When to burn and when to save PowerUps

It’s easy to get excited about the fact that – whether someone has Engineered, or you’ve used Intel or Scanner – you know for a fact that in position you could turn you J-6 offsuit into a pair of sixes. Does that mean you should always burn a Reload or Upgrade and go for it? Should you burn that Intel you have stowed away after getting to a limped pot in the big blind to see if that gut-shot or donkey-end straight is any closer to coming in?


Your gut always says yes – because making hands in poker is awesome. But that doesn’t always mean you should (though to be fair, a decent amount of the time, its a good play).


When to Burn ‘em:


The hand you’ll make is strong but isn’t face-up. Its great to steal a guaranteed Ace and raise it up, but if its the first level and you’re likely facing an opponent who has an Ace in the whole already your steal isn’t worth the chips, nor will it scare your opponent into a fold. If there’s raise already out there, and you Scanner or Intel your way into a guaranteed pocket pair – do it and take the pot. If your have KQ on an Ace high board with no bets in front of you, maybe Disintegrating that Ace isn’t worth it until you see what the action is.


The hand you can represent is a credible one. If you’re playing up an opponent who is representing top pair – engineering your way into flush and straight cards, even when they don’t hit your actual hand and then representing a made draw is a very strong advanced maneuver. But its also a line you need to begin early into the hand. You can’t begin a bluff on the turn and assume it will get through against players who will call until the river based solely off of the added equity their own PowerUp cards give them.


There’s enough equity in the pot to warrant the ‘hail mary’. Its been raised and 3-bet, and you’re left to act with a middling stack. If you have a hand that is even half-way towards being good this isn’t the time to fold. Create the strongest possible holecards then either EMP or shove to lock up the board cards. Its still hard to make monster hands pre-flop in PowerUp, so if this is your best chance to more than double up – do it. Don’t wait.


When to Save ‘em:


Your dealt hand is already strong enough to play. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Play the hand you’re dealt and lean your betting into the direction of getting it in preflop so opponents can’t meddle with board cards. Its premature to PowerUp in these situations. Take the chance to get the chip lead and stay rich in mana/ PowerUp cards and it becomes your game to lose afterwards.


Your opponent is fast-playing their own PowerUp cards. In these cases wait and see. Bet small. Some players have a tendency to burn off their PowerUps the second they get them, without realizing that they are winning 1-3 bb sized pots they could be picking up with the use of these PowerUps. Sit tight and wait until players are out of Mana, then start taking them to the cleaners. Open and 3-bet large, and wait for them to shove naked without any PowerUp help available – then optimize your own hand and go with it.

There is normal betting but no PowerUps used. Unless its an all in (or building up to an all in) scenario – its usually sub-optimal to be the first person in your SNG to burn off a PowerUp. Whenever you win a hand without a PowerUp its a double win, and always keep in mind that other than Disintegrate – which you can and should balance out as a bluff and value PowerUp – the two big helpers – Upgrade and Reload – can be used at any point in the hand before you go or call all-in. Using them too early makes it so your least informed about what outs you’re looking for. So just sit tight until there’s no other option. Aggression with PowerUps is a good way to lose EV in pots without even noticing it!

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