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Messing Up on the River

27/01/2018 by Jonathan Little
Hand Analysis

I was recently told about a hand from a recreational poker player that illustrates a common flaw in many players’ strategies. In a deep-stacked $5/$10 no-limit cash game, the player in first position at a nine-handed table raised to $50 out of his $4,000 effective stack. The players in second position, third position, and the cutoff called. Our Hero decided to call on the button with Ks-8s.

While calling in this situation may be standard for many recreational players, it is a substantial mistake. The initial $50 raiser almost certainly has a premium hand, given he raised into the other eight players from first position. The early position callers should also have strong hands. While Hero may be able to win a hefty pot when he happens to make a flush, even then, he could be against the nut flush. Hero should simply fold and move to the next hand.

Both blinds folded. The flop came 8d-4h-2c, giving Hero top pair. Everyone checked to the cutoff, who bet $100 into the $265 pot. Hero called.

I don’t mind Hero’s call. Although, given the pot was very multi-way, he should proceed with caution. While raising may induce everyone yet to act to fold their overcards that have decent equity against top pair, the $100 bet will usually get the job done.

Everyone else folded. The turn was the (8d-4h-2c)-6s. The cutoff bet $275 into the $465 pot. Hero called.

Things are starting to get dicey for Hero. While he beats most top pairs, he loses to all value hands that should feel confident enough betting again into an in-position opponent. I think folding would be a bit premature, but it is a reasonable play, especially if the opponent is known to play in a generally straightforward manner.

The river was the (8d-4h-2c-6s)-Qs. The cutoff bet $400 into the $1,015 pot.

At this point, Hero should be convinced that he is against a better made hand most of the time and should fold. As long as Hero protects his range by not playing overly aggressively on the earlier streets with some of his sets and over pairs (which he can easily call with on the river), his range will be strong enough such that he can fold this marginal one-pair.

Hero decided to raise to $1,350.

I am not sure what Hero is trying to accomplish with this raise. This is not a good value raise because Hero will almost certainly only get called when he is beat. This is not a good bluff because most hands better than Hero’s will call because they are quite strong and due to the excellent pot odds. Sometimes the best play is to simply concede the pot.

The cutoff thought for about two seconds before calling with 4-4, for a set, scooping a nice pot.

I hope you enjoyed this hand analysis. If you want to see more hand breakdowns on, let me know on twitter @JonathanLittle. Thanks for reading!