T♥9♥ on the Button, what do you do here?
DECISION POINT: Eight-handed in a live $1-2 game a Middle Position player raises to $12 and it folds to the Cutoff who calls. You are on the Button with 9♥T♥ and action is on you. What do you do here?
PRO ANSWER: We are playing in a $1-2 cash game and dealt Th9h on the Button. It folds to MP1 who raises to $12. In lower stakes games it is very common to see 5-6x the big blind (or more) as a standard opening raise to thin the field.
Theoretically players should be using this larger preflop sizing with narrower ranges than they would in games with a smaller opening raise size. The risk vs reward on raising $12 when there are $3 of blinds in the middle is a lot different than raising to $6 with $3 of blinds in the middle. However, any of us who have frequented a live low stakes game can agree that the ranges you see from players raising this larger size preflop aren't always so narrow.
It folds around to the Cutoff who calls and then action is on us. Ten-Nine suited on the Button is a solid hand in a multiway pot, however the problem here is the effective stacks are relatively short. If we call the pot will be at least $39 (assuming no one else calls and minus the rake) and the effective stack on the flop will be $154. That is a stack to pot ratio (SPR) of less than 4:1.
Our hand favors higher SPR scenarios because going to the flop we’re going to completely miss 47% of the time, pickup a draw with 8 outs of more 18% of the time, and hit a strong made hand (2 pair or better) around 6% of the time. The other 29% of the time we’re going to flop a one-pair hand which often won’t be top pair. In this spot with marginal 1-pair hands we have to carefully navigate to showdown, as stacks are shallow enough we will potentially be under pressure to get all-in by the river without a whole lot of action.
Calling off too much of your stack with speculative hands in situations where the standard raise size is quite large and the stacks are relatively shallow is one of the biggest leaks in lower stakes cash games. It doesn’t seem like a huge leak because you lose $12 here and there and when you do finally hit a hand you win a bigger pot. However, without more chips behind to play for you can’t make up for all the times you miss and you slowly bleed your bankroll away when you do eventually hit a big hand.
There are certain circumstances where you can deviate and call preflop in this spot with significant opponent specific information. Often calling will be viable against very passive fit or fold players you can often win the pot against postflop, or against super loose players who will stack off to you every time you hit a big made hand. However, without specific reads on very poor players calling preflop is a long term losing play.
Folding is the best play.
How would you play it?
Share your answer in the comments below!
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