Un­der­bet­ting can be a costly mis­take

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Lit­tle TRI­BUNE CON­TENT AGENCY

A lot of small-stakes poker play­ers make the ha­bit­ual mis­take of bet­ting too small, which costs them a sub­stan­tial amount of money in the long run. The fol­low­ing hand is a good ex­am­ple of how un­der­bet­ting can be costly.

In a $1/$2 no-limit cash game, six play­ers limped around to our Hero in the small blind, who raised to $12 out of his $100 stack with Qh Qd.

Hero should have made a larger raise. By bet­ting just $12, he is des­tined to get a large num­ber of call­ers. When you give your op­po­nents ex­cel­lent pot odds by bet­ting too lit­tle, rarely are they mak­ing a mis­take by call­ing. You profit in poker when your op­po­nents make Hero’s hand: mis­takes, not when they play well.

To my sur­prise, only three play­ers called. The flop came 9c 7s 5h. Hero bet $20 into a pot of $56.

While a small bet is ac­cept­able, I would have bet larger, per­haps $32. This is a flop where Hero is al­most cer­tain to go broke against a flopped set, so his main goal should be to ex­tract max­i­mum value from worse made hands and draws. His bet of $20 gets a bit of money into the pot, but most made Flop: hands and draws will call even more. Bet­ting $32 also would al­low Hero to go all in on the turn for a lit­tle less than a pot-sized bet if one player calls.

Twoop­po­nents called, and the turn was the 2s. Hero bet $25 into a pot of $116.

As with the flop, Hero should have bet larger, this time shov­ing all in. By go­ing all in, he prices out the var­i­ous draws while also ex­tract­ing value from fairly strong made hands such as J-J, A-9 and 9-8. Bet­ting only Turn: $25 gets less money into the pot against the strong hands while giv­ing the draws ac­cept­able odds to stick around to see the river card.

Both op­po­nents called. The river was the Ad. Hero checked.

I liked this check. The ace would prob­a­bly only help an op­po­nent who held A-9, A-7 or A-5, and Hero would now have a dif­fi­cult time ex­tract­ing ad­di­tional value from mid­dle pairs, since the ace is a scary card for them. In this in­stance, a player with a River: mid­dle pair would check be­hind, mean­ing that when Hero faces a bet, he is prob­a­bly up against ei­ther a rivered two pair or per­haps a busted draw.

The first caller went all in for $43. The sec­ond caller folded.

This was a tough spot, but I think a fold was the proper move un­less Hero was con­vinced that his op­po­nent was bluff­ing into two op­po­nents with 10-8 (which was pos­si­ble) or over­valu­ing a worse made hand (which was im­prob­a­ble).

Hero called and lost to Ac 7c.

Af­ter los­ing his en­tire stack, Hero be­came an­gry and started be­rat­ing his op­po­nent about his poor play. In re­al­ity, it was Hero’s poor play that re­sulted in him be­ing out­drawn. He al­most surely could have got­ten his op­po­nent to fold by bet­ting more ag­gres­sively ear­lier in the hand. Don’t be blind to your own mis­takes. Jonathan Lit­tle is a pro­fes­sional poker player and coach with more than $6 mil­lion in live tour­na­ment earn­ings. He is also the au­thor of nu­mer­ous best-sell­ing poker books. For more in­for­ma­tion on Jonathan, check out JonathanLit­tlePoker.com, and fol­low him on Twit­ter: @JonathanLit­tle.

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