I was recently told about a close situation by one of my students that I think is particularly educational. With blinds at 75/150, the action folded to a straightforward player who limped from the hijack seat. My student raised to 550 out of his 28,000 stack with. A splashy calling station called in the big blind and the initial limper folded.
I think my student’s raise to 550 is perfectly fine, although he may opt to make it a bit more, perhaps 650, given the stacks are deep and most players in small stakes tournaments tend to call preflop raises with a wide range of junk and then play straightforwardly after the flop. It is never bad to bloat the pot against a likely weak range, and picking up the pot preflop is a perfectly acceptable result.
The flop came The calling station checked, my student bet 800 into the 1,325 pot with top pair, and the calling station called.
I tend to bet a bit larger on the flop with my value hands when facing a calling station. This is because most calling stations will call any “reasonable” amount with any hand they deem to be playable. While this adjustment in bet sizing is easy to exploit if my opponent knows what I am doing, unless I play with the same players on a regular basis, they will usually be oblivious to this subtle adjustment.
The turn was the () . The calling station bet 1,100 into the 2,925 pot and my student called.
This is an interesting spot because most calling stations are usually quite passive. When a normally passive player takes an aggressive line, alarm bells should go off in your head. However, since the calling station bet so small, I would assume that he does not have a straight. This should lead my student to raise to about 3,000 with the intention of folding if the calling station reraises. Of course, the assumption that the small bet size indicates a marginal made hand could be completely wrong. As you become less certain about your read, you should look to avoid opening yourself up to being exploited, meaning my student should consider calling. While I would often raise in this spot, calling is also acceptable.
The river was the () . Both players checked and my student won with top two pair.
While you should rarely value bet when any Ace or 9 makes a straight, this situation is ideal to make a small value bet against the most extreme calling stations who will call with many one pair or two pair hand. Since it is safe to assume that the calling station does not have an Ace (because he would bet it), my student only has to worry about a 9. While the calling station could certainly have a 9, a larger percentage of his range is one pair and two pair hands. This should lead my student to make a small value bet of about 1,500 into the 5,125 pot.
If my student raised the turn and the river brought the 4-straight, he should certainly check behind, because then, the calling station’s range would contain many more straights that are looking to check-raise for value. By raising the turn, my student would have extracted a bit more value. While winning an extra 2,000 chips on the turn may not seem too important, in close situations, if you extract more value from your opponents than they extract from you, you will beat them for a nice amount of money in the long run.