I was recently told about a hand from a $1/$1 no-limit cash game that illustrates a few mistakes that many amateur players make on a regular basis. The first two players at a nine-handed table called $1 and then the Hero in third position raised to $25 out of his $425 effective stack with 9-9.
While raising both for value and protection is a fine play, when you raise to $25 (a gigantic raise), you force your opponents to fold almost all worse hands unless they are extreme calling stations. You make money when your opponents make mistakes. If they fold most inferior hands and continue with most better hands, they are playing well. Instead of blasting it, Hero should raise to $6, that way many worse hands can call.
The player on the button called and then a reasonably tight player reraised to $75 from the big blind. The limpers folded and Hero decided to call.
At this point, Hero is almost certainly against A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, T-T, A-K, and perhaps a few slightly weaker value hands or bluffs. 9-9 fares quite poorly against this range and Hero is not getting the correct implied odds to call to try to make a set (he needs at least 10:1 and he is not quite getting that price), so he should fold. While it is never fun to raise and then have to fold without seeing the flop, it is often the right play.
The other caller folded. The flop came. The opponent bet $125 out of his $350 remaining stack into the $179 pot. Hero called.
Just like before the flop, Hero should again fold. If you think back to the opponent’s likely preflop 3-betting range, Hero loses to essentially all of it on this flop. While he beats a few possible holdings like A-Q or 8-8, it is too likely Hero is crushed.
The turn was the ()- . The opponent pushed all-in for $225 into the $429 pot. Hero made a crying call.
While the King on the turn is great for Hero because it is now less likely the opponent has A-K, Hero still loses to overplayed pocket pairs that may be oblivious to the fact that Hero should only call off with kings and premium pairs. Do not feel like you must call because you have already invested a substantial amount of your chips. If you lose to almost every hand in your opponent’s range and you have relatively few outs to improve, you are not pot committed when you are getting 3:1 pot odds because you will only win about 10% of the time.
Sure enough, the opponent was overplaying pocket Jacks. While the opponent made a substantial error, Hero made an even bigger one!