Bet ag­gres­sively when you flop a premium hand

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - POKER - By Jonathan Lit­tle

This hand from a $240-buy-in tour­na­ment shows what can hap­pen — or, more ac­cu­rately, what doesn’t hap­pen — when you play too pas­sively.

Early in the tour­na­ment, with blinds at 100-200 and ef­fec­tive stacks of 15,000, a some­what tight player limped (or just called the big blind) from first po­si­tion. The player in sec­ond po­si­tion also called, and then our Hero called from mid­dle po­si­tion with 10c 9s. The small blind and big blind both elected to see the flop as well.

While I’m fine with this call, I would usu­ally fold in this sit­u­a­tion. If the stacks were much deeper, per­haps 150 big blinds in­stead of 75 big blinds, limp­ing would be more ac­cept­able. When you Hero’s hand: splash around with mar­ginal hands, you want the po­ten­tial to win a huge pot if you’re for­tu­nate enough to flop a premium hand. As stacks get shorter, you should al­most al­ways fold these mar­ginal hands, even when it only costs one big blind to see the flop.

The flop came Js 8d 7c, giv­ing Hero the nut straight. The blinds checked to the ini­tial limper, who bet 500 into a pot of 1,000. The sec­ond- po­si­tion caller folded. Hero de­cided to just call. The blinds folded. Flop:

Hero had to raise if he wanted to have any chance to win a sig­nif­i­cant pot. While slow-play­ing the nuts is an op­tion, rais­ing with the nuts is al­most al­ways the right play when you’re likely up against a strong hand. The flop bet­tor could have a set, an over­pair, two pair or top pair — all hands from which Hero could ex­tract value.

The turn was the 4d. The ini­tial limper checked, and Hero bet 500 into a pot of 2,000.

Again, if Hero wants to Turn: make the most of his hand, he needs to start build­ing the pot. Bet­ting 500 is not go­ing to get the job done. Hero should have bet 1,500 or even 2,000, set­ting up a siz­able river bet. Hero prob­a­bly thought his op­po­nent’s check on the turn in­di­cated weak­ness. But it’s im­por­tant to re­al­ize that your reads will of­ten be in­cor­rect, and mak­ing a tiny bet in an at­tempt to get a call from a weak hand on a some­what co­or­di­nated board is fu­tile. It’s bet­ter to just bet large and try to get max­i­mum River: value.

The op­po­nent called. The river was the 2h. The op­po­nent checked, and Hero bet 2,500 into a pot of 3,000.

I’m fine with Hero’s bet size here, but once the op­po­nent check-calls a tiny turn bet, his range can be char­ac­ter­ized as weak, so Hero should have con­sid­ered bet­ting smaller, per­haps around 1,500, to in­duce a call.

The op­po­nent thought for a while be­fore fold­ing A-J (top pair, top kicker) face-up.

If Hero had raised the flop, he al­most cer­tainly would have won a gi­gan­tic pot, per­haps get­ting a full dou­ble-up. As played, he won a very small pot. If his op­po­nent had made an overly tight fold with top pair on the flop, Hero could have ad­justed by pro­ceed­ing to bluff with a wide range of mar­ginal draws, al­low­ing him to win some pots where this op­po­nent failed to flop the nuts.

In gen­eral, when you flop a premium hand, you want to get money into the pot, and you don’t get money into the pot by play­ing pas­sively or bet­ting small.

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