Category: Poker Hand Scenarios

Approaching the Bubble With A♠A♣, what do you do here?

Approaching the Bubble With AA

DECISION POINT: You are in a multi-table tournament where blinds are 3,000/6,000 with a 6,000 big blind ante. There are 13 players left and 9 places paid. The action folds to you in the Cutoff with A♠A♣ and your raise to 15,000, the Button folds and both the Big Blind and Small Blind call. Your opponents check the Q♦J♥T♣ flop and action is on you. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are in the mid to late stages of a multi-table tournament. There are 13 players left and 9 places are paid with a fairly standard, top heavy payout structure. The blinds are 3,000/6,000 with a 6,000 big blind ante. We are dealt AsAc in the Cutoff six handed and preflop the action folds to us.

At this particular table, smaller raises are frequently being called in multiple spots. Even though making it 12,000 is normally a fairly standard raise in this spot, we decide to raise to 15,000 in the moment and get called by both the Small Blind and Big Blind.

The flop is QdJhTc and both players check. This is a very coordinated board that often connects with the Blinds’ calling ranges. The issue we are facing is that we only have 95,000 chips and the Small Blind only 41,000 chips and there is 51,000 in the pot.

With a stack to pot ratio of less than 2, an overpair to the board, and a potential draw to a straight we have a situation where we really aren’t deep enough to ever fold here. However, our hand is also quite vulnerable to many of the types of hands the Blinds would call with and in some cases we are even behind on this flop.

Continued below ...

If we were much deeper stacked there could be a case for playing this hand a little more cautiously, but at this stack depth we really have to go with our hand and we can still extract a lot of value from KQ/KJ/KT/T9s/Q9s/J9s type hands.

The Blinds are also quite likely to have reraised preflop with AK/QQ/JJ/TT so most of the hands where we are really crushed shouldn’t be in their range,aside from 98s and if they call really loose perhaps some K9s. When we are behind it’s often against two-pair hands where we will have 9 outs on the flop and often when we miss the turn we pick up 3 additional outs to improve to higher two-pair.

Normally we would continuation bet a little on the higher side here to protect our hand but with the Small Blind’s shorter stack we can bet 20,500. If the Small Blind were to shove it technically reopens the betting which would allow us to shove over the top should the Big Blind decide to call.

This sizing adjustment may seem minor, however it avoids the awkward situation of us betting 30,000 and the Small Blind shoving that can entice the Big Blind to call. In that case we would have no option other than to call and then face the additional potential complication of an eight, nine, or some other action killing card coming off on the turn that will make our decision even more difficult.

Bet sizing must be a critical area of focus in order to improve your game, and in this spot the precision of your bet sizing will make a huge difference.

Betting half the Small Blind’s stack is the best play.

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LearnWPT Poker Hands of the Month - Playing Aces

Aces.jpg

Ok, so you know Pocket Aces are the best hand you can be dealt preflop...

BUT do you know:

➟ When to hold 'em?

➟ When to fold 'em?

➟ When to walk away?

➟ When to run?

Practice your decision-making skills with everyone's favorite hand by reviewing this collection of Poker Hand examples featuring the illustrious "pocket rockets":

A♠A♦ on the Turn

In a Cash Game, you raise from Under the Gun with A♠A. It folds around to the Small Blind who calls. The Big Blind folds. The Flop comes K♣26♠. The Small Blind checks, you bet, the Small Blind raises. You call. The Turn is the 9. The Small Blind checks.

🡆 Do you Check or Bet?

AA on the Turn - updated
Poker-Hand-CTA-Check-Bet


A♠A♥ vs a Flop Check-Raise

In this cash game scenario a UTG+2 player calls, you raise from the hijack seat with A♠A, it folds around to UTG+2 who calls your raise. The flop comes 269♠, the UTG+2 player checks, you bet, and UTG+2 check-raises.

🡆Would you fold, call or reraise?

