A♠J♠ from the Big Blind, what do you do here?

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DECISION POINT:
In a $2-5 cash game an Early Position player raises to $15 and it folds to you in the Big Blind. You reraise to $60 with A♠J♠ and UTG calls. You bet $30 on the 3♣8♥J♥ flop and get called. The turn is 7♠, you bet $90, and UTG calls. You check the 9♠ river and Villain goes all-in for $320. Action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are playing in a $2-5 cash game with a $500 effective stack. We are dealt AsJs in the Big Blind. The UTG player (who is a good, tough player) makes it $15 and everyone else folds.

A tough early position cash game player will be opening wide enough to include most pairs, some suited broadway hands as well as some small suited aces. To combat that as part of a mixed GTO strategy, we should be reraising with A9s-AQs as well as A4s-A6s around 25% of the time. Calling here would be standard and is likely better versus weaker competition that is more passive. We should call here most of the time however using spades as our randomizer we chose to 3-bet to $60 and the UTG player called.

The flop is 3c8hJh and we hit top pair. This is a somewhat tricky spot for us. When our opponent just calls preflop after raising in early position getting reraised 4x by us in the Big Blind their range narrows significantly. However we flopped top pair/top kicker with a stack to pot ratio (SPR) of under 4, which is a very strong hand for this situation.

Our opponent likely would have reraised AA/KK and at least some combinations of QQ preflop. We hold one of the jacks so it’s difficult for them to have JJ. Pocket 8s are one of the few hands that are likely to be ahead of us here. We are out of position and much of the rest of their range at this point is hands like AQ/AK as well as TT/99 that we are unlikely to get a lot of value from if we bet. They are drawing toward two or three outs, which argues for playing the hand more passively on the flop for value.

Continued below...

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The flip side of that is that our opponents have many more suited broadway type hands in their range than we do, so flush draws become more likely and our hand benefits from protection. There is a lot of merit to both betting and checking here (and plugging this into a solver the EV of both decisions is VERY close) but ultimately we opt to bet $30. Our opponent is unlikely to fold a flush draw to this bet but we do get some value out of TT/99 type hands and we potentially set up a larger turn bet as well. Sometimes even AK/AQ will call us, especially the club combinations.

Our opponent does call and the turn is the 7s. We are in a similar dilemma on the turn as hands like TT/99 have now improved to an inside straight draw, but realistically this card doesn’t change either range all that much. Having opted to bet the flop we continue on the turn with a bet to $90 which now makes calling with potential flush draws from our opponent worse as they aren’t getting direct pot odds to continue.

They do elect to call and the river is the 9s. Now some of the hands we were potentially targeting for value in TT/99 got there but all the flush draws didn’t. Our opponent’s range should be extremely polarized at this point. If we decide to bet again our opponent is just very likely to fold all the hands we beat and call with all the hands that beat us so betting here serves little purpose.

We do decide to check and our opponent moves all-in! We are getting better than 2:1 odds so we need our opponent to be bluffing here around 30% of the time to make calling break even. We do “unblock” hearts meaning that with no hearts in our hand it does become slightly more likely our opponent has hearts in their hand.

Plugging this into a solver, the results are actually MUCH closer than you might expect when initially looking at it, but there just aren’t quite enough bluffs in our opponent’s range to justify calling here.

Folding is the best play.

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


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