Folding Strong Hands

Example 1

$50/$100 three‐handed. My opponent, who is a relatively solid and unimaginative player, opens to $350 on the button, I reraise in the BB to $1,100 with A‐A, and he makes the surprising move of four‐ betting me to $3,400 quickly. Since it’s so rare for him to four‐bet, and because he is unimaginative, his bet means a big hand. To be more precise, it doesn’t even have to be a big hand – just a hand he thinks is big. Also given that he will have position on me post‐flop, and also considering that he doesn’t give excessive action post‐flop unless he has a big hand, and finally considering that a call by me will give away almost as much information as raising, I should have just gone all in pre‐flop.

But this time I just called. The flop came K‐K‐6, I checked and he bet $3,600. Now we must ask what the hand range from a tight uni‐ maginative player after this pre‐flop action is – A‐A, A‐K, K‐K or Q‐Q? If he has queens he’ll check the flop for sure – why would he bet them? He isn’t calling a check‐raise and he doesn’t need to pro‐ tect his hand against outdraws, which would only have two or three outs. And he’s not bluffing with nothing because his pre‐flop action says he has a strong hand. Even given a small chance he was bluff‐ ing pre‐flop, since I called he would probably give his bluff up and check the flop. So his hand range is basically A‐K or K‐K. I pushed foolishly and he instantly called with A‐K. A rule of thumb is when you put in about 10% of your stack pre‐flop with aces, it’s okay to go to the felt with it all the time on the flop. That rule of thumb worked, and my flop play here is standard for almost everyone. However, this was a great opportunity to make a big fold here and gain a lot of EV that other players wouldn’t get.

Example 2

$50/$100 three‐handed, $15,000 stacks. I have A‐A and raise on the button to $350, opponent makes it $1,100 in the BB. He is passive and doesn’t reraise much pre‐flop. A lot of the time just calling with aces is a better play here because four‐bets are really strong and let people fold their medium‐strength hands and bluffs. However in this spot the opponent is probably quite strong because he never re‐ raises pre‐flop, so I four‐bet to $3,500 and he calls. The flop comes 10♠‐5♠‐5♣, he checks. When most people get aces and reraise pre‐ flop one of two things happen – they get over excited and want to get all the opponent’s money right away, or they get afraid of play‐ ing a tricky pot on later streets and instantly bet pot on the flop without realizing that the easiest line is not always the most profit‐ able. However, in this spot a bet is best as he didn’t call with a weak hand with the intention of bluffing me out later – he has something strong and has to make a decision about whether I’m bluffing or not. Maybe I’ll get his money, maybe I won’t.

The other question to ask is what hands could I trap by checking,? Well not many – the only card that could come to set an effective trap is a king, and if he happens to have a king in his hand there are only three of those left. I’m not so afraid about the flush because there is only one exact hand combination that could have a flush draw – A♠-K♠. So I bet the pot of $6,500, he thinks for a while and goes all‐in. I obviously call, as his hand range here is probably A‐A – Q‐Q, 10‐10 or A♠‐K♠. Also I’m getting 4‐1 odds on my money, and this was my plan when I bet the flop. So I called and he had A♠‐K♠.

If we consider his side of the things this hand will show us how not to play a draw. Reraising pre‐flop is perfectly normal with A‐Ks (though it would have been smart of him to reraise more frequently so I didn’t put him on a hand range as narrow as Q‐Q – A‐A and A‐K or A‐Q). However, my four‐bet is quite strong. One thing he should realize is that I am a better player than him, and he should give me respect and realize I can outplay him. If an ace flops he won’t get bluffs from me and if it doesn’t I’ll push him off his hand.

An ace or king will only flop 1/3 times and he’s out of position. He needs to give a better player his due and fold A‐K here.

Example 3

$10/$25 HU, opponent raises to $75 on the button and I call with 9♠-10♠. The flop is 8♥‐3♦‐2♠, check‐check. The turn is the 9♦ which makes for a lot of hands composed of some combination of straight draw and overcard draw that he’ll semi‐bluff there. Here he checked, then the river comes the A♠. I check and he bets $150. It’s pretty frustrating that he checked behind on the turn then such a bad card comes on the river and it’s very easy to call here out of a combina‐ tion of frustration and curiosity at what he has, hoping that our

hand is good. But this is actually a good spot in a small pot to fold where most people would make a sloppy call and lose their $150. Part of the reason is that one of the most likely hands the opponent checks behind on the flop and turn is ace high – it has showdown value so he doesn’t need to bluff with it like he would with a hand like K‐J.

