My previous 11 posts have gone through some strategic and theoretical guidelines. However, for me at least, it is much easier to grasp concepts with examples. So in however many post it will take me to finish this guide, I am going to use examples to try and bring everything together. In all of my examples I will be using a $4/8 game with a $6 rake ($4 for the rake, $1 for the jackpot and $1 tip to the dealer), which is the game I am playing most often at my local casino. So from every pot 1.5 SBs is taken out on the flop.
Example 1 – Betting for value.
Our table is pretty standard loose-passive. You are in the BB with AsKs. 7 players limp to you (yes only 1 player folded and this is not uncommon at all). What should you do?
Answer – Raise. We have what is likely the best hand preflop, so we want to raise for value. While it is true we only have a “drawing hand,” our hand still has the most equity versus our opponents’ ranges, so we raise here because we are likely ahead and we want more chips in the pot for us to win.
You raise and everyone calls. There are 14.5 SBs in the pot. The flop comes AcKd2h. The SB checks to you. What should you do?
Answer – Bet. This is as close to the safest flop possible for us. However there is no reason for us to slowplay the hand. The pot is now very big and your opponents will find any reason they can to stay in the hand. Hands like TJ, TQ, QJ, 43, 54, 53, Ax, Kx, and 2x will all very very likely call your bet. You were the one to raise preflop so your opponents will expect you to bet, so just bet while you are ahead. Your goal here is to get as much money in the pot as possible, and you can’t build a pot unless you put money in the pot. Bet.
You do bet and 3 of the remaining players call. There are now just over 9 BBs (Big Bets) in the pot on the turn. The turn is the Ah, giving you the absolute nuts. You are first to act. What should you do?
Answer – in most games the answer is to keep betting. Anyone who has the last A is never folding here and may even raise you, the Kx hands are likely to keep calling and, because the pot is so big, the gutshot draws and anyone who picked up a heart draw is likely to call you as well. If you have a strong read that if you bet here everyone will fold, but if you check you are likely to get one of your opponents to bluff, then you might want to check. But in general, even with the nuts, just keep betting.
Instead of the turn being the Ah it is the Th. What should you do?
In this case the answer is a clear cut one. You should bet. In this case we bet because we likely have the best hand and we want to keep having people call us, but we also bet here because we don’t want to give a free card. We don’t want someone who picked up a flush draw getting to the river for free and we don’t want someone with a J or Q in there hand getting to see the river for free and spiking the straight on us either. Some people check in this situation because they are afraid that the gut shot straight hit and they don’t want to pay off a raise. But don’t be afraid of raises when you have no real idea that they are actually coming. Being afraid of the QJ that just spiked a straight or the TT that spiked a set is simply a case of being afraid of the Monster Under the Bed. Bet and see what happens.
You do bet and everyone folds. That’s fine. You just won a pot worth over 9 BBs without having to show your hand down.
You do bet, 2 players fold, and the button raises you. The pot now has just over 12 BBs. What do you do?
Answer – it depends. At a minimum you need to call here. Getting 12:1, that means we need to be ahead only 1 in 13 times for our call to be correct here. Because our opponents’ range should include smaller two pair hands like AT and KT, and could even include some semi-bluff hands like KhJh or KhQh, we simply can’t fold here. Moreover, even if we have a rock-solid read that our opponent has QJ, we still shouldn’t fold because we have 4 outs to a boat and a better hand. And getting 12:1 we need only 7.7% equity to break even. With our 4 outs and using the general outs times 2 rule we know that we have about 8% equity (using pokerstove later we will discover that we actually have just over 9% equity against QJ). So even if our opponent were to show us QJ here, we should still call just based on pot odds. If we have a read that our opp makes loose turn raises or tries to bluff in weird spots, then we can actually 3-bet here. But the main point here is just don’t fold unless you have the best read ever.
Result – we call. The river is a blank. We check, our opponent bets, and we have to call. He shows us QdJc and scoops the pot. The important thing to remember about this hand is not the result that we got bad beat or that we lost a big pot and a lot of chips. What you need to focus on is that you played the hand well. Paying people off in big pots where your likely chance of winning the hand is much greater than the pot odds you are given is just part of the game. Smile, tell your opponent nice hand, and move on. Even though it is hard not to show a bad beat, try not to show your hand since it really gives you no edge. No matter what, do not berate your opponent for his idiotic play. We want him to continue to keep chasing his gut shots.
In the next post I will keep the examples coming.