AA vs Flop check-raise - updated
Poker-Hand-CTA-Fold-Call-Reraise


A♦A♥ on the River

In a Tournament, you are dealt AA in an early position and you raise. It folds around to the Big Blind who calls. The Flop comes Q♣Q5♠. The Big Blind checks, you bet, and the Big Blind calls. The Turn is the T. The Big Blind checks and you check behind. The River is the Q♠. The Big Blind checks, you bet, and the Big Blind raises All-In.

🡆What do you do here?

AA on the River - updated
Poker-Hand-CTA-Fold-Call


Trip Aces vs a River Bet

In a Tournament, the UTG player raises preflop, MP2 calls, you call with A♣5♣ and the other players fold. The flop comes AA4♣. UTG and MP2 check and you bet. UTG calls and MP2 folds. The turn is the K. UTG checks, you bet, and UTG calls. The river is the Q♠, and UTG shoves all-in.

🡆Action is on you, what do you do?

Trip Aces vs River Bet - updated
Poker-Hand-CTA-Fold-Call


Set of A♠A♣ vs a Check-Raise

In a Cash Game, UTG+1 calls and so does UTG+2, both Middle Position players, and the Hijack. You are in the Cutoff seat with A♠A♣. You raise and it folds around to MP1 who calls. All other players fold and it’s heads up to the flop, which comes KA7. MP1 checks and you bet. MP1 raises. Facing this raise from MP1, what is your play?

🡆Do you fold, call, raise or go all-in?

AA vs a check-raise - updated
Poker-Hand-CTA-Fold-Call-Raise-All-in


When playing a poker hand, it's very important to look at all the hands in your range and not just the hand you hold. Pocket aces are the strongest hand in the game preflop, however sometimes it’s pretty obvious that your hand is behind postflop and you need to be present and engaged enough to know when you are beat and fold.

Understanding and mastering strategies such as fundamental 1-Pair Betting Lines, Relative Hand Strength Postflop, and Pot Odds, will give you the opportunities to exert skill edge against your opponents and play your aces effectively.

The concept of betting lines is crucial to understanding your overall game plan.

A betting line is the plan of actions taken across multiple streets, the blueprint of how to play various types of hands. If you have good betting lines that you use in your game plan, you shouldn't think street by street or find yourself on the turn without a plan for the hand.

Betting-Lines

With 1-Pair hands, specifically a top pair or an over pair, it's important to know when to continuation bet postflop, up against a single opponent and when to take a cautious approach. If you are just focused on the specific hand you hold and not on the situation, you may end up trying to get three streets of value where it's not profitable and find yourself up against much better hands by the time there's a showdown at the river.

Relative hand strength refers to your hand strength changing based on the situation, so your goal should be to start seeing poker situationally and pay attention to the number of opponents that saw the flop with you.

Number of opponents is key to relative hand strength because the more players that see the flop, the stronger the average hand at showdown. You should also pay attention to how coordinated that flop is, for example how many draws are present, how close together and rank those cards are.

Board texture will influence how likely it is that anybody has hit the flop. It’s also very important to note how position can change from preflop to postflop, where from the blinds for example, you can start the hand as last to act preflop but have to act first after the flop.

Stack depth is another crucial factor that you need to consider in every hand that you play, as the deeper the stacks are, the better hand you need to get all your chips in the middle.

Tying all these concepts together, in every single hand that you play postflop you should pay attention to estimate of opponent hand ranges based on actions taken. Note how your opponents played the hand thus far and what type of hand ranges would you put a reasonable opponent on that took those actions.

Lastly, when deciding whether to continue in a hand it’s essential to look at the Pot odds you are being offered in a hand to determine appropriate risk/reward.

Pot odds refers to how much is already in the pot for you to win versus how much you risk in order to win it, or in other words how much is already in the pot compared to how much you have to call in order to continue in the hand. As a quick reference you can always remember that you are facing a one pot-sized bet, the pot odds are 2 to 1, and if the bet is half-pot sized, your pot odds are 3 to 1.

