An Introduction to Restealing

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Several times over my tenure as a poker coach, I have been asked about when it's appropriate to try a resteal. Since my students are mostly low-limit players who specialize in $20 and under buy ins, I always used to tell my students that never restealing in the lower limits was a small mistake, if it was a mistake at all. I realized that giving too much advice on this topic could be detrimental to them because a lot of of the low-limit players they were facing couldn't imagine raising and then folding in the same betting round, as they often feel (wrongly) "invested" in the pot, thus making an attempt at a resteal too big of a gamble to be profitable. While that is still sometimes the case, the game has opened up now more than ever, especially at the low limits, and it's time for low-limiters to have this play in their arsenals.

Restealing (the act of reraising a probable steal-raise) can be a true difference-maker and vault you into contention, because you can potentially make three times as many chips than you can with a run-of-the-mill steal attempt. Using this tactic, you don't necessarily have to put yourself at risk as often as you do during a steal to stay ahead of the curve in a tournament. In fact, successfully restealing once in three orbits while playing no other hands is approximately a break-even proposition! This is especially important during those critical points in a tournament where you are getting no cards and no good steal opportunities. It is the ultimate chip accumulation tactic!

The first thing that is important to note about restealing is that it takes guts. In order to use the resteal, you have to put it all on the line. You need to own the idea that your tournament life, in itself, has no value whatsoever. You need to own the idea that this could be the last hand that you play. You need to own the idea that you are attempting to win it all, and that nothing less than first place is acceptable, and you need to own the idea that you may end up looking like a fool if you are called.

So let's look at when to consider a resteal!

– There must be a significant gap between the raiser's raising range, and his reraise-calling range.

You have to have reasonable suspicion in order to classify the original raise as primarily a steal-raise. In order to do this, you need to look at the raiser's position and the number of raise attempts he has been trying. If your opponent has been raising a lot and is now raising from late position, this may be time to try a resteal. He is likely raising a wide range. It is important to note that many players, especially at the lower-limits, will not fold a great deal of their range even if that original range is indeed as wide as it appears. So before you reraise with your 89s and get called by Q9o, be sure that the raiser is capable of laying a hand down. It helps a great deal to have seen a player raise and fold in the same betting round at least one time previously before you make this play.

– You should have a tightish table image.

Your opponent's reasoning behind folding will be that you likely have a monster hand and he doesn't want to race (or worse) against your hand for the win. If you have been raising frequently or have recently been caught stealing light, restealing, or bluffing, there's a good chance that your resteal will not get this kind of respect. If the thought that you are potentially restealing enters his head, he will call you somewhat light, and you may end up in trouble. Consider a fold instead.

– Your opponent will ideally have a mid-sized stack.

Giant stacks (more than 15 times the size of the raise) often feel like they can afford to gamble and will often call you lightly because they don't see you as a large threat to their survival. Short stacks (less than five times the size of the raise) may feel that if they don't gamble soon, they will likely be out anyway, so they may call. You would optimally like your opponent to have a stack between five and seven times their raise, but more than that (seven to 15 times) is okay if your stack size is right for the move.

– It's best if your stack size is between five and seven times the original raise, or very large.

If your stack is too low, reraising is not a viable option because even if the stealer feels "caught," he may understand that he has the pot odds to call with his steal hand here. If your stack is bigger than seven times the original raise, you are risking a lot to win a comparitively small number of chips. If you have 90,000 chips and your opponent raises to 10,000 at the 1500-3000 blind level, by reraising to 50,000, you are committing all of your chips to the cause because you cannot fold to a push, so you are risking 90,000 to win 14,500 here. You can accomplish the same with very little more likelihood of being called by risking 55,000 chips another time. It's best if you keep your exposure to a minimum unless you are absolutely dead certain that your opponent is stealing and willing to fold. If your stack is very large, this is not a problem for you unless your opponent's stack is in that danger zone of 7-15 times the original raise.

– It helps if you have the right type of hand, just in case you are called.

While you shouldn't try a resteal unless there are good reasons to do so, sometimes your read is going to be wrong and you will run into a monster, or your opponent will call you a lot lighter than you expected. If this happens, you should review the hand later to see if there were any clues that could have told you it was a bad time to resteal. When this occurs, it helps to have some backup in the form of good cards. Preferrably, you would like a hand that fares well (least poorly) against a monster hand. Lets look at a few calling ranges and some potential restealing hands, and draw some conclusions.

Raiser is risk-averse, respects your reraise strongly, and calls with only JJ+ or AK.

