I recently went to the Bahamas to play a major tournament series and as soon as I landed, I jumped into a fun-looking $10/$20 no-limit game. After about 30 minutes, I won $2,500 from an overly aggressive kid when he three barrel bluffed in a 3-bet pot and I didn’t fold a marginal overpair. He seemed to be tilted, which is always nice.
A few hands later, with $10,000 effective stacks, I raised to $60 with J-J from first position and the maniacal kid 3-bet to $240 from second position. Everyone folded around to me.
While 4-betting may have merit, I really don’t want to get $10,000 in preflop, even if my opponent is a maniac. Calling will also make my range appear weaker to him, inducing bluffs, which he may already be overly inclined to do.
I called. The flop came A-10-8. I checked and my opponent bet $360 into the $510 pot.
Even though the obviously scary Ace came on the flop, my opponent’s range is much too wide to fold. It is important to realize that your opponent will not have your decent pocket pair beat every time an overcard flops. Of course, he could have you beat, but you never want to allow your opponent to easily exploit you by making a continuation bet with 100% of his range. You must become comfortable with calling on the early betting rounds and navigating the turn and river.
I called. The turn was (A-10-8)-Q. I checked and my opponent checked behind.
It is difficult to know what this specific player’s turn check means because he may only check behind when he has absolutely nothing, or he may check with many marginal one pair hands that crush me, such as A-9 and K-Q. Going to the river, my plan was probably to fold to a bet if I failed to improve.
The river was the (A-10-8-Q)-K, giving me a straight. That is lucky!
It is important to think about the opponent’s range and how he will proceed against my possible options. If I bet, he will probably only call with two pair and better made hands. I doubt he would attempt to bluff, since I could easily have the straight with hands like J-J, A-J, K-J, Q-J, and J-10. If I check, he will probably value bet most two pair hands and may also bluff. By checking, I give him the option to put money in with his decently strong hands, but more important, when he has nothing. Since I want him to put money in the pot with as wide a range as possible, checking makes the most sense.
I checked. Fortunately my opponent bet $580 into the $1,230 pot. I check-raised to $1,300 and he quickly folded. In this spot, my river check probably won me $580 more compared to a bet, unless of course my opponent is an extreme maniac who would have raised if I bet the river!