I was recently recounted a hand from early in a $365 buy-in WSOP circuit tournament by one of my followers on twitter (@JonathanLittle). A local grinder, who generally plays a somewhat tight, aggressive strategy but is capable of playing loose at times, raised to 300 out of his 9,000 effective stack from second position at a nine-handed table. Our Hero decided to reraise to 700 from the button with
I am fine with the reraise, although I would have made it 900 to give the initial raiser some room to fold. When you make it 700, your opponent will call essentially every time because he only has to call 400 more into a pot that will be 1,550. If you balance your range intelligently, you should be happy when your opponent folds a decent amount of the time. That said, it is important to understand that you should always have some bluffs in your reraising range, even if your opponent plays a decently snug strategy from early position. If you only reraise with the best hands, your opponents can easily fold against you with all but their best hands, or call getting excellent preflop pot odds to try to outdraw your obviously strong hand. However, if you reraise with every A-5s, A-4s, A-3s, A-2s, A-Jo, and K-Qo, you will have far too many bluffs, so don’t take this concept too far.
Only the initial raiser called. The flop came. The opponent checked and Hero bet 800 into the 1,550 pot.
While top pair is certainly a strong hand, I would usually check behind in this spot. With your marginal made hands (as this top pair, bad kicker is) checking is usually ideal. Notice that if you are behind, you are drawing thin, and if you are ahead, your opponent is drawing thin. The board is unlikely to change, so you should not be concerned with protecting your hand against various draws. So, this is an excellent spot to check back and get closer to showdown. Of course, if you think your opponent will be willing to pay off small bets on all three streets with worse made hands, such as Q-J and 9-9, betting 700 or so becomes a reasonable option.
The opponent called. The turn was the ()- . The opponent checked and Hero checked behind.
If you bet the flop, you should usually check behind on the turn because there are very few made hands in your opponent’s range that you beat that can call a turn and river bet. If the board contained many more draws, betting small gains some merit because then, your opponent could call with numerous inferior made hands and draws.
The river was the ()- and the opponent bet 900 into the 3,150 pot. Hero called and lost to .
When facing a small river bet, calling is usually the right play with your decently strong, but non-nut made hands unless you have a solid understanding of your opponent’s river strategy. If your opponent will only bet small with his marginal made hands, raising for value has some merit. If you know he only bets small with his nut hands, folding becomes a possibility, even getting great odds. Since you will almost never have a solid understanding of your opponent’s river strategy (because you don’t get to the river too often and even then, you don’t see the hole cards most of the time), you should stick to a fundamentally sound strategy of calling. While you will be beat from time to time, you will certainly win often enough to justify calling.