Flopped Middle Pair with 9♠4♠, what do you do here?
DECISION POINT: In a Multi-Table Tournament with 500/1,000 blinds action folds around to the Button who raises to 2,500. The Small Blind folds and you call from the Big Blind with 9♠4♠. You check the J♠9♣7♥ flop and the Button bets 5,000. Action is on you, what do you do here?
PRO ANSWER: In a Multi-Table Tournament with a 1BB ante and 50BB effective stacks it folds around to the Button who raises to 2.5BBs. The Small Blind folds and action is on us in the Big Blind with 9♠4♠. Our hand is not a great starting hand however when we are getting such good compelling pot odds (there are 5BBs in the pot and we only have to call 1.5BBs) we only really need slightly less than 25% equity to make calling here profitable.
Against a wide Button opening range many hands will meet the criteria for big blind defense by calling. We can’t call with 100% of hands because even though hands like 32o probably have the necessary equity versus a wide range to continue, realizing that equity out of position becomes very tough since we rarely flop hands better than bottom pair. Suited hands play much better because they often flop backdoor draws that can be played aggressively as bluffs in addition to making legitimate hands. We call the small raise and see the flop.
The flop is J♠9♣7♥ and we flop middle pair and a backdoor flush draw on a coordinated board. These types of boards do tend to connect with our calling range quite well, although the Button’s opening range contains many hands that also connect with this board. Out of position as the caller in the Big Blind, we should default to checking to the preflop raiser as a part of our defense strategy unless we have of opponent specific information.. We do check and our opponent bets 5BB into the 6.5BB pot.
Our opponent’s large bet sizing is somewhat common for this type of coordinated board. Given how well this board connects with our calling range we would not expect a continuation bet 100% of the time here but when they do this sizing is to be expected. Villain’s hand range is still quite wide and middle pair is very likely to be the best hand plus we have the backdoor flush draw.
Raising in this spot accomplishes very little because our opponent can then safely fold all the hands that we beat and only continue with hands that beat us. There is some value to folding out equity from hands like AT but not enough to put this hand into our raising range. This is a great spot to go for a controlled showdown versus a very wide range.
Calling is the best play.
How would you play it?
Share your answer in the comments below!
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