Sklansky Chubukov rankings for successful push-botting
When can I go all-in with a specific hand and how tight should I be in the push fold phase of a tournament? The Sklansky Chubukov tables provide a rudimentary answer to these questions.
In the book No-Limit Hold’em – Theory and Practice, David Sklansky and Victor Chubukov try to answer the question, „When is it definitely correct to shove all-in with a hand before the flop“. They develop a system by looking at a simple scenario: Suppose I’m in the small blind and my opponent knows my hand. When I go all-in, he only calls when he gets the right odds, otherwise he folds. Which hands can I still go all-in with profitably depending on my stack size?
Example situation in a tournament
Let‘s assume we‘re in the small blind in a tournament and we have 10 big blinds. It‘s folded to us and for some reason we accidentally flip over both our cards: Q♠ 6♠. We‘re still allowed to fold, raise or call, but of course our opponent knows our hand and can play perfectly. What should we do? Should we fold or is moving all-in still profitable, despite our opponent knowing our hand?
If we‘re holding a bombastic hand (like A♥ K♥) we can just go all-in with very large stacks – our opponent almost always has a worse hand, has to fold and we win the blinds. But what about worse hands like the queen-six from the example above?
For each hand, Sklansky and Chubukov have calculated the maximum stack size which allows you to move all-in profitably with your hand. Below is the table for all hands. The table shows the maximum effective stackThe effective stack is the smaller of the stack sizes between you and your opponent. for a profitable push from the small blind against the big blind if all players have folded to you.
The Sklansky Chubukov Rankings (in big blinds)
You can shove all-in profitably:
- If you are in the small blind,
- everyone before you has folded,
- your effective stack (in big blinds) is smaller than the number given in this table,
- even if your cards are exposed,
- even if the big blind only calls when he has a better hand.
How to use the Sklansky Chubukov Rankings
This table above is simply based on Chip-EV. No tournament specifics, no ICM is considered. In addition, it only can be used in the event that no player has called or raised yet and you are sitting in the small blind. Also possible antes are not considered.
This table is therefore more theoretical than practical in nature. However the table shows an interesting fact:
If you are unsure in a situation whether to play a hand or fold, you can simply check this table to see if it would not be profitable to simply go all-in.
Many inexperienced players for example would simply fold a hand like K♠ 4♥ from the small blind with effective stacks of 11 big blinds. But a look at this table shows that it would be profitable to push the hand, even if the opponent knew what we were holding.
The Sklansky Chubukov rankings can help you to develop an idea which hands are good enough to merit an all-in instead of folding. Playing too tight in situations with small stacks is a mistake many new poker players (and Phil Hellmuth) make consistently. Don’t fold hands where even in the worst case scenario (where your opponent magically knows your hole cards) moving all-in is the better play.
Sklansky Chubukov rankings from the button
The Sklansky Chubukov rankings can also be used from the button. The rough approximation is as follows:
Sklansky Chubukov button rule
You can go all-in profitably from the button even if your cards are exposed if your stack is smaller than half the Sklansky Chubukov ranking for the hand you are holding.
Limitations of the Sklansky Chubukov rankings
- Theoretical in nature: The Sklansky Chubukov rankings are only theoretical in nature because of the unusual scenario. They’re mostly there to take away your fear of seemingly too wild all-ins.
- Don’t move all-in willy-nilly: On a real poker table (hopefully) hardly anyone will come up with the idea of pushing all-in with a hand like A♥ K♥ with 50 big blind stacks. Yes it is profitable, but there are much more profitable ways to play this hand. The rankings only show that a push is more profitable than a fold. A smaller raise might still be the best option.
- The rankings are too tight: In most realistic cases the Sklansky Chubukov rankings are much too tight. Your opponent simply doesn’t know your hand and will fold many better hands. In situations with shallow stacks it is usually advisable to push much looser than indicated in the table above. If, for example, you hold 8♠6♠, your opponent will (hopefully) not call with 9♥3♠ although it would actually be correct against your own hand. The rankings state you can move all-in profitably with 4.5 big blinds or less with 86s. But in reality you can move all-in with much bigger stacks because your opponent will fold many hands that have you dominated.
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