme as some of the laydowns you'd make in a multi-seat satellite (see Harrington on Hold'em II, which demonstrates about the only time where folding AA preflop is correct), but it can be surprising. Consider the following situation, blinds are 100/200:
UTG: 2255 chips – shoves
Button: 6750 chips – folds
SB: 2255 chips – calls
Hero: 2240 chips – has KK
In order to consider whether this is a call, we need to put the opponents on ranges of hands, then work out the equity of what happens. Fortunately, there's tools available that will do this all for us in a few seconds to save us the maths.
Let's put UTG on shoving the top 25% of hands, which roughly equates to any pair, any ace and any two broadway. If that seems loose to you, then tighten it up a bit, but it only makes matters worse for us. We'll say that SB is calling fairly tight, say top 5% (about 99+, AQ+).
In the WSOP payout example, this is a clear call – our equity if we push is 25.61%, and 21.98% if we fold. On the other hand, in a standard STT payout structure, our equity if we push is 23.05% and 26.54% if we fold. In other words, calling in the MTT is worth about 3.5% worth of equity, whereas in the STT, it costs us about the same amount. Purely due to the payout structure.
It's an extreme example but it ought to demonstrate that the bubble in STT's can produce situations where counterintuitive plays are correct. In the kind of situation described, it's much better to secure the third place finish. If we put UTG on shoving any two cards, SB needs to call 50% of their hands for a call to be profitable. It makes sense, because if we call and win, we're more or less guaranteed 30%, and are even in chips with the button, so probably win 50% half the time. That's a best case scenario of 40% equity, but we have 0% equity if we call and bust. Which happens surprisingly often against two opponents, two lots of junk (72o, T4o) win about 25% of the time, and that quickly goes up if we have live outs (AQ, JJ wins 41%). Locking up 20% of the prizepool with a workable stack is much better.
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