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Overplaying a marginal pair

29/03/2018 by Jonathan Little
Hand Analysis

I was recently told about a hand that illustrates a few costly mistakes that many amateur poker players make on a regular basis. In a $1/$2 no-limit cash game, all seven players limped around to our Hero in the small blind who raised to $8 out of his $150 effective stack with 9-9.

I despise Hero’s raise size. When he makes it $8, almost all of his opponents are going to call due to their excellent pot odds, resulting in Hero seeing a flop from out of position with a hand that will often be a marginal underpair. Hero should instead either check in order to keep the pot manageable or raise larger to force the opponents to either fold or make incorrect calls with their marginal hands. By raising small, he forces the opponents to play well. When your opponents play well, they do not lose money to you.

As expected, almost everyone called (two players folded). The flop came 5h-4c-4d. Hero bet $20 into the $60 pot.

I am fine with this bet size. If Hero bets larger, he will force the opponents to fold all their marginal made hands that Hero beats. When facing a small bet, many players will stick around with hands that are drawing thin, such as 2-2 and Ace-high. Betting small will also result in most players folding their junky hands that have some equity against 9-9, such as K-10 and Q-J.

Only the players in first and second position called. The turn was the (5h-4c-4d)-As. Hero and first position checked to the player in second position, who bet $20 into the $120 pot. Hero called.

While Hero can beat a few bluffs, I think he should make an easy fold. The only way this hand plays out well for Hero is if both opponents have worse hands and decide not to bluff with them on the river. Also, the opponent’s small bet size is often an indication of a decently strong made hand. In general, when someone makes a small bet into a large pot, they are trying to keep their opponents in, which implies they can beat Hero’s marginal underpair.

The player in first position went all-in for $72 more The player in second position called. Hero folded.

Thank goodness! Hero has an easy fold, given he beats nothing.

The player in first position had 5-5 for a full house and the player in second position had 4s-2s for trips. If Hero raised larger preflop, he would have likely won the pot immediately, and if he limped, he would have lost less. As played, he lost about as much as he could. If you consistently lose the maximum, you will have an impossible time winning in the long run.