A player opens for $20 on the button. You’re in the big blind with K♥7♥ and make it $60. Your opponent calls. There’s $122 in the pot.
The flop is Q♥J♦7♠. What do you do? ♠
You could bet. You flopped a pair, which is something. Betting makes sense against timid players who would be likely to fold a hand as strong as Q-T if you keep betting.
But consider checking as well. When you check and pass the action to your opponents, you give them a chance to throw you a live read. In this particular hand, if you bet the flop, given the board texture, there’s an excellent chance your opponent will call. But the call could mean a straight draw, a queen, or a jack. It could even be another seven or a hand like T-T. The call doesn’t tell you much except that your opponent likely hit the flop.
If you check, your opponent can give you information about the relative strength of his hand with bet sizing. Say he bets $100 into the $122 pot. I’d consider this likely to mean a strong hand, and I’d fold.
Say he bets $50. This smallish bet could be a probe to see what you do. It’s an invitation to make a play at the pot. You can check- raise. Or you can check-call and bet the turn. Or you can check- call, check the turn, and if your opponent checks back, you can make a large (i.e., pot-sized) river bet that will likely get your opponent off all marginal pairs.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume you check, and your opponent checks back.
The turn is the 3♥, making the board Q♥J♦7♠3♥ and giving you a flush draw. There’s still $122 in the pot. What should you do now?
This card is one of the reasons you should stick to suited hands when you make light 3-bets pre-flop. I would bet this card for sure, and would certainly barrel the river as well. I’d probably bet about $70 on the turn. This bet size should get folds if your opponent whiffed the flop entirely, but it will get calls from all the marginal paired hands like A-J.
And it’s fine if you get called. You expect it. The hammer comes on the river. No matter what card arrives (unless you hit your hand), fire $220 or so into the $262 pot. This line credibly represents that you hold A-A or K-K or Q-Q or J-J, and you decided to get “tricky” by checking the flop. Most 2-5 regulars who are versed with Skill #2, and who don’t like to try to bust the rare river bluff, will fold.
If you hit your hand, bet a smaller amount in an attempt to squeeze a call out of a queen.
Note that this advice to bet a large amount as a bluff and a smaller amount for value is highly exploitable if you’re playing against observant enough opponents. In practice, it’s much harder for most players to decode your river bet-sizing decisions than it is for them to decode more common situations that arise on the flop and turn. So you can probably get away with forking your range in this way.
But if you suspect your opponent is semi-clever, you should stick to the $220 bet size with all your hands. That way if your opponent tries to get smart and call your bluff sometimes, he will also end up sometimes paying off a large bet when you make two pair, trips, or a flush.
A player opens for $20 from three off the button. You call in the cutoff with K♦Q♦. The blinds fold. There’s $47 in the pot.
The flop comes T♦9♠6♠. Your opponent bets $30. What should you do?
Raise. This is a dynamic flop that your opponent, an out-of- position pre-flop raiser, should be checking a lot. But if this player is like most at 2-5, there’s a good chance he’s unaware of these subtleties, or he is aware, but he makes so much money firing barrels he’s going to fire away until given a reason not to.
So, give him a reason not to. You have overcards, a gutshot, and a backdoor flush draw, which is plenty of equity-when-called. There’s a good chance your opponent is out of line on a bet. Harness your positional advantage on this dynamic board texture by immediately challenging your opponent.
I’d raise to about $90. If called and checked to on the turn, I’d be inclined to barrel most turn cards. There’s a good chance your opponent is calling with a drawing hand, and a nice big turn barrel should frequently take it down. If called again, you always have a gutshot to the nuts to fall back on.
You open to $20 from five off the button with 9♣8♣. Two players call behind, and the blinds fold. There’s $67 in the pot.
The flop comes A♣7♦5♣, giving you a flush draw and a gutshot. You bet $60, the first player calls, and the second folds.
The turn is the 2♥. You bet $180. Your opponent calls. The river is the K♦. What do you do?
Check and give up. Your combo draw had so much equity- when-called on the flop and turn, yet your hand had so little immediate showdown value, it almost demanded to be bet twice.
But your opponent’s turn call was strong. Calling a full pot- sized bet in these games means business. It’s likely your opponent has A-Q or stronger. Now that you’ve bricked the river, you’re caught with no showdown value against an opponent with a strong range. Just give up. Every once in a while, your opponent will have a hand like K♣J♣ that you could have gotten him to fold out with another bet, but more often he’ll just have a hand. It’s not a good bluffing spot.
A player opens for $20. You call from the cutoff with A♦K♠. The blinds fold. There’s $47 in the pot.
The flop comes T♦5♠3♠. Your opponent bets $30. What should you do?
You have position on a dynamic board. The pre-flop raiser should likely check this flop fairly often, but many 2-5 players will C-bet with most of their hands. In the previous hand quiz where this concept applied, I argued you should raise.
In this hand, I’d just call. The situation here is different. With the best possible no-pair hand, you have more showdown value in this example, so it’s okay to bring yourself one step closer to showdown with a call. Also, you have less equity-when-called here, and the hand you’re drawing to, top pair, will likely not be good enough to win if stacks go in. You should be more comfortable blowing up the pot early in the hand if you have a draw to the nuts (as the gutshot draw was in the previous example). When you have no real ability to make the nuts, as in this hand, it’s often preferable to call.
You definitely shouldn’t fold. There’s a good chance the pre- flop raiser has air. And this hand is just generally too strong to fold for one bet on this flop texture.
ED MILLER 249
For argument, let’s say you call. The turn is the 9♦. Your opponent bets $90 into the $107 pot. Now, what should you do?
Fold. Apply Skill #2. Your opponent has made a large, nearly pot-sized bet on the turn. Don’t try to bluff-catch. Just fold.