I was recently told about a hand by an amateur poker player that illustrates a few key errors many players make on a regular basis. In a $2/$5 no-limit hold’em cash game, our Hero raised to $30 out of his $200 effective stack with.
While I am fine with raising, Hero should use a smaller raise size. When he makes it $30 out of his tiny $200 stack, unless the opponents are extreme calling stations, he will get called by mostly hands that are better than his, and hands that have a strong likelihood of improving to the best hand on the flop. If he raises smaller, he can get called by many inferior hands that he dominates.
The small blind, who is known to be a calling station, called. The flop came. The opponent checked and Hero bet $50 out of his $170 stack into the $65 pot.
I dislike this bet size because again, unless the opponent is a calling station, he will fold most of his marginal hands, which are the exact hands Hero wants to keep in the pot. Instead, Hero should bet about $20, which will result in the opponent calling with many more junky hands that are drawing almost dead against Hero’s top pair. I understand the opponent is a calling station, but even then, he is not going to call a $50 bet with junk like K-J.
The opponent called. The turn was the ()- . Both players checked.
This is an interesting spot because the pot has ballooned up to $165 and Hero only has $120 remaining in his stack. Given the opponent called Hero’s large flop bet, it is reasonable to believe that his range is mostly decent Aces. If that is the case, Hero should go all-in in order to get value from those hands before the board gets a bit scarier, such as when the river is 5, 2, or a third club. If Hero thinks the opponent’s range is quite weak (because the opponent rarely folds the flop with any reasonable hand), checking behind becomes a decent option because Hero will be able to easily get the rest of his stack in on the river.
The river was the ()- . The opponent put Hero all-in for $120. Hero called.
While the 2 is a decently bad card for Hero because he now loses to all hands containing a 5, he has to make the call. It is important to realize that Hero should have relatively few 5s in his range, meaning his best hands are sets and two pairs. If Hero folds top two pair in this situation, he is folding almost every hand he can possibly have. If you are against someone who will fold almost his entire range to a river bet, all you have to do is bet with all your possible holdings, winning you the pot almost every time.
Hero lost to the opponent’s. Given the opponent’s hand was somewhat weak, I think Hero’s turn check is fine, assuming the opponent will bluff when he fails to improve on the river. If instead he will check-fold (as most players will), Hero should instead push all-in on the turn.