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.

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