NOTE: This entry was originally posted on a different site on December 30, 2016 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.
A couple nights ago I was playing at a private house game, when this hand came up.
In a middle position, I get Td 9d, nice-looking suited connectors. A player in front of me had straddled for double the big blind. I call, hoping to see a relatively cheap flop.
There is one other caller, plus the Big Blind calls, and the straddler checks. So far, so good.
The flop is 8d 7h 5d. I have the top of an open-ended straight draw, a flush draw, and two over cards. While the absolute strength of my hand at this point is only Ten-high, it has huge drawing power. Even against a hand like 9-6, which would have flopped the nuts, I would have 52% equity in the pot. That’s right, a favorite against the nuts.
On the other hand, against Ad 7d, which would give someone a nut flush draw and middle pair, my equity drops to 35%. Still respectable… Against Ad 6d, adding a straight draw to the NFD, my equity drops even further to 27.5%, primarily because a non-diamond 9 no longer improves my hand to a winner. Against 88 flopping top set, my equity is 40%.
Although it is possible that one of my opponents has a hand as strong as 96, Ad7d, Ad6d, or 88, these are very specific combinations. My equity against these hands, blended in with my equity against all of the worse options I might be facing, makes this a spot where I’m perfectly happy to get it all in right now. At this game, the house allows the players to “run it” twice or three times by mutual agreement, which would be likely given my knowledge of the other players. With that backup plan, I can apply maximum pressure.
The checks to the straddler. For purposes of this blog I’ll call him “John.” John is generally a somewhat loose, passive player. For example, when this game started there were only four players. John bought in for only 50 big blinds, then immediately posted a straddle on the button. This effectively reduces his stack to 25x the straddle. It’s like he has heard that straddling on the button is good, but doesn’t really understand why nor understand the value of having a larger stack-to-pot (“SPR”) ratio. He rarely raises when straddling and no one else raises. On another hand with still only four players, he called a pre-flop raise with QQ but did not re-raise.
Back to our hand. With 8 or 9 big blinds in the pot, John bets 7 BBs. He typically doesn’t lead out like this with a drawing hand, so most of his range is going to be one pair. I decide to attack, and raise to 25 BBs. That should get his attention. At the start of this hand, I had about 125 BBs in my stack. John appears to have about the same.
The next player folds, then the big blind ponders for a moment and looks very much like he wants to raise. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rick.” Instead of raising, Rick calls. Rick is a much more aggressive player than John; in fact his bluffing frequency is higher than anyone else at the table. He also respects my game (I’m classically TAG) and knows I’ll continue aggression when I have a strong hand, so his call here looks super strong to me.
Back to our hand again. Rick’s call both surprises and scares me. Did he flop a straight and now he wants to see if he can keep John in the hand by just calling? Does he have a higher flush draw, counterfeiting many of my outs? Is he setting a trap for me to walk right into? When a player as aggressive as Rick check-calls a post-flop raise, knowing the original better (i.e., John) has the option of re-raising, this suggests that he likes his hand. A lot.
John folds. Now Rick and I are heads up.
The turn is Kh, putting 2 hearts on the board. Having missed all of my outs, my equity is essentially cut in half. Rick checks.
The pot is bloated now, with about 66 BBs, and I have ten-high. If I want to try to get him to fold a somewhat strong hand, like 2-pair, it’s going to take quite a large bet and leave me pot-committed if he check-raises all-in. I’m less enthusiastic now, with only one card to come. As a general rule, it is usually a good idea to check back in position when you don’t have a clear plan for handling a check-raise. I don’t like bet-folding here, nor do I like bet-calling. He’s offered me a free card, so I decide to take it and check.
The river card is 3c, missing all of my outs again. I still have just ten-high.
Rick checks again. His faces looks slightly pained, like perhaps he has a bigger flush draw than mine and missed. Or… he’s giving off a reverse tell – which I consider him capable of doing – having read my turn check as indicative of my range including lots of flush draws and figuring the best way for him to get value from me is by bluff-catching.
With two flush draws and a straight draw after the turn – 8d 7h 5d – Kh – surely I would bet for value again if I had a 2-pair or better hand. Doesn’t my turn check look more like I’m on a draw (which would be true) and taking the free card?
I’m having trouble narrowing Rick’s range here. What do you think it is?
One axiom of poker says that in order to bluff, my range should not be too polarized (i.e., only very strong hands or bluffs). What does my range look like here? Should I turn my Ten-high nothing-at-all busted combo-draw hand into a bluff here? If so, how much should I bet?
Please leave replies in comments, and check back in a few days for the spoiler.