We hope you enjoy these hands and that the strategies you learn will have you singing instead of crying the next time you are dealt the mighty pocket aces.

🗣️🎶 You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done 🎶

(Sorry we got carried away....)

Keep on practicing!
-LearnWPT

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Poker Quiz! 3♣5♣ Facing a C-Bet, what do you do here?

35-Suited-Facing-a-C-Bet


DECISION POINT:
In a tough Tournament where blinds are 100/200 with a 200 big blind ante it folds to the Cutoff who opens to 500. The Button and Small Blind fold and you call from the Big Blind with 3♣5♣. You check the J♥K♦4♣ flop and your opponent continuation bets 400. Action is back on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are playing in a multi table tournament with blinds at 100/200 and a 200 big blind ante. The effective stacks are 10,000 chips to start and there are several tough opponents at the table. We are dealt 5c3c in the Big Blind and everyone folds to the Cutoff who opens to 500 chips. Both the Button and the Small Blind fold and action is on us.

We don’t have a super strong hand here holding 53s preflop, however there are 1,000 chips in the pot and it costs only 300 more for us to call. We’re getting better than 3:1 immediate pot odds against a player with a very wide opening hand range. While we can fold many of the worst hands in our range here including offsuit combos like T2o, 53s is definitely good enough to continue considering the price. We make the call and it’s off to the flop.

The flop is JhKd4c. In this spot with relatively deep stacks in relation to the pot and both players hand ranges being wide, the Cutoff has a significant advantage by being the in position player. As is preferred when defending your blind by calling, we should be checking them with our entire hand range.

Continued below ...


We check and the Cutoff bets 400 chips. A continuation bet sizing of approximately 1/3rd pot size is common in this scenario and the Cutoff will likely be using this size with a big part of their range. A good approach to countering this strategy of frequent c-betting with a likely wider range is to both do some check-calling to keep their range wide and get to controlled showdowns, and mix in some check-raises.

Our check-raising range should be a mix of some strong hands and some bluffing hands that have backdoor equity to account for the times when we are called. We do have good backdoor equity with 53s holding both a backdoor flush and backdoor straight draw. This board is reasonably coordinated and connects with much of our calling range as well. Taking these factors into consideration, we have a prime opportunity to check-raise and reverse the pressure back onto our opponent.

If we had opponent specific information that the Cutoff in this hand was opening with a much narrower than optimal range preflop, or they c-bet a lower than optimal frequency on the flop our approach would be different. We could make an exploitative fold either preflop or to their standard c-bet sizing on this board texture. However, against good players who will be opening and continuation betting here appropriately, we must mix in some check-raise bluffs to balance and combat their strategy and this is a perfect opportunity.

Raising is the best play.

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J♦J♣ at the Final Table, what do you do here?

JJ-at-Final-Table-3-handed


DECISION POINT:
You are dealt J♦J♣ in the Big Blind at the final table of a mid stakes online tournament with blinds at 5,000/10,000 and only 3 players. The Button folds, the Small Blind raises to 33,750 and you reraise to 100,000. The Small Blind goes all-in and action is back on you. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are at the final table of a mid stakes online tournament with only 3 players left! We have the chip lead with nearly 775,000 chips while the other stacks are approximately 700,000 chips and 311,000 chips respectively.

We have position on the second biggest stack which puts us in a great spot. Since we have the Small Blind covered they are constantly under threat of busting out third before the shorter stack any time they play a pot with us. This gives us tremendous leverage making both floating and 3-betting light preflop great tools to accumulate chips in this spot.

If the Small Blind is adjusting appropriately they should be entering fewer pots with a narrower range in this situation and potentially 4-betting a bit lighter to try and take advantage of our likely wider 3-betting range.

