This is all about the question that was asked several minutes after the hand was over. In the spirit of “beginning with the end in mind” I’ll go to the question first, then we can ponder that as we review the actual hand history.
A couple more hands had already passed. Out of the blue, “Tim” asks me this: “What would you have done if I had e-raised to $75?” I had trouble coming up with an answer at that moment.
Now let’s back up and see what had happened. We are playing $1/2 no limit Texas Hold’em, at a private house game. I have $167 to start this hand.
3 players limp into the pot. The player in the cutoff seat (immediate right of the button) also limps. For purposes of this post, we’ll call him “Tim,” and notice his stack is larger than mine. The button (we’ll call him “Patrick”) also limps. He is nursing a very short stack, approx. $40-45.
Yours truly is the Small Blind, with A7o. I complete, and the Big Blind checks.
Before the flop is spread out, I announce “check in the dark.” I’m not normally a big fan of doing this, but with this many players in the hand, I like this move. I get to see what everyone else is doing without necessarily revealing any information about the strength of my hand.
Flop ($14): Ah 7c 3c. (Note: my ace is not Ac). I have top 2 pair.
Everyone checks until it gets around to “Tim” and he bets $6. “Patrick” calls on the button. Then I check-raise to $16. My raise is somewhat small, as I want to keep an Ace with weaker kicker in the hand. I’ll be giving flush draws a fair price to see the turn card. If another club comes on the turn, I will have to re-evaluate (especially if “Tim” and “Patrick” are both still in. I’ll lead out with a much larger bet on any safe turn. Everybody folds back to “Tim.”
Looking confident, “Tim” re-raises to $51. (Go back to the top and re-read his question: What would I do if he had raised here to $75 here?) And “Patrick” goes all-in for a little bit less.
WTF? Did somebody wake up with a set of 3’s, or the only remaining combo of 77’s? Is there any worse hand that can pay me off if I come over the top? I have to think through my history with both “Tim” and “Patrick” and how they play certain situations. Here we have an Ace, a flush draw, and a multi-way limped pot. After my check-raise, rather than slowing down, they both mashed the accelerator.
I posted this spot on a 2+2 forum and got wide ranging feedback ranging from “ugly situation” to “easy shove.” I tended to side with the “ugly situation” crowd. Generally my read here is that one or both of them have 2-pair+ or a flush draw. 2-pair+ hands include 77 (only 1 combination is possible, as I have a 7 and one is on the board), 33 (3 combinations), A7 (chopping the pot) and A3 (6 combinations). AA would have raised pre-flop. 73 would have folded. There are lots of combinations of flush draws that can limp pre-flop, although I don’t believe “Tim” is re-raising with most of them. I do believe “Patrick” can call with a flush draw, as now he’s getting decent odds on a draw.
My combinatorics at the table got close enough to this to decide to shove. Now “Tim” went into the tank. The longer he tanks (he finally called), the more obvious it becomes to me that he must have A3, which was exactly right. “Patrick” had a middlin’ flush draw. The turn and river miss all draws and my hand is good.
Now back to the question: What would I have done if “Tim” had raised to $75? I’ve thought about this several times since that night.
The fundamental problem with the question is that “Tim” would never do that. Why would he, given that we now know he had A3? Would he be expecting to get a weaker hand to call? No… weaker hands are going to fold to $75. Flush draws no longer have the odds to chase, Aces with weak kickers will fold. Aces with strong kickers, like AK or AQ, cannot be involved, as someone holding such strength would have raised pre-flop.
Would he be expecting a stronger hand to fold? The only stronger hand that could even consider folding on that flop would be A7, exactly what I had. A flopped set isn’t going to fold. Top 2-pair isn’t likely to fold (although I did consider that option).
Would he be trying to get a weaker hand to fold? Not smart poker. We want to give weaker hands a bad price to call, and then have them call, not fold. That’s how we make money.
And this is why the question was so difficult to answer. Since I already knew his hand, I couldn’t project myself into a situation where a re-raise to $75 made any sense. The only way it might make sense is from a player who would bet extra-aggressively with a strong flush draw (i.e., top pair + flush draw). In that case, I would shove. Such a move would be highly atypical for “Tim” however.
Note to “Tim” — interesting question, but you would never do that!