A big shift in a tournament or sit and go begins when you get to the antes level. Out of nowhere players wake up with hands and become more aggressive, stealing the blinds, 3-betting and going all in.

For someone relatively new to tournaments this can be confusing, and you might be asking yourself why this happens.

That’s what I plan to explain in this article — why antes affect how everyone plays and how you should adjust your own strategy for antes.

How Antes Affect the Pot Size

In Other Words, Why Are People Getting More Aggressive?

Lets start with how antes affect the pot. This should give you a good idea why players get more aggressive during these stages.

It’s simple really. Antes add a significant amount of money to the pot. For example, say the level is 100/200 and the ante is 25. With 9 players in the hand the antes add up to 225, which makes up 75% of the blinds and 43% of the overall pot.

That’s huge.

That’s not all. When you add antes to the pot it will often make up a large portion of each players’ stack. For example, at the 100/200 level a stack size of 4,000 is reasonable. A pot size of 525 chips makes up 13% of that stack.

Why does that matter? Increasing your stack 13% at a time is a large gain. It doesn’t take long before you have a final table capable stack.

More than that though, that 525 doesn’t represent any additional funds from players calling or raising. In other words, someone could min-raise to 400 chips, making the pot 925. Now the pot makes up 23% of a 4,000 chip stack.

What that percentage ultimately means to you, is that the bigger it is in relation to your stack, the more often you can try to win it and the fewer times you actually have to succeed, in order for the play to be profitable.

For example, say you have a 4,000 chip stack and there is 925 in the pot. You only have to win the pot 4 out of 5 attempts to break even. Any more than that and you’re profiting. That may sound like a lot, but consider this — if you plan your 3-bets or shoves and focus on fold equity, tight players and playable hands, this is easily attainable. It’s not just about winning the pot right there, either, but also about increasing your equity in the tournament.

So that’s why guys like me get more aggressive in the later stages of a tournament when there are antes. There’s just so much money in the pot in relation to our stack that it helps keep us alive in the tournament, not to mention increases our chances of a deep run, when we take these pots down.

How Antes Affect Your Strategy

Alright, so I can’t really tell you how great antes are without also telling you how to adjust your strategy so you can take advantage of them, too. So that’s what this section will cover. The following are basic strategies I recommend you add to your toolbox now, as well as 1 tip for what to be on the lookout for when putting these strategies to work.

Steal More Often

One strategy to start using right away is to steal the blinds more often. I prefer to min-raise. Using my 100/200/25 example, min-raising here becomes profitable when it wasn’t otherwise before the antes level. In other words:

  • No Antes – You min raise $400 to win $300.
  • Antes – You min raise $400 to win $525.

In the ‘no antes’ example you have to win a little more than 1 time out of 2 attempts to break even. However, with antes you can win less than 1 time out of 2 attempts to break even.

Stealing the blinds is an article all it’s own. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to increase your success rate:

  • Steal from tighter players (in the blinds).
  • Make sure you have fold equity.
  • Stealing the blinds from late position is best because you have fewer players to go through.
  • That said, mixing it up and trying to steal from under the gun has proven to be successful for many players.
  • If you are called, often times a c-bet will take down the pot. This is situation dependent, though, of course.

If you use these tips you should be able to steal more than your fair share of blinds.

Resteal More Often

Same principal really. As soon as another player opens and adds more dead money to the pot, it becomes increasingly profitable to 3-bet or shove all in to “resteal” the pot.

When restealing you will want to make sure the person you’re restealing from has a deep enough stack that they can fold. In other words, if someone raises and commits 20% of their stack you won’t have fold equity — that player is just too committed to find a fold. You’ll want to be aware of positions and ranges too; reshoving on a player who opened from under the gun is probably not the best move, especially if they’re a nit. The best guys to shove on are the ones in mid to late position that appear to be trying to steal the blinds.

Remember: Always Look to Your Left

One thing to always remember is to look to your left before you steal, 3-bet or shove. What you want to look for are players that are short enough to reshove on you, possibly putting you in an awkward spot.

Stacks that are more likely to reshove are the ones that have 10-15 big blinds. So the more of these stacks there are to your left, the less you want to raise to steal as a bluff, and the more you want to do so for value. In other words, don’t raise unless you plan to call.

However, you can’t just sit on your hands. Not if you want to win the tournament, at least. So what I recommend doing is narrowing your range to mostly hands you’re willing to call off with, and a few that you’ll fold if shoved on. That’ll give your opponents a false sense of security when they shove and you fold, so that next time they shove you can snap call with a better hand and hopefully add a significant amount of chips to your stack.

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