Example 4

$25/$50 four‐handed, button raises to $175, SB calls and I call in the BB with A‐5s. The flop is 2♠‐6♠‐K♣ and to mix it up I lead out $500. The button calls and the turn brings the 10♥, I check, the pot is $1,500 and he bets $1,300. Should I check‐raise my last $3,000? Or call? No, even though I have the ace‐high flush draw with an over‐ card it’s a fold. It’s very hard for me to have two pair here with the flop being so uncoordinated – I could have hit two pair on the turn with K‐10, but with K‐10 I wouldn’t lead the flop.

Therefore my flop lead is either air, a flush draw, or a set. When I check‐raise the turn all‐in he can put me on either a flush draw or a set. The fact is sets don’t come along as often as flush draws so the question is whether he is a weak player who sees a big bet and automatically folds one pair? Or is he a thinking player who will put his money in when he thinks his hand is best? In this case I thought he was just a loose suspicious bad player, so I just folded which is the best play on the turn.

Example 5

$10/$25 HU, opponent is playing weird illogical poker, he is tricky and a little tough to play but has many leaks. He changes his bet size a lot making small and medium bets with small hands and bluffs and he bets full pot when he has a good hand. I raise pre‐flop to $75 with Q‐J and he calls. The flop is Q‐7‐2, and he check‐calls a bet of $150. He calls a fair amount. The turn is a two and in terms of pot size my hand is good enough to get one more bet into the pot. But if we go all‐in, or bets go in on both the turn and river, then there’s a good chance I’ll lose.

Therefore I check the turn and hope to get value on the river. The river is an eight and he leads out $400 like he does with good hands. I was slowly grinding this player down so strategically it’s not bad to fold here. Also, I had a feeling he wasn’t bluffing, which came from the game tempo, his bet size and bet speed. Another reason it probably isn’t a bluff is because there isn’t anything for his bluff to represent. No scare cards hit and I either have a pair of queens or I don’t. If I have a pair of queens I’m probably calling any bet up to the pot size. If my hand is worse than a pair of queen than I’m probably folding to about a 3/4 pot bet or even a little less. So he can accomplish the same bluff by betting about $300 – but he didn’t, he bet $400. My read was that he’s targeting me if I have a queen and so I folded.

Example 6

$25/$50, four‐handed. I open on the button with Q‐Jo to $175, the SB raises to $575, BB folds and I call. This is normally a fold but he is playing aggressively and people are pushing me around pre‐flop. The flop is K♣‐Q♠‐7♠ and he leads out $725. Since I called with such a marginal hand, the situation is marginal and I have to play very well to make it an okay call pre‐flop. Although, just because I called pre‐flop doesn’t mean that if I hit something I am committed to put‐ ting money into the pot – I called his reraise pre‐flop so the Q and K are very likely cards to have hit me and his bet size seems to say that he wants to keep me in the pot. We can’t know for sure but it looks like he is targeting us if we have a queen. What I mean is if we have a pair of kings we are probably going to put money into the pot whether he bets $725 or if he bets $1,150. If we have 10‐10 or Q‐J we are probably not going to put money in if he bets the full pot $1,150; however, we are more likely to put money in if he bets smaller.

The first piece of evidence is he bet on a board that could very likely hit a person calling a reraise pre‐flop. The second piece of evidence is that he bet small like he’s trying to trap us. Normally a small bet is evidence of weakness but here it’s different because given the board texture it’s quite likely we hit something. And if we hit something and he bet small it looks like he’s wanting us to call and if he wants us to call that means he has a good hand and should fold. Also this player is aggressive and when he bets the flop he generally bets the turn, so for that reason we need to make a decision here as to whether we are willing to go all‐in with a pair of queens on the turn when he bets, and that simply can’t be justified as he is aggressive but not a maniac.

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