We are dealt pocket jacks in the Big Blind and the Button folds. The Small Blind then raises to 33,750 and action is on us. We’re already in a situation where we are often 3-betting lighter than normal to exploit our chip advantage, so the fact that we have a top 5 starting hand in this spot is a huge bonus. Even though the Small Blind should be opening a bit narrower against us pocket jacks should still be well ahead of their starting range. We 3-bet to 100,000 and the Small Blind shoves all-in.

In situations like this it is often best to start by analyzing the best and worst case scenarios. The worst case scenario here is that our opponent is moving all-in with an extremely narrow range for this situation with hands such as TT+/AK. In that situation, we will be all-in for a slightly over 1.4 million chip pot with 43% equity. This means that on average we will end up with around 677,000 chips (the 73,000 we have Small Blind covered by plus 43% of the 1.4 million chip pot).

Continued below...

$5 Join Strategy Episodes

Folding in this spot leaves us with 673,000 chips, so even in the worst case scenario we end up with a positive expectation of around 4,000 chips. This doesn’t tell the whole story because chips we win in tournaments are often worth less than chips we lose due to the way tournament payout structures work. In reality if we used ICM calculations here there is probably a slight real dollar loss. Doing these calculations in our head at the table would be quite difficult however we can estimate our equity is somewhere between 40-45% vs a narrow range with dead money in the pot.

Our best case scenario is that the Small Blind recognizes we are 3-betting light and their value 4-betting range goes up to something like 66+/AQ+ with some suited Ace-wheel cards. We’ll say A5s and A4s for our estimate. In that case our equity increases to a 58% favorite with dead money in the pot which is a tremendous situation for us.

So the best case scenario here is quite good and the worst case scenario isn’t all that bad as even when we lose we have over 7BBs to try and rebuild our stack. If we had some sort of specific read that we could just walk all over these two players with complete impunity and gain chips with relative ease we could make a case for passing this spot up and continuing to chip up without a big all-in confrontation. Absent that specific information however, this is just too good a spot for us to pass up.

Calling is the correct play.

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Facing a Raise with A♥A♠, what do you do here?

Facing-a-Raise-with-AA-optmzd.gif


DECISION POINT:
In a $2-5 cash game with 100BB stacks the Button opens to $15 and you raise to $60 from the Big Blind with A♥A♠. The Button calls and the flop comes 8♠A♣Q♥. You bet $30 and Villain raises to $130. Action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are dealt A♥A♠ in the Big Blind in a 100BB deep cash game. Action folds to the Button who makes a standard raise to $15 and we reraise to $60. The Button calls and we’re off to see the flop.

We hit the flop hard with top set on the 8♠A♣Q♥ board. With $122 in the pot and $440 effective stack, there is some potential consideration for slow playing. If we take a closer look at this flop and how it interacts with both ranges we'll see that it interacts with the Button’s range somewhat frequently. This spot is really close.

If we use a solver and choose 3 possible actions of checking, betting $30, and betting $90, betting $30 is preferred 54% of the time and checking is preferred 46% of the time. If the flop is slightly less coordinated, checking will become favored at a higher frequency.

Adding hands like top set and top two pair that block a significant portion of our opponent’s big hands into our checking range can help protect the times we want to check in a similar spot with hands such as pocket tens. We elect to bet $30 in this instance and our opponent raises to $130.

This is a spot where many players lose patience and are tempted to just go all-in, especially given they have the best possible hand at the moment and their opponent is raised. Defaulting to all-in in these spots leaves a lot of potential money on the table. Opponents who are aggressive will be raising with some bluffs, and when we just go all-in here we let all those hands off the hook.

Continued below...

Ask a Pro Static - 300x250.png

Sometimes our opponent does have draws in their range and if we just call some of those draws may get there when they would have otherwise folded to our raise. However those instances make up a very small overall percentage of their range. Even if the opponent is raising with a hand like JTs has 8 outs that could hit on the turn, we still have 10 outs to a full house (or quads) on the river.

