You have A♣A♦ under the gun. You open to $10, which is a common opening raise size in the game you play. A player calls behind you and the big blind calls. There’s $31 in the pot and $290 behind.
The flop comes J♣7♣5♦. The big blind bets $15. What do you do?
Keeping in mind Skill #2, this is not a situation that demands extreme caution. It’s a small bet. And it comes on the flop, not the turn or river. Don’t let a bet like this scare you off a big hand like aces. Given the way most people play at 1-2, you’re likely to have the best hand.
There is one problem. This small, out-of-flow bet (your opponent did not “check to the raiser”) is typically a probe bet. Your opponent wants you to reveal whether you’re strong or weak. He likely defended the blind with a hand like J-8. And now he’s flopped a weak top pair. He wants to find out cheaply if he’s good.
Your job with aces is to obscure the meaning of your reaction, while still encouraging your opponent to put as much money in the pot as possible. These can be competing goals. Balancing them can be tricky.
One thing is fairly certain. If you raise big and fire money at the pot, your opponent will fold. That’s the information he’s looking for. Since you don’t want this to happen, you shouldn’t react this way.
You can either call the bet, which is ambiguous, or you can make a small raise—like a min-raise to $30. The raise shows a bit more strength, but most players won’t be able to resist calling it.
From that point, you’re again in streets-of-value mode. You have to estimate how many streets you can bet—and how big those bets can be—and still keep your opponent in the pot to showdown with a hand like J-8.
A minor concern is the player behind you. On a flop like J-7- 5, it’s unlikely this player has much. But since there’s a flush draw on board, it increases the chance you’ll get action. This consideration has me leaning toward making the small raise in this instance. You could raise the $15 bet to $30, and the opponent behind you could call with a jack, or a flush draw, or a straight draw. This is a better outcome than just calling the flop bet and having the player behind you call as well.
So I’d probably raise to $30. Then I’d bet the turn an amount I thought a player with J-8 would likely call. Assuming the turn and river cards aren’t too threatening, I’d bet the river as well, again for an amount I’d hope an opponent would call with just a jack.
These bet sizes vary and are situation-dependent. For some tables, they should be fairly big. For others, they will need to be pretty small.
A player limps. You have 4♣4♠ from four off the button. You raise to $10. Two players call behind you, the big blind calls, and the limper calls. There are five players and $51 in the pot.
The flop comes Q♣J♣4♥, giving you bottom set. Everyone checks to you, and you bet $50. One player behind you calls. There’s $151 in the pot and $240 behind.
The turn is the A♦. You bet $90, and your opponent raises you all-in for $150 more. What do you do?
Call, and don’t think too hard about it either.
It’s unlikely your opponent is bluffing, since this is a big turn raise over your big turn bet. There are a number of hands that beat you. You’re behind K-T, and you’re also behind sets of aces, queens, and jacks. Isn’t this a place to apply Skill #2 and fold while you’re behind?
Skill #2 doesn’t apply here for two reasons. One, you can beat some of the hands your opponent is representing. While he can have the hands that beat you, he can also easily have A-Q, A-J, or Q-J. Furthermore, he could have called the flop with an ace-high flush draw like A♣T♣. That hand, for instance, would give him top pair, the nut flush draw, and a gutshot straight draw. With a hand like that (or really with any ace-high flush draw), your opponent could feel committed to the pot with top pair and be shoving to avoid a tough river decision if the flush misses and you shove.
Your opponents think like that. But you shouldn’t. Raising with the goal of avoiding a future tough decision is mostly dumb. In any event, you’re behind a number of hands your opponent could have. But you’re also ahead of many of those hands. When
this is the case, play for stacks.
The second reason Skill #2 doesn’t apply is that you can draw
out on the straight, the main hand you’re worried about. Having the ability to draw out on your opponent doesn’t on its own mean you should call a big turn bet. But it lowers the bar considerably. When you can identify hands you beat, and you have a legitimate chance to draw out on the hands that beat you, it’s usually a slam- dunk call.
Two players limp. Another player raises in the cutoff to $12. You’re on the button with K♦K♠, and you reraise to $35. Everyone folds, except the original raiser who calls. There’s $77 in the pot and $265 behind.
The flop comes T♣4♣3♠. Your opponent checks, and you bet $50. Your opponent check-raises to $150. What do you do?
This is another situation where people try to apply Skill #2, but it doesn’t quite apply. Yes, I emphasized that Skill #2 applies to big bets, not small ones. But it applies most clearly on the turn and river. Not the flop.
This is a big flop bet. So Skill #2 doesn’t apply as easily.
You can definitely be behind here. Your opponent could easily have T-T, 4-4, 3-3, or A-A. But you could be ahead as well. Your opponent could have Q-Q, J-J, or possibly even A-T. Your opponent could also hold a big flush draw with overcards like A♣Q♣ or K♣J♣. Players typically play these hand this way.
Your opponent could also hold a combination straight and flush draw like A♣5♣ or 6♣5♣.
You’re behind some hands, and you’re unfortunately unlikely to draw out on those hands. But you’re ahead of quite a few hands
as well. Additionally, the pot is laying you odds, since there’s $177 in the pot (excluding your opponent’s raise), and $215 still to be bet (this number is relevant if you expect to shove). You don’t have to win more than 50 percent of the time to make calling a better choice than folding.
If you assume you’d be getting it all-in every time you didn’t fold to the raise (a fair assumption), you’re risking $215 to win a total of $392. This means you need to win only a little more than 35 percent of the time to justify a call.
Here, you should move all-in since there’s relatively little money left after you call your opponent’s raise. You will lose this pot fairly often. But when your opponent forces the issue on flops like this—especially when the pot was 3-bet pre-flop—and you have an overpair, often you just have to gamble.