Hand Equity

77 33.31%
22 31.64%
ATs 29.83%
56s 29.79%
78s 29.32%
ATo 25.88%
23s 25.74%
78o 25.64%
A2o 25.55%
J9o 23.55%
K4o 21.18%
72o 19.92%

Raiser sees you as strong and calls with only 5% of all hands (88+, AJs+, AKo, KQs):

Hand Equity

ATs 35.69%
JTs 34.07%
77 32.64%
ATo 32.08%
22 31.23%
56s 29.02%
A2o 28.58%
78s 28.50%
J9o 27.96%
23s 25.48%
K4o 25.06%
78o 24.84%
72o 19.54%

Raiser suspects you are restealing or is a loose fool and calls with 15% of all hands (77+, A7s+, K9s+, QTs+, JTs, ATo+, KTo+, QTo+)

Hand Equity

ATs 50.08%
ATo 47.36%
77 45.75%
22 42.57%
A2o 39.56%
78s 35.45%
56s 35.37%
JTs 35.33%
K4o 34.09%
23s 32.20%
78o 31.93%
J9o 31.62%
72o 26.51%

So as you can see, if the original raiser isn't raising a lot of hands but also isn't calling with very many and is very risk-averse, suited and connected matters more than high card. Even 23s beats A2o in the tightest calling range example. However, if your mark's original range is loose (any two), but he is calling with 15% (still a good resteal because he is folding 85% of the time), or you are busted reraising and he is calling light, then high cards beat out the suited connectors because there's less likelihood of domination. Due to the fact that you want as much equity as possible to ensure survival in case the worst happens, choose weak aces over suited connectors against wide-ranged raisers, but suited connectors over weak aces against tight-ranged raisers when trying a resteal. You may insert your "but it was suited" joke here, but suited/connected matters when you are busted restealing. Note: Bad kings always fare poorly.

– Keep notes on players who vary the size of their raises.

It's still true that a lot of players at every level will size their raises for stronger hands or vulnerable hands at a different size than their steal-raise. If you keep notes on only one thing, I strongly suggest that it is this. If your notes on a player says:

4x=88, JJ, AK
3x=AA, AJ
2.2x=A9o, KTo LP

and then you observe that player raising 2.2x the BB, you can often determine that you are less likely up against a monster. Be aware, though, that a lot of beginning players do this, and they may be the ones that feel invested, so be extra sensitive to whether you've seen the raiser raise and fold in the same betting round previously.

– Should you resteal in SNGs too? Or is this best for MTTs?

Yes, you may still resteal, but far less liberally, especially with just a few players left. When you get called, a fairly sizeable portion of the equity goes to the players not involved in the hand, so be sure to choose your battles with care! While a successful resteal in an MTT can catapult you to thousands more dollars, the largest reward you can receive in a SNG is merely 4.5-5 buyins, depending on if it's a nine or ten-player SNG. The upside is just not there as it is in a MTT. This doesn't mean that you can never resteal in a SNG. There are some great opportunities to do so. One good spot to take is when you have a lead on the bubble and strongly suspect that the second place player is raising light. You can put a lot of pressure on him to fold if he is aware that bubbling is a disaster.

I feel that this a good introduction for those who haven't been trying this tactic but need an edge in their game. While this article is certainly not exhaustive, it covers many of the basics needed to succeed at restealing. When in doubt over whether a raise is a steal, go with your gut instinct. It's right a lot of the time.

– Lastly, I would like to cover one defense against a restealer.

If you have a very good player sitting in the BB and you still want to steal, try staying away from his optimal restealing zone of 5-7x your raise. For instance if the BB is a good player and has 30,000 chips, with blinds of 800-1600 with 125 antes, contemplate raising to 8000 or 3800 rather than the usual 3-3.5x times the big blind which would put him in prime restealing territory. That is, unless you have the goods. In that case, size that raise to approximately 1/5-1/6 of his stack to trigger the resteal you want.

Have fun watching the chips fly, don't fear the reaper, and remember that one win is worth more than several cashes!

Jennifear

Jennifear is a proud Contributing Writer for Pocketfives.com and a Presto Award Winner for 2006's Most Valuable Poster, as voted by the readers of PocketFives. She teaches private poker lessons, and you can find the details atJennifear's Poker Palace. A discount on these lessons is available if you support pocketfives.com by joining a poker site through one of their links.

1 COMMENT

  1. Cool article. I’m normally a micro-stakes cash player but have been playing more MTT’s lately. I can normally go deep in tourneys but I have way too many middle finishes simply cus stealing binds and re-stealing is missing from my game. So gonna try and incorporate this as well as trying to chip up my stack in the early stages of the tourney by playing like less of a nit when the blinds are low. I’ve read a few articles on here now not just by yourself so got a lot to try over the next few months. 🙂