Good opponents will usually just call here with JTs because they often have to fold if they get shoved on. As the in position player the opponent has a ton of float equity when they miss, meaning it is more likely against solid opponents that they are raising here with around 4 outs at best when they have draws.

Unlike our flop decisions, the recommended actions by the solver are not even close and calling here is by far the best play. When our opponent has a huge hand like 88/A8s we usually get all the chips no matter what, so keeping bluffs in their range here allows us to maximize our overall profit versus their entire range.

Calling is the best play.

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Poker Quiz! A♣K♣ in a Multiway Flop, what do you do here?

AK-in-a-Multiway-Flop


DECISION POINT:
In the middle stages of a Tournament with 150/300 blinds and a 30 ante, the MP2 player raises to 660 and you reraise to 1,950 with A♣K♣ from the Hijack. The Cutoff and Button both fold, the Small Blind calls, the Big Blind folds and the original raiser in MP2 calls. The flop comes 3♥5♠5♥ and the Small Blind and MP2 player check. Action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are playing the middle stages of a multi-table tournament with 150/300 blinds with a 30 ante at a 6 handed table. We are dealt A♣K♣ in the Hijack seat. The first player to act raises to 660 and action is on us.

If the standard raise size at this table is this small MP2 should be opening a fairly wide range of hands given this risk vs reward on their raise. With this raise size you’re risking 660 to win 600 when you open. So even without one of the best five starting hands in poker we should be 3-betting here wider than we would if the blinds were 50/100 with an opening raise to 300.

AKs is extremely strong in this spot and it is far ahead of MP2’s opening range, so we elect to reraise to 1,950. Action folds to the Small Blind who flat calls. The Big Blind folds, the original raiser calls and we’re off to the flop.

The flop is 3♥5♠5♥ and both players check to us. This flop is better for our range than our opponents as no one is likely to have a 5 in their hand and we should have all the bigger over pairs that aren’t likely to be in our opponent’s range. That being said there are a couple of factors really working against us here.

Continued below ...


First, the Small Blind is representing a very narrow, condensed range when they cold call the preflop 3-bet here. This means that while they are unlikely to have AA/KK here, the Small Blind's range is often narrowed to something like TT-QQ/AK/AQs as they called a raise and a reraise without closing the action. Since we block many of their AK/AQs hands the Small Blind is very likely to have a significant overpair in this spot.

Second, the stack to pot ratio (SPR) here is around 2. This means even if we make a relatively small continuation bet like 2,100 and get called by a single player the pot will be 10,500 on the turn with an effective stack of 10,150. We are unlikely to be able to leverage our stack into generating folds against hands like TT that are in Villain’s range.

If the stacks were much deeper and we could use our stack to apply leverage vs hands like TT/JJ in this spot then a continuation bet along with a multi-street bluff on certain runouts would make a lot of sense. However, with a relatively low SPR, against multiple opponents with narrow ranges that are unlikely to both fold this flop a continuation bet, a c-bet is unlikely to accomplish much other than moving more of our chips into one of our opponent’s stacks.

This is a very sharp contrast from the AK hand discussed a few weeks ago, where we had AK in the Small Blind vs a single opponent in a 3-bet pot with much deeper stacks and much wider ranges where we continuation bet on a similar flop.

Checking is the best play.

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Chip Leader with K♠T♦, what do you do here?

Chip Leader with KT-optmzd.gif


DECISION POINT:
You are in the money and the table chip leader in a multi-table Tournament where blinds are 5,000/10,000 with a 10,000 big blind ante. It folds to you on the Button with K♠T♦ and action is on you. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are playing a tournament where we just got in the money and we are the table chip leader with 1.6 million chips (160 big blinds) at 5,000/10,000 blinds with a 10,000 big blind ante. We are dealt KsTd on the Button and it folds around to us.

