Friday, August 25, 2017

Folding a Flush in Main Event?

Day 1 of the 2017 WSOP Main Event went about as well as possible for me. I correctly assessed most of my opponents’ tendencies and played a strategy designed to take advantage of their mistakes. I called down the overly aggressive players with a wide range and made big folds against the straightforward players when they decided to put a lot of money in the pot. I ended day 1 with four starting stacks, 211,300, which was good for fourth place in my portion of the field going into day 2a.

Despite winning most of my hands, I made what turned out to be an incorrect fold with a flush near the end of the day. With blinds at 250/500 with a 75 ante, everyone folded to me in the small blind and I limped 7c-2c out of my 100,000 effective stack. The big blind, who arrived to the table about 15 minutes earlier, checked. He came to the table with more chips than most of my opponents, but he seemed to be a recreational player, although it is difficult to say with no clear information.

Some players may question limping 7c-2c, but unless the big blind is overly aggressive, limping with all your suited hands will win a bit more money than folding due to the excellent pot odds. Notice I have to put in 250 chips into a pot that will be 1,675, meaning I only need to realize my equity 15% of the time to break even, which isn’t too difficult to accomplish. To compensate for limping lots of junk, I also limp some of my best hands, strengthening my limping range.

The flop came Jh-5c-3c. I bet 1,000 into the 1,675 pot and my opponent called.

I am fine with my flop bet, although perhaps a smaller bet would be ideal. In general, when you limp from the small blind and the big blind checks, you can make a 1.25 big blind bet and steal the pot most of the time when your weak, straightforward opponents fail to improve. Even if your opponent calls, it isn’t a big deal, due to your small bet size.

The turn was the (Jh-5c-3c)-5s. I bet 1,500 into the 3,675 pot, my opponent raised to 4,100, and I called.

The 5s on the turn is a particularly bad card to continue barreling on because now a 5 is never folding, whereas an unimproved middle pair may, but given I have a draw that has essentially no showdown value, I am fine betting. I would also continue betting with all my trips, top pairs, and some of my flush and straight draws, making my range quite strong. Once my opponent raises, I think calling is fine, again due to my pot odds. When my opponent raises, his range should be mostly trips and bluffs, most of which he should continue betting on most rivers, meaning I should have decent implied odds if I improve to a flush.

The river was the (Jh-5c-3c-5s)-Jc, giving me a flush, but also double-pairing the board. I checked, my opponent bet 6,500 into the 11,875 pot, and I folded.

While the Jc may appear like a good river because it improves me to a flush, it also improves my opponent’s oddly played top pairs to a full house. Clearly I also lose to the other obvious made hand, trip 5s, which also improved to a full house. I also lose to better flushes, which may or may not bet the river (given I should have all Jacks and 5s in my range). Since I know I would play all my full houses in this manner, the 7-high flush is actually one of the worst hands I should have in this spot. With no reads, it is rarely a bad strategy to fold the bottom of your range. That said, it is worth noting that many straightforward players only raise the turn with a 5 but then cautiously check behind on the river, fearing the better full house (which isn’t such an irrational fear). If I knew my opponent thought in this manner, it removes both Jacks and 5s from his range (because he wouldn’t raise Jacks on the turn), allowing me to make a hero-call.

I later found out that my opponent posted on one of the poker forums that he decided to bluff me on this hand to try to slow me down because I was playing more than my fair share of pots, making it difficult for him to enter the pot with a wide range. While that strategy is often fine, especially early in the day, this is not the best spot to do it because my turn bet/calling range should be quite strong.

When these plays work, they seem amazing but most of the time they will fail. Fortunately for my opponent, this time I had a flush draw and not a made hand.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you will love my interactive poker training site, There you can test yourself with over 100 interactive quizzes and study the game with me with monthly homework questions and review webinars. If you want to take your game to the next level, sign up for a completely free one-week trial at

Sunday, January 1, 2017

ALL IN Early!

Today I am going to share a hand with you that I played last year in the $1,500 buy-in Monster Stack WSOP event. This event was different from other $1,500 events in that each player started with an overly deep stack. This was third hand of the day 1.
A 35 year old guy who I did not know raised to 525 out of his 15,000 stack at 100/200 from middle position. Everyone folded around to me and I called with 4c-3c from the big blind.
Both calling and folding are fine options. I strongly suggest that you learn to profitably call in these situation because being able to continue with a wide range of hands will make you much more difficult to play against compared to if you only play strong hands in an obvious manner. If you constantly keep your opponents guessing, they will make mistakes. If they usually know where you stand, they will play well. For those who do not know, you profit when your opponents make errors. When they play well, you do not profit.
The flop came Ac-Jc-4d, giving me bottom pair and a weak flush draw.
I checked to my opponent, as I tend to do with all of my hands, and he bet 700 into the 1,150 pot. I decided to check-raise to 1,700.
If the stacks were a different size, either shallower or deeper, I would likely have called. If the stacks are shorter, my opponent would be able to realistically go all-in, forcing me to make a decision for my tournament life with a hand that I know will win roughly 50% of the time (in general, if you have edge, you want to avoid coin-flip scenarios). If the stacks were deeper, my opponent could call and play intelligently on the turn, folding when the draws complete and calling when they don’t. With the current stack size, going all-in would be a huge over-bet and calling would allow me to put significant pressure on him on the turn by betting again, making all of his options somewhat marginal.
My opponent surprised me by 3-betting to 5,000, leaving only 9,475 remaining in his stack.
I was fairly confident that my opponent liked his hand. However, I thought that he could like a strong hand such as A-K or A-Q but still be willing to fold if I pushed all-in. I was aware that countless players traveled a great distance to play this event and would certainly not want to bust out on the third hand of the day. I did not care if I busted because this event was one of many that I would play throughout the series. For a professional, no individual event is emotionally significant.
This gave me the courage to go all-in.
While attempting to bluff someone off a likely strong hand is rarely a good idea, occasionally it makes perfect sense.
My opponent looked disgusted. He asked me a few questions, trying to get a read, but of course I did not reply. He thought for around three minutes before folding A-J face up. He proceeded to tell me that he knew I got lucky to flop a set and that anyone else at the table would not have been able to make the great fold that he made.
222Be sure you are not one of these players who thinks you always make the right play. If I thought he had an effectively unfoldable hand like top two-pair, I certainly would not have tried this semi-bluff. When your opponents are looking for a reason to make a big fold, do not be afraid to get out of line and induce them to make a huge mistake.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed it, please share it with your friends! Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. If you are looking for more content from me, check out my books. I imagine you haven’t read them a