Poker Quiz! J♠T♠ in Middle Position, What Do You Do Here?

JT in Middle Position-optimzd

DECISION POINT: You are dealt J♠T♠ in the middle stages of a large field poker Tournament with blinds at 400/800 and a 800 big blind ante. Action folds to you in the MP2 seat and you raise to 2,000, the Small Blind and Big Blind call. Your opponents check the A♣Q♣5♦ flop, you c-bet 3,000, and only the Small Blind calls. On the 5♣ turn your opponent checks and action is on you.

What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are in the middle stages of a large field poker tournament. The blinds are 400/800 with an 800 big blind ante. The two players first to act fold and we are dealt JsTs in MP2.

Our standard opening hand range in Middle Position includes all suited broadway combos so our suited JT is good for a raise here first-in. Once we get to this stage in the tournament after the big blind ante has been introduced and most stacks are below 50 big blinds we can start to decrease the standard opening raise size.

In later stages sizing as small a minimum raise can be acceptable, however in this case we raise to 2.5BBs or 2,000 chips. Action folds to the Blinds who both call.

The Big Blind is getting an excellent price to call, so it is reasonable to assume a wide calling range. In the case of the Small Blind, this calling range should be much more narrow. They should be reraising with strong hands and mostly calling with a narrow hand range that includes several medium strength combos including 88-JJ and AJ/AT as well as suited broadway hands, but none of the bigger hands like AQ+/QQ+. A calling range with these characteristics is often referred to as a condensed range.

The flop is AcQc5d and the Blinds check. We did flop some equity with an inside straight draw here, but most importantly we have a huge range advantage. Our opponents should very rarely show up with premium hands like AA/QQ/AQ here, and they can have the occasional 55/A5s. With all the strong combinations in our range this is a great spot for a continuation bet. There are multiple players in the pot and a flop that favors our range. Large c-bet sizing is not required, as our opponents will likely act based on absolute hand strength in this situation and are unlikely to continue with a wide range of hands from out of position. We elect to continuation bet 3,000 into the 6,800 pot and only the Small Blind calls.

Continued below...

The Small Blind’s calling range can still contain 55 but also AJo/ATo, plus some smaller suited aces such as A9s/A8s at a lower frequency. Flush draws and several Qx combos as well as KJs/KTs/JTs are also part of this range, although we block some of the KJs/JTs combos. The turn is the 5c and the Small Blind checks.

It would be easy for us to give up in this spot. The Small Blind’s range does contain some flushes, however if we really dig deep into this range it also contains some Ax and Qx combos with weak kickers that are now counterfeited. In addition, since most of their Qx combos are likely to include spades and the Qc is on the board, the remaining possible combos of Qx hands in the Small Blind’s range are less likely to contain a club.

Recognizing this condensed range is very important as the 5c a good card for us to bluff against all their non-flush hands. Most of the Ax in SB’s range are just hoping to chop at this point and the Qx combos are now reduced to bluff catchers. Some of the AJ/AT combos in the Small Blind's range contain the Jc/Tc with some frequency (not in this specific case given our hand) and the ones that don’t will have a harder time calling.

While our opponent does sometimes have a flush here and we feel foolish when they jam on us with their big hands, our range has AA/QQ/AQ and flush combos as well. This means this particular card will be just as scary for the Small Blind, if not more so, than it is for our range on the turn.

This is a great spot to fire a second bullet as a bluff. A bet size of half pot puts plenty of pressure on our opponent and creates additional leverage through the threat of an appropriately sized all-in river shove.

Betting half pot (6,400) is the best play.

How would you play it?
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