A♥8♥ vs a Small Blind Raise, what do you do here?

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DECISION POINT:
In a $1-2 game action folds to the Small Blind who raises to $12. You call from the Big Blind with A♥8♥. Villain checks the 4♦A♣9♥ flop and action is on you. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: In a $1-2 game we are dealt Ah8h in the Big Blind. It folds around to the Small Blind who raises to $12. While this raise is quite large it is fairly common in lower stakes cash games for raises to be 5-6x the big blind. We should be defending less often against these bigger sizes in general, however A8s is a strong enough hand heads up against a Small Blind’s opening range to continue. There is even some merit to raising here, though this is a hand that plays quite well in position vs a single opponent so we call.

The flop is 4dA9h and our opponent checks to us. This is a very interesting situation. The board heavily favors the preflop raiser’s range. Villain can have hands like AA/AK here and it is very unlikely we have those premium hands in our range because we would have raised with hands that strong preflop.

When a good opponent checks in this situation after showing preflop aggression we can make a few assumptions. The Small Blind may have hit the board so hard that they feel it unlikely to be able to get action from us unless they slowplay. Checking the flop may also indicate some sort of medium strength hand they don’t want to build a huge pot with but has some showdown value such as TT or T9s. Our opponent could also be checking and giving up with some portion of their range too, however many opponents would take at least one stab here on a board that favors their hand range so much.

Continued below...

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We block pocket aces, so it’s highly unlikely (but not impossible) our opponent is slowplaying. Even if they are, there is little we can do to prevent losing some chips in this spot and we have some ability to catch up with our backdoor flush draw. Given these factors it makes sense to really focus on the part of their hand range that we are likely to extract the most value out of in this spot, which is more the medium strength made hands such as TT/T9s.

Against those types of hands we are likely to be able to get one or two streets of value, and only get three streets in instances where our opponent's hand improves. Because we are often limited to two streets of value, it makes a lot of sense to keep our opponent's hand range as wide as possible and encourage them to bluff, call down, or even value bet their second best hands on future streets rather than start building a pot right now.

Though we likely have the best hand right now, taking a more passive line against this particular range is likely to produce a greater profit than betting our hand outright.

Checking is the best play.

How would you play it?
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