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Critical Analysis of the 10 BB Shove/Fold Rule
IntroductionIn this article
- Disproving an Absolute 10 BB Rule
- Balancing your Min-Raise Range
- Antes and ICM
There is a widely-quoted rule in tournament poker mandating a shove-or-fold strategy with a 10 BB stack. While there is not a single source for this rule, its proponents may express it as:
“With an effective stack of 10 BB or shallower, you should either shove or fold pre-flop, but not limp or make a smaller raise.”
In this article, we will analyze how correct the 10 BB rule is in different situations.
Disproving an Absolute 10 BB Rule
It is not difficult to disprove this rule if we regard it as an absolute.
Those arguing in favor of the 10 BB rule being universally applicable must show that in every instance where the effective stack is 10 BB or shallower, limping or raising smaller are lower EV options compared to folding or shoving. To prove that the rule doesn’t always hold, however, it suffices to give a single counter-example.
Action: Everyone folds to us on the button. We have a stack of $1,000, as do both blinds. Both blinds have static defense ranges of the top 20% of hands, which they will 3-bet/shove if we raise small, and call if we shove.
Question: Should we fold, min-raise, or shove?
Analysis: Ignoring card removal effects, both players will fold 64% of the time (80% x 80%). If we min-raise, our EV is therefore given by:
EV = Probability (Both Fold) x Reward (Both Fold) + Probability (At Least One Defends) x Reward (At Least One Defends)
= 64% x $150 + 36% x (-$200)
Now suppose we shove. We win the same $150 64% of the time, but the remaining 36% we are (at best) paying $1,000 for 29.2% equity in a $2100 pot, for a loss of about $387. So the EV of shoving will be at most -$43.32, or lower if the caller is the big blind -- giving us less overlay -- or both call.
The EV of raise/folding a larger amount must also be less than the EV of min-raising, as we simply lose more those times we’re shoved on, but have the same reward for a successful steal.
The EV of folding is $0.
Therefore min-raising is the better play over folding or shoving.
Note that it’s very difficult to calculate the EV of limping due to the number of assumptions involved, but it is likely -EV to voluntarily pay 10% of our stack to get involved against one or two random hands with offsuit low cards.
Lastly, we have assumed in this hand that we are playing a cash game or MTT where we can safely use a chip EV analysis. Later we will see how adding in an ante or ICM framework modifies our results.
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