We are now in a very interesting tournament spot that can come up quite often, especially if we have a decent stack and there are a lot of players left in the tournament who have what is referred to as "reshove stacks". A Reshove stack is between 15-20 big blinds. The best move for players with this stack size is to look for spots where opponents have a wide opening hand range and then shove all-in over the top when the opponent raises first into the pot. This move is used to induce a fold and leverage their stack to pick up chips.

In this spot, we are on the Button with a hand that we would normally raise first-in with. The potential problem here is if we open, our opponents have great stacks to reshove with. If an opponent reshoves we will be in a very precarious spot because against aggressive players they will likely have hands like JTs and A4s here in their range of which we either dominate or have great equity against. However, we don’t really want to play a 30+ big blind pot with these hands.

Traditional poker logic often says that with and against reshove stacks we shouldn’t raise any hands we wouldn’t call a shove with, but that logic is flawed. If we only raise hands we will call with then we miss out on a lot of opportunities to utilize our big stack here to accumulate chips. We do have another option though.

Continued below...

Vanessa $5 v2.png


Against players who resteal aggressively with these stacks (which is often appropriate) we can also move all-in. At first glance it may seems like a large overbet.

However, sometimes when we hold certain hands that we may have to call versus a shove we actually reduce our overall variance by just shoving first. This way we make them fold some hands with which they may have shoved against a small open-raise.

Our opponents will still call with the hands that dominate us, but they would have shoved with those hands anyway, and we may have had to call those shoves.

Against more passive players who don’t reshove appropriately, making a minimum raise and folding here is definitely the superior play. When facing players who are capable of reshoving a very wide range in this spot, open-shoving into these two stacks is slightly higher EV and lower variance than both raise/folding and raise/calling.

Moving all-in is the best play.

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9♠9♣ on the Bubble, what do you do here?

99 on Bubble - new - optmzd.gif


DECISION POINT:
You are seven-handed on the Tournament bubble with blinds at 5,000/10,000 and no ante. It folds to the Cutoff who goes all-in for 115,000 and both the Button and Small Blind fold. Action is on you in the Big Blind with 9♠9♣, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are seven-handed on the exact bubble of a smaller multi-table tournament. The payout structure is $980 for first and $130 for sixth with a fairly standard escalating structure in between. The blinds are currently 5,000/10,000 with no ante and we are dealt pocket nines in the Big Blind. It folds around to the Cutoff who shoves all in for 115,000 chips. All other opponents fold and action is on us.

At first glance having pocket nines with 4 big blinds behind seems like a very standard call. However, looking around the table there are 4 other players with 4BBs or less which puts tremendous ICM pressure on us.

If we were to fold here it is highly likely we make the money but very unlikely we face a situation where we have this much of a chip equity edge again. Folding in this spot sacrifices what is likely one of our best chances to build a stack much more capable of a top finish.

Continued below...

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When we run this spot in a computer simulation assuming optimal play from all players, we find that the Cutoff should be shoving 100% of hands in this spot with these stacks. The ICM pressure on the three remaining shorter stacks is very strong meaning a vast majority of the time the Cutoff just wins the money in the middle.

This same computer simulation suggests our calling range should consist of 66+ A8s+ ATo+ KTs+. In the real world you will run into many players who won’t shove 100% of hands in the Cutoff’s position and against this player type your calling range is likely to start shrinking very fast depending on how narrow their shoving range becomes.

If the Cutoff were only shoving 50-60% of hands then pocket nines could easily become a fold, that’s how powerful the ICM pressure is in this spot. Assuming our opponent is able to recognize the situation at hand, they should be shoving more than enough hands to make this too good of a spot to pass up even if some percentage of the time we bust out on the bubble.

Calling is the best play.

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5♣5♦ on the Flop, what do you do here?

