Do You Have a Big Pocket Pair?

pocket aces at Bellagio

The flop was T65 with no flush draws, giving me a set of fives. At the start of the hand, I had $670 in my stack. This was a $2/5 game, at the Bellagio during my recent Las Vegas trip.

The villain looks like a Midwestern farm boy come to Vegas to see the rodeo and play cards.  He was a well-fed 30-ish and wearing a seed company logo hat and a plaid shirt with two pockets on the front, each with a snap-shut flap. His stack was much larger, after winning a couple of big pots. In one, I noted that he played his KK super-aggressively post-flop, getting all-in on the turn and holding up.

If he has another big pocket pair, I’m going to try to double my stack. Problem is, I’m the small blind and have to act first. There’s $45 in the pot right now, after his raise to $20, my call, and the big blind. Everyone else has folded.

It’s my turn. Bet or check? Check with the intent of calling or raising? How much? I’d like to just ask him, “Excuse me there young fella, can I ask you a question? Do you have a really big pocket pair?” With an honest answer, deciding on a betting strategy would be much easier. I need information. Check-raising on this flop might let him know he’s in deep trouble.

He doesn’t seem overly sophisticated as a poker player, but not a total drooler either. Since most players would check to the raiser after flopping a set, I decide to… bet! That might elicit the response I’m looking for. If he folds, I’ll know he doesn’t have any part of this flop and I’m not going to get paid much anyway; maybe a single continuation bet at most. I bet $30, and he confidently raises to $110.

Communicating with absolute clarity without speaking or writing is such a beautiful thing. The invisible language of poker players might seem mysterious or dangerous to others, but I quite like it. I’ve asked and he’s answered, “Yes sir, I do have a big pocket pair.”

I take some time to ponder his raise. After calling I’ll have $540 left. Should I re-raise now, or wait? Mostly I just want to convey some doubt. I make the call, then announce “check in the dark.” This means I’m checking on the turn card without waiting to see what arrives.

It’s the 7, which puts two hearts on the board. This is a fantastic card for me. Assuming he has a hand like AA/KK/QQ, he will definitely bet again, because he thinks he has the best hand and to protect against the growing number of possible draws. The board is starting to look scary, with a flush draw to go along with the 765. He bets $145.

Now the pot is $410. After I call the $145, it will be $555 and I’ll have $395 remaining, so raising all-in is less than a pot-sized raise. If I don’t pull the trigger now, an action killing card (any , any 9 or 8) might come on the river. There are several hands I can have that just improved to a pair plus flush and/or straight draw, such as AT, KTQTJTT9, or T8

After I announce “ALL-IN” he looks a bit confused. But he didn’t come all the way to Vegas to get pushed around by some skinny, nitty, middle-aged guy and after the dealer counts my chips and gives him the total, he shrugs his shoulders and says “CALL.”

Bless his heart! As I scoop up the nearly $1,350 pot, he’s asking no one in particular if the Bellagio has any kind of Aces Cracked promotion.


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