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Playing a Big Pot with the Near Nuts

21/11/2019 by Jonathan Little
Hand Analysis

I was recently recounted a hand from a $1/$3 no-limit hold’em cash game that illustrates a few flaws in the average small stake player’s strategy. With a $700 effective stack, Hero raised to $20 from second position at a nine-handed table with KQ

While raising with KQ is certainly a fine play, Hero raised much too large. Your preflop raises should usually be sized between 2 and 4 big blinds, or $6 to $12 at $1/$3. When you choose a gigantic size, you force your reasonable opponents to fold all but their absolute best hands, many of which dominate K-Q. Of course, if the players in your games are extreme calling stations who will call 6.7 big blind raises with hands like K-5, Q-7, and 6-4, perhaps raising gigantic is ideal. That said, I have never played in a game so extreme and I think many players over-exaggerate their impression of the poor quality of their opponents’ play.

The button and the big blind called. The flop came AT7, giving Hero a flush draw. The big blind checked and Hero bet $25 into the $61 pot.

Hero should usually bet larger in this spot, perhaps $50. He wants to grow the pot such that he can steal more money on the later streets when he misses while also winning more then he improves to a straight or flush.

The button raised to $75. The big blind folded and Hero called.

Depending on what Hero thinks about the button’s strategy, he should either call or reraise. In general, you should apply aggression with your best hands and your draws, meaning that if Hero wants to have a reraising range for value (with A-A, T-T, 7-7, and A-T), he should reraise with some of his draws if he wants to remain balanced. While 98and other marginal flush draws make the most sense to reraise as bluffs because they have no chance to win if they fails to improve, KQ, KJ, and QJ also make sense. I would have made it $225 in this spot and been willing to call all-in. I fully recognize that Hero could be against the nut flush draw and top pair, but the odds of that are somewhat low, given Hero’s gigantic preflop raise would usually make A9 and worse hands fold, leaving only AJ in the opponent’s range, and he probably shouldn’t raise that on the flop too often.

The turn was the (AT7)-5, improving Hero to a flush. Hero checked.

I like Hero’s check because if he leads, most competent opponents will only call with flushes, which should be almost none of the opponent’s range, and sets, which still have draws to the nuts.

The big blind bet $100 into the $211 pot and Hero called.

This is a tough spot, given the big blind’s small bet size. Hero would love to play for all the money, but if he check-raises, his opponent will usually fold most hands worse than sets. That said, I think check-raising is the best play because most of the big blind’s non-flush hands will check behind on the river, meaning the only way Hero can get value is to check-raise the turn or lead the river (which normally looks quite strong). Notice that reraising the flop would have sidestepped this difficult spot while, at worse, getting all-in “flipping” against a premium made hand.

The river was the (AT75)-A, making Hero’s hand much worse. Hero led all-in for $505 into the $411 pot.

This is where Hero really messes up. His all-in lead essentially forces all worse hands (trips and busted draws) to fold while forcing all better hands (full houses) to call. Any bet is almost always strictly bad when that is the case. Hero should have instead checked, looking to reluctantly check-call a bet.

The big blind thought for a while before folding AQ, one of the hands Hero really wanted to get called by.