J♠J♣ Facing a Check-Raise, what do you do?
DECISION POINT: Early In a live $2-5 session action folds to the Cutoff who makes it the standard opening raise at this table of $20 and the Small Blind calls. You reraise to $75 from the Big Blind with J♠J♣ and both the Cutoff and SB call. The Small Blind checks the A♥J♥3♥ flop and you bet $75. The Cutoff folds, the SB check-raises to $350, and action is back on you. What do you do here?
PRO ANSWER: We are in a $2-5 cash game with mostly $500 stacks and we are one of a few players who are a bit deeper, starting the hand with $600. It’s fairly early in the session with no significant reads on our opponents yet. We are dealt J♠J♣ in the Big Blind and it folds around to the Cutoff who makes a standard open for this particular $2-5 game to $20. The Button folds and the Small Blind cold calls.
The Cutoff should be opening a wide range of hands here, and when the SB just cold calls they usually have a condensed range that includes hands like small/mid pairs, suited connectors, and both offsuit and suited broadway cards. Our hand is well ahead of both of those ranges so a 3-bet is in order. A typical 3-bet size in this situation would be $80-$100, but inflating the pot too much in this spot could leave us in a very awkward postflop stack to pot ratio (SPR) situation so we elect to go a little smaller at $75 and both opponents call.
The flop is A♥J♥3♥, giving us middle set on this monotone flop. With $225 in the pot and $525 in the effective stack the SPR is just over 2 here, meaning that it will only take a few aggressive actions postflop to get all the money in the middle. The SB checks and action is on us.
Our hand is way too strong here to not bet and benefits a lot from equity denial. Any heart on the turn will outdraw our set so betting here is an absolute must. Typically something around 40% of the pot (in this case, around $100) would be standard but we elect to go a little smaller and bet ⅓ pot, or $75. The Cutoff folds and the Small Blind raises to $350.
When looking at the Small Blind’s range in this spot it is quite unlikely they have AA since they flat called preflop both to the initial raise and the reraise. 33 is well within their range as are Ax hands (including A3s) and also made flushes. Our worst case scenario here is they have a flopped flush. In that case we would have 7 outs to a full house or quads on the turn and 10 outs on the river if we miss the turn. That gives us roughly 34% equity in the pot. If we assume that we will be all-in here with a very high frequency then we would be risking $450 more to win $825 which is very close to break even already.
Our best case scenario is that they have something drawing to 1 out with hand like 33 or are drawing to 2 outs with one of the non-heart combos of A3s where we are overwhelming favorites. The Small Blind could also have a big ace with a heart and be check-raising as a semi-bluff, in which case we’re nearly a 70% favorite.
After taking all these factors into consideration we can rule out folding as an option, so the main debate is between calling and just moving all-in. Calling is preferred in this spot if we are likely to be able to induce bluffs on future streets. On this board it’s very unlikely our opponent has many pure bluffs, just semi-bluffs that are already pot committed and very likely to call an all-in shove anyway.
The downside to just calling is we may very well lose action from a hand if the turn is a heart. Hands in the Small Blinds range such as 33/A3s and that would have gotten all-in on the flop may find a way to not get the rest of the money in by the river on a 4 flush board.
Given our overall range advantage here and the fact that just calling is unlikely to induce future bluffs and may cost us money versus the hands we’re ahead of, it makes a lot of sense to just get the rest of the chips in now.
Moving all-in is the best play.
How would you play it?
Share your answer in the comments below!
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