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DECISION POINT: In a Tournament where blinds are 500/1,000 with a 1,000 Big Blind Ante the Under the Gun player folds and you raise to 2,500 from Early Position with 5♣5♦. The Button is the only caller. The flop comes 9♦8♥T♣ and action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are playing the middle stages of a tournament with a 50BB effective stack size and a 1BB big blind ante. It is folded to us UTG+1 and we raise to 2,500 with pocket fives. This is a fairly standard open at an unknown table given these stack sizes. Action folds around to the Button who flat calls. The Blinds fold and we’re off to the flop.

The flop is 9d8hTc and action is on us. One of the first things we want to analyze on the flop is who has the range advantage and who has the nut advantage. In this spot our opening range is slightly narrower than the Button and includes more overpairs. That said, the Button's range can include 76s and it is very unlikely that our range does.

Our opponent may reraise with pocket tens preflop, however they still have slightly more nutted hands than we do. While we have a slight range advantage, our opponent likely has a slight nut advantage on this particular board.

Continued below...

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Next we want to evaluate if our hand would benefit from equity denial. While we could potentially get a hand like pocket sixes to fold here, we benefit most by getting folds from hands in our opponent’s range that contain overcards and at least a gutshot draw such as hands like KJs/AQs.

Against good players we are unlikely to get these hands to fold with just a single bet. Aside from a five or perhaps an ace we can represent on the turn, there are very few good cards for us to turn barrel here.

Since we are out of position and at a slight nut disadvantage, we are unlikely to get folds through aggression and deny equity to the overcard plus gutshot combos in our opponent's range. We are also unlikely to be able to fire again on many of the turn cards with any degree of confidence, so this is a spot where we can just check.

Against an opponent who plays extremely fit or fold or would call with a much wider range than is standard preflop, we could make a case for a different line. It feels bad to open in early position and then just check the flop, however this is one of the spots where doing so against a tough player makes sense.

Checking is the best play.

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Q♣Q♥ From the Cutoff, what do you do here?

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DECISION POINT:
You are in a 100 BB deep cash game against tough opponents. The action folds to you in the Cutoff with Q♣Q♥ and you raise to 3 big blinds. The Button and Small Blind both fold and the Big Blind calls. Your opponent checks the K♠8♣J♠ flop and action is on you. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: This hand comes from the WPT GTO Trainer and involves a cash game scenario where we are 100 BBs deep and it folds to us in the Cutoff with pocket queens. We raise to 3 BBs and it is folds to the Big Blind who flat calls and we’re off to the flop.

The flop is Ks8cJs and the Big Blind checks to us. Since this is a GTO opponent (all opponents in the WPT GTO trainer play game theory optimal ”perfect” poker) we know that they will be appropriately defending against what is a very wide Cutoff opening hand range.

One of the first questions we want to ask when deciding if we should bet the flop with a made hand is “how many streets of value is our hand worth?” In this particular case even with us opening a wide hand range and our opponent defending with a very wide range, if money goes into the pot on all three streets it is very unlikely that second pair to the board is the best hand.

Another question we want to ask is “does our hand benefit from equity denial here?”. While there are some obvious draws on this board, we are unlikely to fold out any flush draws and we block all the straight draws with our queens even if we choose to bet.

Continued below...

We would potentially fold out some ace high hands that could improve on the turn, however in this spot a GTO opponent may continue with even ace high. In this situation our particular holding doesn’t benefit much from equity denial and it is not strong enough to bet, so we really don’t want to start building a huge pot.

This hand is an excellent candidate to balance our checking range and induce some value from hands like Jx or 98s or even induce bluffs from a GTO opponent. Keep in mind that against some “real world” opponents who are either very loose/passive or extremely fit or fold postflop, taking a more exploitative line here by betting the flop may be more profitable than checking.

However, against a GTO tough opponent though who may be capable of check-raising us with a variety of bluffs and backdoor draws, checking here to keep the pot small and get to a controlled showdown versus a wide range is the most profitable play.

Checking is the best play.

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