8♣8♦ Facing a Preflop Raise, what do you do here?

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DECISION POINT:
At a loose table in a live $5-5 game an Early Position player limps and it folds to the Cutoff who raises to $25. The Button folds and action is on you in the Small Blind with 8♣8♦. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: In a $5-5 cash game we are dealt pocket eights in the Small Blind. We have observed that this is a very loose table with a lot of preflop calling. UTG limps for $5, it folds to the Cutoff who raises to $25 and action is on us.

It can be useful to view preflop poker like a multiple choice test where the choices are folding, calling, or raising. If we can eliminate one of those choices we are much more likely to make a correct decision. Let's evaluate calling as an option first. If we can rule calling out then we know we should raise or fold. If we can call profitably then we know we shouldn’t fold, although we can still raise if we think doing so is more profitable.

The first question to ask when using the preflop speculative calling criteria is “do we have a speculative hand?". A speculative hand includes any pocket pair, suited connectors such as T9s, suited one gappers such as T8s, suited two gappers such as T7s, or a suited aces such as A5s. In this case we have pocket eights which is a speculative hand.

The second question we should ask is "is the pot multiway?". In this case we are not yet multiway, but given our read of the table being quite loose and passive we have a reasonable expectation that one of the two remaining players will call. We shouldn’t usually anticipate actions that our opponents will take, however pocket pairs are the strongest of the speculative hands and are often very profitable preflop calls. This is because they can make sets on the flop, whereas the other speculative hands flop draws or two pair hands more often. Given that we can likely anticipate one or more calls, it is reasonable for us to answer this question a “yes”.

Continued below…

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The final question on the speculative preflop calling checklist is “does the call represent 5% or less of the effective stack?”. In this spot we have to call $20 more, so as long as there is at least $400 remaining in the effective stacks it is 5% or less and the answer there is definitely “yes”.

If we evaluate calling under the speculative calling criteria, calling will definitely be profitable here. Knowing we can call tells us we shouldn’t be folding here, however what if raising is MORE profitable?

This is a loose/passive game with lots of preflop calling plus we also have a late position player raising an early position limp. While this isn’t necessarily an extremely narrow range, if the Cutoff player should recognize their raise will often get called and should therefore be raising a reasonably narrow range. A range composed of hands like 88+/ATo+/KQ+ is appropriate. The Cutoff may raise a few more broadway combinations or pocket pairs and call sometimes with ATs/AJs however this range should be in the general ballpark.

Our pocket eights are not significantly ahead of that range. If we knew Cutoff was raising any pair and any two broadway along with some suited connectors we could make a case for reraising them here, but as it stands it is really tough to make a compelling case that raising is more profitable than calling. Given all of that this is an excellent spot for us to call speculatively.

Calling is the best play.

How would you play it?
Share your answer in the comments below!


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