Example 1

$25/50 six‐handed, button raises to $175, the SB calls and I call in the BB with 8‐9o. The flop is A♥‐9♥‐4♠, it is checked around. The turn is the 6♣ and the SB leads out for $400. This is a peculiar bet from him because when he has a good hand he has bet the pot in the past. A
lot of the times people will bet smaller with their best hands but short‐handed people rarely make huge hands. Basically, there are a lot of different hands he could have but because of his bet size it doesn’t feel strong. Another factor is the math. Some people in this spot will bet out and you’ll bluff‐raise and they’ll always seem to have a good hand. Other people will fold often. The key to seeing how often they have a big hand or not is how often they call pre‐flop. If they rarely call then they are already filtering their hand selection, so if they bet the flop often and have it often, it’s because pre‐flop they already dumped the trash. If they call pre‐flop a lot then bet the flop frequently they are going to have many weak holdings.

Now, all three options are viable here. I could certainly fold – some opponents are suspicious and some are weak. This particular oppo‐ nent is weak and doesn’t put up much of a fight with mediocre holdings. I could call but he could have a lot of mediocre hands that still beat me, and there is also a player behind me. Also, he could bluff the river if I call. If I raise he’ll have a hard time calling with his mediocre holdings. Also if he does show up with a hand I probably have outs. Plus if I’m a better player then I can raise and if he calls, I can plan on outplaying him based on his timing, the river card, and his river action. Another advantage is that he could call with a draw, which is the best of both worlds. My decision to raise here is a com‐ bination of many marginal factors, and the play itself is quite mar‐ ginal but it illustrates the thinking behind this sort of play.

Example 2

$3/$6 six‐handed, UTG raises to $21, I call with red jacks in the SB and it’s HU. The flop is A♥‐10♥‐9♥, I check and he bets pot for $46. The opponent is a decent player who is giving me a lot of respect and this is a good time to use that respect to end this pot right now instead of playing more streets out of position, which will get con‐ fusing. A raise is good here because if we just call we will not know exactly where we stand in the hand and it makes playing future streets uncertain and confusing. If the opponent has an ace without a heart we can also bluff him. Also, after a check‐raise we could get a free turn card even though we’re out of position.

Example 3

$25/$50 HU, I raise on the button with A‐Ko and my opponent calls which he does often, we have $5k stacks. The flop is 3‐5‐10, he checks. Normally always continuation betting ace high here is a leak because people can simply call with better or fold worse hands but a few factors in combination made it a bet against this player. He calls the flop quite often, so it could be a value bet against a weak ace or some weird hand he wants to float with. Also he is passive, so if I bet he probably won’t check‐raise the flop and I can get to see two more cards if I want by checking behind on the turn, and I can choose the bet size. And finally he calls the flop a lot but is weak on the turn and has folded to many continuation bets, so if the turn card is scary I can keep bluffing. In the hand he called, the turn was a Q, and he folded to my turn bet.

Example 4

$5/$10 six‐handed, two limpers and hero raises to $55 with A‐A , one limper calls. The flop is 9♦‐J♥‐8♥ (hero doesn’t have A♥). villain checks to hero. What plan does he have here, what sort of pot does he want? On the flop he most certainly wants a small one. The problem is if the villain has a piece of this board he is somewhere around even money to beat A‐A on the flop and if he has a big piece of the board then he crushes the hero, so there isn’t a lot of value in betting this flop.

So if the opponent has nothing our action doesn’t matter because he only has a few outs to outdraw our aces and supposing he isn’t a better player than us, he probably won’t be able to bluff us out. So if we bet and he has nothing, he’ll fold and if we check and he has nothing we’ll just win the hand on a later street and our action doesn’t matter. And if the opponent has a very strong hand then checking is good because we aren’t putting money into the pot against it.

The reason why this hand is so tricky and why checking has value is if the opponent has a strong draw. If the opponent has a strong draw he can raise us as a semi‐bluff on the flop and we’ll have to fold because on this board the villain wouldn’t go all‐in with noth‐ ing. So we gain a lot more equity by waiting for the turn to see if our aces are still good, and we can see what his action is because we have position.

If you were the opponent and had middle set here you probable want to lead out and do the betting yourself, since a top pair/overpair hand will usually check behind here, or bet with the intention of folding to a raise. Value betting top pair is dubious on this board because hands worse than top pair can’t call very often but if the pot stays small top pair has a better chance of being the best hand. Of course, this is all highly situational depending on the way the game is playing and the opponent but this illustrates the way you should be thinking about hands.

Example 5

$25/$50 HU, opponent has $7,500 and I cover. I have A‐6o and raise to $150, he calls. The flop is 4♥‐6♠‐8♣, he checks, I bet $225 and he check‐raises to $525. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on at this point but I’m a lot better then the opponent with position and can outplay him, and also he is not a nit and there’s a good chance he doesn’t have a big hand so I call. The turn is the 2♠, he bets $475 into the $1,350 pot and his bet size gives the game away as when he bets small he is weak so I raise to $1,900 and take the pot down.

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