Er­rors abound in a mi­cro-stakes game

The Mercury News Weekend - - PUZZLES - By Jonathan Lit­tle

Mis­takes are mis­takes at the poker ta­ble, and you’ll be pu­n­ished for er­rors even in mi­cro- stakes games.

In a $.10/$. 20 no-limit hold ’ em cash game with $35 ef­fec­tive stacks, the play­ers in first and sec­ond position limped in, as did the player in the hi­jack seat. Our Hero raised to $.70 with 7c 7s.

If Hero was go­ing to raise, he should have raised larger. By mak­ing it $.70, he’ll fre­quently be called by all the limpers, re­sult­ing in him see­ing a flop with what will usu­ally be a mar­ginal un­der­pair. He might also get three-bet by one of the limpers, forc­ing him to fold.

I would have pre­ferred to see Hero limp be­hind, al­low­ing him to try to flop a set. There was re­ally no point in rais­ing. An­other rea­son­able line of play would have been rais­ing to about $1.70, which would usu­ally ei­ther steal the pot be­fore the flop or re­sult in only one player call­ing, al­low­ing Hero to play a pot in position.

Sur­pris­ingly, only the small blind and the sec­ond limper called.

It’s worth not­ing that when you limp and some­one raises to only a small amount more, you should call and see the flop with most of your range. The only hands that would make sense to fold are un­co­or­di­nated hands such as Ah 6c or Ks 7d, but those hands should not be limped in the first place.

The flop came Qh Qs Jc. Ev­ery­one checked to Hero, who bet $1.50 into a pot of $2.60.

When more than two play­ers see a flop, you should tend to play in a more straight­for­ward man­ner be­cause it’s likely that some­one con­nected with the board. With this par­tic­u­lar flop con­tain­ing some high cards, Hero needed to pro­ceed with cau­tion. This was a spot where Hero should have ei­ther checked or bet small, per­haps $.70. If Hero gets called af­ter mak­ing a bet of $1.50, he’s surely up against ei­ther a bet­ter made hand or a strong draw that will of­ten fare well against 7-7. I would have checked be­hind with the in­ten­tion of fold­ing to any turn bet.

Only the small blind called. The turn was the 8d. The op­po­nent checked, and Hero bet $3.00 into a pot of $5.60.

This bet made no sense. The op­po­nent eas­ily could have been hold­ing 10- 9 or a Q, in which case he cer­tainly wouldn’t fold. The op­po­nent also would have been un­likely to fold a J or 8 to this mod­est turn bet. There was no rea­son for Hero to turn his hand into a bluff, although I sup­pose he could have made a siz­able river bet to try to make the op­po­nent fold any hand worse than trips, but that would have been op­ti­mistic.

The op­po­nent called. The river was the Jh. The op­po­nent bet $9 into a pot of $11.60.

I dis­liked the op­po­nent’s lead be­cause it made it im­pos­si­ble for Hero to bluff. The op­po­nent should have checked his en­tire range, giv­ing Hero the change to bluff. In­stead, Hero made an easy fold.

While this hand may seem like a stan­dard mi­cro- stakes hand to some peo­ple, in my eyes, Hero lit $ 4.50 (the amount of his last two bets) on fire. In a $.10/$. 20 game, that is 22.5 big blinds, which is a hefty, com­pletely un­nec­es­sary loss.

Jonathan Lit­tle is a pro­fes­sional poker player and coach with more than $6 mil­lion in live tour­na­ment earn­ings

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