How to Qualify for the EPT: Don't Reduce Your Chances to Survive

Lesson 3

This is the third article in a seven-part series from EPT Serial Qualifier Pierre Neuville. Check back every Thursday for the next in the series.

See the list below the article for links to the rest of the series.

Make the hero call, make a big bluff or play for safety?

It all comes down to what best suits your one goal: increasing your chances of qualification.

Play 23s and fold AA? Not easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. And it’s a scenario that happens more often than we might think.

So what do you do?

Online there are few tells and little information on our opponents. Our big decisions remain quite subjective.

What then are the elements that determine our decisions if it’s not pot odds?

Manage Your Stack, Not the Pot

In an EPT qualifying tournament, you don’t live or die with the pot or the pot odds.

What you manage is your stack and the opportunity it gives you to survive the bubble. This is the only base that should guide your decisions.

Here are a few examples to help make it a little clearer:

Manage your stack, not the pot.

Example 1:

You have a stack of 150,000. Player B has 100,000. Players C and D have 37,000.

Five other players have 25,000 and you’re on the bubble. Your chances of qualification are perfect. Almost close to 99% even.

Your risk is zero whenever there are two players with an all in and a call between them.

So it’s enough to just wait quietly until they’re eliminated.

Hand 1: You have AA and Player B shoves all in.

With your aces you’re favored to win the hand around 80% of the time, but if you lose the hand your stack falls back to 50,000 - in other words, back to the average stack.

At the average stack size, your chances of missing out on qualifying now increase between 1 and 10%.

If you fold your aces?

At first glance, it’s a surprising solution that some would say is even a ridiculous idea. I even think some players won’t even consider it.

But if you fold your aces, you keep your 99% chance of qualifying. The best solution here is therefore an insta-fold preflop.

Throw your AA into the muck, without regret.

Folding aces? Not so crazy.


Because a call would help your opponents directly in every case.

For you, it only helps you the 80% of the time that you win and it’s very unfavorable in defeat - which would happen 20% of the time.

Qualification is virtually assured right now, so the best tactic becomes completely avoiding any "move" that can significantly reduce your chances of qualifying.

Congratulations – You’ve Just Made a Critical Leap

If you’ve never thought about folding KK or AA pre-flop, you’ve just made a big leap in your progress.

You don’t lose qualifying tournaments with 77. "Future accidents" happen with big hands, so you just have to learn to avoid them in certain cases.

In learning this new step, your chances of qualifying have increased substantially.

This is also going to serve you well in other cases.

From the moment you have it clear in your head that you can throw away AA easily and without regret, depending on your overall situation in the tournament, you'll have no trouble throwing all other average-to-fair hands away pre-flop according to the circumstances.

No more falling in love with timebomb starting hands like AK, AQ – which are often fatal on arrival.

The quality of your poker has just taken a giant step. 99.9% of players would probably make the call with AA without thinking, and you’ve come to understand that in poker everything is food for thought.

The proof is you’ve just learned to throw away AA despite great pot odds to protect your almost guaranteed qualification.

On the Other Hand: Risk-Taking is Sometimes Required

Another example:

You’re the short stack with 10,000 chips. You have JT on a board of of 246KT.

The pot is 9,000. He bets 4,000, sitting with an average stack of 25,000. You figure there’s a 50% chance he’s trying to take the pot with his AQ.

Your chances of qualifying overall at that moment are quite thin. If you fold, you stay at 10k.

Let’s say that gives you about a 10-15% chance of qualifying. But you’re also only slightly more at risk overall with 6k (instead of the 10k) if you lose when you call.

If your hero call is successful and you win the hand, your stack is up to 23k &ndash back up to the average and now with about a 50-60% chance of earning a seat.

In other words, the general situation at that exact time advises you to take a reasonable risk.

Losing the hand doesn’t change much, but the potential gain from winning the hand can reestablish your position for qualifying.

This is what you must primarily look at in any difficult situation – the effect on your chances to win or lose this seat.

Pierre Neuville
Risks are still required, but only smart ones.

Same Principle Applies to Bluffing

This example can also be applied to making a bluff of your own.

Of course it’s reasonable to bluff at a pot if the amount won will radically change your final chances of qualifying and if the amount you might lose only results in a relatively small decrease in your chances.

This takes away almost the full repertoire of bluffs like "I push all in on the button and I close my eyes."

Repeat this to yourself:

I won’t make a "negative infinity"move with only relative improvement possible!

Key Takeaways:

Take risks with minor consequences on the condition that they can really improve your position.

But above all, don’t take risks that can turn a safe position gained into a new risk of losing your chance at qualifying.

More in the How to Qualify for the EPT Series:

Read more about EPT Serial Qualifier Pierre Neuville on his author page.

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