One pair, even a pair of aces, can quickly become very weak after the flop. Even the strongest pair is still ONLY ONE PAIR. Top pair with top kicker is ONLY ONE PAIR. An overpair to the board is ONLY ONE PAIR.
What beats one pair? Glad you asked…
“Gee KKingDavid, that’s quite a lot of possibilities that are better than one pair.”
On Sunday I was playing in a live tournament with about 45+ players. Thanks to a suckout on a hand I played rather badly (by going against my read on another player), followed by some decent play, I had slightly more than double the starting stack.
On level 6 of the blinds, I got TT while in the big blind. I have about 35 big blinds left in my stack, one of the largest (possibly THE largest) stacks at my table, and well above the chip average.
The player to my immediate left was a young, new guy. Prior to the beginning of the tournament he politely introduced himself and said this was his first time playing at this venue. For several orbits he was very tight, passive and appeared not to have much confidence about his play. Since then he has opened up a bit and accumulated a pretty good stack, about 30 big blinds, while showing down very few times.
The blinds just went up. He attempts to open for 2.5 BBs, based on the previous level. His raise is actually too small for even a min-raise at this level, so he adds a couple extra chips to make a minimum raise. Everyone folds to me in the BB, and I call.
Perhaps I should have raised here, but I have great respect for UTG raises, no matter the player. I’d like to see the flop and evaluate.
Flop (4.5 BBs): Qh 4c 3d
Only one overcard. I decide to donk bet (i.e., lead out into the pre-flop aggressor) and hope to take down the pot if he whiffed. I bet 2.5 BBs. Villain: “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming.” He squirms visibly, tanks a bit and finally calls.
His range is narrowed a bit now, but still includes:
Overpairs: AA and KK (6 combos each)
Monster: QQ (3 combos – if his squirming was an act of deception)
Pairs below QQ: JJ-77 (6 combos each)
Unpaired overcards: AK (16 combos)
Top pair: AQ, KQ (16 combos each)
What else could call here? (NOTE: Not doing this at the table, only now after the fact.)
I think I can push him off this pot. He has a big enough stack to lay down here and still comfortably continue.
Turn (9.5 BBs): Jh Another heart. JJ gets there. I decide to fire another barrel. Now I’m basically turning my TT into a bluff, unless he has AK or a pair lower than mine. What am I representing? Given the very dry flop, about the only bluffs I can effectively represent are 44, 33 and QJ. I bet 7 BB’s.
I don’t think his hand reading skills are likely to be good enough to put me on one of these specific bluffs, but I do think the pressure is building, the pot is getting too big for a one-pair type of hand – his most likely holding, and surely I’ll fire a third barrel on the river if I have a really big hand.
He squirms some more. He counts out the chips to call, holds them, and looks over his remaining stack. He tanks again and looks ill.
Then he calls again. If he had either of the monster hands (QQ or JJ), surely he would re-raise here. Nope, his anxiety is real.
He would fold AK, KQ, 99, 88, 77 here. His remaining range must be AA, KK and AQ.
River (23.5 BBs): 9h. While this fills certain straights and flushes and makes the board more scary looking, it really changes nothing. My actions are not consistent with a straight or flush draw. Nor are his. Nor his remaining range, which is quite narrow.
I take a very long time to decide, alternating between waving the white flag with a check and putting him all in. He has about 18 BBs left and I have about 23 BBs left. Surely I am behind. Can I make him fold? Will he call and put his tournament on the line with only one pair? Can he interpret my actions as a small set?
I shove all-in.
He looks likes he’s going to pee in his pants, starts to call, then fold, then … (tick tock, tick tock) … he calls and turns over AQ off suit.
Several other players comment on his amazing call, and note they would have folded with the same cards in the same situation.
On the very next hand, I get sent to the rail.