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Do Not Overvalue!

10/05/2018 by Jonathan Little
Strategy
D&B MAGAZINE

I was recently told about a hand from one of my students that illustrates a detrimental flaw in the strategy of many amateur poker players. In a $20 buy-in online tournament with blinds at 20/40 with a 5 ante, everyone folded to a tight, aggressive player in middle position who raised to 80 out of his 1,200 effective stack. Our Hero decided to call on the button with 98. Everyone else folded.

I am fine with Hero’s call, especially if the players in the blinds are not thought to be strong players. 3-betting with your suited connectors to about 250 may also be a fine option, especially if the preflop raiser will frequently fold.

The flop came JT5 giving Hero the low end of the open-ended straight draw. The opponent checked and Hero bet 125 into the 255 pot.

This is a situation where Hero’s strategy should depend entirely on how he expects his opponent to react. Most likely, the opponent has some sort of marginal made hand, ranging from weak top pairs down to A-Q, or a junky hand he plans to check-fold, such as A-4 or 7-6. If that is the opponent’s range, betting the flop as a semi-bluff, looking to continue betting on most turns and rivers, is ideal because it will force most players to fold almost their entire range by the river. If the opponent’s range is all marginal made hands and perhaps some slow played premium hands, like J-J, then checking makes more sense because bluffing three times into a reasonably strong range is a recipe for disaster.

The opponent called.

When the opponent calls, it is somewhat safe to assume he has some sort of marginal made hand, since most players check-raise their best hands. That said, do not fool yourself into assuming your thoughts about your opponent’s strategy are undeniably accurate. Don’t be egotistical.

The turn was the (JT5)-7 , giving Hero the straight. Both players checked.

I do not like Hero’s check at all. Hero told me that he thought his opponent had mostly marginal made hands, which I completely agree with, but he thought many of them would fold to a turn bet. I generally disagree because few people will fold hands like J-8 or K-T to a medium-sized bet. I would have bet 300 into the 505 pot, expecting to get called almost every time. When you have the nuts, you usually want to bet in order to build the pot so you can make a large bet on the river. Checking makes it difficult for you to achieve that goal.

The river was the (JT57)2. The opponent bet 80 into the 505 pot and Hero raised to 350.

I think Hero’s raise size is great. It is not too large, so he can count on many decent made hands to at least consider calling.

The opponent pushed all-in for about 940 total. Obviously, Hero called and beat J-T, an oddly played top two pair.

The opponent’s river play is horrendous. Once his small lead is raised, he has an easy call. When he pushes all-in after making the creative small lead and getting raised, you can be certain that Hero is only going to call off with a premium hand, all of which beat top two pair. This is a classic example of vastly overvaluing a strong, but non-nut hand that costs many amateur players their bankrolls in the long run.