I was recently told about a no-limit hold’em poker hand that illustrates a key concept you must master if you want to succeed at the game. In a $1/$2 cash game, someone raised to $7 from early position out of his $200 effective stack and our Hero called on the button with 3-3.
I like Hero’s call with a small pair. When he flops a set, he will have the best hand essentially every time and when he misses, he can easily fold to a bet. It is also nice that the initial raiser is from early position, meaning he should have a strong hand that can pay Hero off when he makes a set.
The big blind called as well. The flop came, giving Hero bottom set. The big blind checked and the initial raiser bet $10 into the $22 pot. Hero decided to call.
Hero told me that he wanted to trap the bettor, as well as the player in the big blind. While calling certainly increases the chance of trapping someone, it also allows both opponents to cheaply see the turn, which is not ideal when there are many draws available. In this spot, it is somewhat likely that either opponent has some sort of draw that raising would price out. Also notice that if one of the opponents happens to have a strong made hand, like A-K or K-Q, Hero really wants to get money in the pot immediately before the turn brings a scary card that forces the opponent to play cautiously.
The big blind called as well. The turn was the ()- . Both opponents checked to Hero, who bet $40 out of his $183 stack into the $52 pot. The big blind check-raised all-in for $143 more. The initial raiser folded.
At this point, Hero is almost certainly against either a premium made hand or a draw. While I do not think Hero can fold (because he beats K-Q, K-9, Q-9, and the draws), he certainly does not love this situation because he could easily be against the straight. Even then though, Hero has 10 outs to improve to a full house.
Hero thought for a while before calling. He lost to his opponent’s J-T when the river did not pair the board. The initial raiser claimed he folded A-K.
On the flop, if Hero simply raised (as he should do with his best made hands and draws in almost all situations) he would have played a big pot as a huge favorite against A-K. Instead, he allowed the big blind to see a cheap turn card with his marginal draw, instead resulting in Hero losing his entire stack.