Can you play too passive in a PKO?

We review another hand from the Unibet PKO series with our friends from The Chip Race, this time when we cannot win a bounty.

We continue our detailed dive into some of the big PKO hands Barry Carter played in the Unibet PKO Series, joined by our friends Dara and David from the Chip Race.

After a hand last time where I went absolutely nuts to win a lot of bounties I wanted to look at this hand where I think I have the opposite leak, playing too passive and pot controlling when I am covered and thus cannot win a bounty. 

We are quite early in the SuperNova PKO and it is folded to the Button who raises, I have AJs in the Small Blind and call, the Big Blind also calls. Is this too passive? Is this a 3-bet with 70 big blinds effective?

Dara O’Kearney: If this were a normal MTT then the equilibrium charts would make this hand a pure 3-bet, meaning it would be even more of a 3-bet in a PKO. You are looking to up variance and you will get called wider by hands that AJs dominates. 

I understand the wider ranges but why do I want to up variance here?

Dara O’Kearney: Having the chip lead is huge in a PKO because you can bust everyone. In PKOs you want to increase variance which often means making the pots bigger from the start. Your situation isn’t terrible here, you cover half the table, if you were the short stack you should really up variance to cover some people. 

I think my mentality was I wanted to protect the fact that I already covered half the table. 

David Lappin: I like that counterpoint, there are always different factors in a tournament like this, this is the beauty of PKOs and why they remain unsolvable. Yes Dara is right you want the chip lead and cover everybody, but right now you cover five people and even if this hand went badly and you missed the flop, you could fold and still have that coverage. 

So I flop top pair with a backdoor flush draw, I check called the bet on the flop, partly to keep the Big Blind involved. 


Dara O’Kearney: I don’t mind the flat, if it was heads-up I would probably check/raise but three way the Big Blind might stay in the hand, he might see weakness and raise with something like 67. 

David Lappin: The fact we have backdoor hearts means we can stick around for the turn, there are very few hands we don’t like. A King of Diamonds we won’t love or a Spade. Once we decide we are taking the passive line on the flop we are probably in station mode for most run outs. 

Dara O’Kearney: These spots are interesting heads-up. Solvers like to check/raise one high card boards with flush draws on it with hands I would classify as a pair and a backdoor. The reason is if we get called we might not be in great shape, we need a strong hand by the river, which you can often make. 

The Big Blind gets out of the way and we essentially check it down for two more streets to induce another bet. 


David Lappin: I’m a fan, you made that decision to go passive preflop. I think your opponent is going to bluff a lot of turns there because you have a lot of pocket pairs bigger than fives he can get you off. A lot of players might target that for emptying the clip. 

If you want to watch the whole session you can watch it right here:

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How wide do you call in this spot? Let us know in the comments:

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