I was recently told about a hand from a $1,000 buy-in live poker tournament that illustrates a few significant flaws in the strategies of many poker players (both professional and amateur). With blinds at 6,000/12,000 with a 420,000 effective stack, a splashy player limped from first position and then the player in second position raised to 42,000. Everyone folded around to our Hero who decided to call from the small blind with Kh-6s.
When facing a second position raise from out of position, you should only call with premium high cards, such as A-J and K-Q, and hands that have the potential to flop the effective nuts, such as 4-4, Ad-Td, and 9s-8s. K-6o is a particularly awful hand to call with because when it makes a pair of kings, it will usually be dominated by top pair with a better kicker, and when it makes a pair of sixes, it usually won’t be good enough to win a multi-way pot. Simply fold and move on to the next hand.
The big blind and the initial limper both called. The flop came Js-8h-7c, giving Hero nothing. Hero checked, which is the only viable option. In a multi-way pot, you need at least some potential to justify putting chips in the pot.
Everyone else checked. The turn was the (Js-8h-7c)-4s, improving Hero to a gutshot straight draw. Hero bet 55,000 into the 168,000 pot.
While a gutshot straight draw is nothing to be proud of, given the flop checked through, I am fine with this bet, although I would have continued checking due to the pot being four-handed. While Hero doesn’t have a ton of value, it is somewhat likely that he isn’t against a premium hand. However, that may not be true, given the preflop raiser was last to act on the flop, meaning the big blind and initial limper may be inclined to check on the flop their entire range, including their best hands, to the preflop raiser, meaning they may still have their best hands in their ranges.
The big blind called, the initial limper folded, and the preflop raiser called. The river was the (Js-8h-7c-4s)-Ac, leaving Hero with just King-high. Hero bet 130,000 out of his 323,000 remaining stack into the 333,000 pot.
This is a tough spot because Hero almost certainly has the worst hand, meaning he should consider bluffing, but he is against two players whose ranges could easily contain an Ace. I would have check-folded on this river, and if I decided to bet, I would have gone all-in for the size of the pot to try to ensure hands like Q-J and 9-8 fold. By betting small, Hero may induce a heroic call from a marginal made hand, which would be a disaster.
The big blind raised to 310,000. The preflop raiser folded and after some deliberation, Hero decided to call with just King-high.
Hero told me that he thought his opponent had a busted flush draw and was attempting a risky bluff. Which that may be the case some portion of the time, you will find that almost no one bluffs the river on a regular basis for all their money, especially in multi-way pots when facing aggression from someone who could easily have the nuts. Hero’s call is incredibly optimistic, equivalent to lighting money on fire.
To everyone’s surprise, the big blind turned up Jh-9h for middle pair, which just so happened to be the best hand. Perhaps Hero’s read that the big blind was bluffing was correct (although who knows if he was value betting or bluffing), but he still had the losing hand. When you call someone’s bluff, make sure you can at least beat their bluffing range! This entire train wreck could have been avoided by folding preflop. Make a point to only play strong hands and hands with a large amount of equity from out of position. It will save you a lot of headaches.
I hope you enjoyed this hand analysis. If you want to see more hand breakdowns on DandBPoker.com, let me know on twitter @JonathanLittle. Thanks for reading!