Poker Strategy -- Jonathan Little Talks About Check-Calling
Little Discusses a Recent Cash-Game Hand
Jonathan Little is known for his huge tournament success, having accumulated more than $4.3 million in winnings, including two World Poker Tour titles. But when he’s not competing in live or online tournaments, he’s working on his deep-stack play by grinding in cash games.
Little sat down with Card Player to discuss an interesting no-limit hold’em hand he played recently at Bellagio.
Game: No-limit hold’em
Review of the Hand:
: A player limps in late position, and Villain raises to $80 from the button. Little reraises to $260 from the small blind with A-10. The big blind and limper fold. Villain calls. The pot is now $560.
Kristy Arnett: What is your read on the Villain?
Jonathan Little: This kid tries to outplay me constantly. Against kids who try to outplay you, you want to try to give them some rope.
KA: When he raises a limper in position and you reraise, are you doing so for value, or are you happy just taking down the pot?
JL: I know the guy is trying to raise the limper off of his hand and just try and pick up the pot. You’re always OK taking down the pot with A-10, but since we were six-handed at this point and the guy was aggressive, I thought my hand could be good. It’s a good hand to reraise with because, in general, if an ace comes you are probably good, and by three-betting preflop, you’ll be able to pick up the pot on a lot of flops. Also, if you do hit something against these kinds of players who try to outplay you, you can bet and they’ll raise, and you can either just call to trap them or go all in to shove them off of whatever they are trying to outplay you with.
KA: Why do you think this kid always tries to outplay you?
JL: Well, I think he views me as a player who doesn’t want to put too much money in post-flop without the nuts, which isn’t really true, but in live cash games it’s hard to have a large sample size against someone, and there have been a couple of hands wherein I’d bet, he’d raise, and I’d just fold. So, because of that, he probably thinks I’m too tight post-flop. Any time someone thinks you are too tight, they are going to go after you.
The flop comes 10-10-2 rainbow. Little bets $360, and Villain raises to $840. Little calls. The pot is now $2,240.
KA: Why did you decide to lead into him?
JL: The thing is, I’ll lead here every time. I’m not really ever checking anything. Although, in reality, I may check hands like big pairs or something like that because I don’t really want to get all in; I just want to use my hand as a bluff-catcher for the most part. But anyway, I’m betting here with a very wide range, and he probably thinks I’m going to be betting almost 100 percent of my hands, because that’s what he knows me to do — continuation-bet a lot. So, when I bet here, it doesn’t really mean anything.
KA: How did you decide on your bet-size?
JL: In big pots, I generally bet two-thirds or three-fourths of the pot, and I think that what I bet is a pretty standard amount. Whenever you are bluffing, you obviously don’t want to put too much money in, and you don’t want to put too little in because it induces your opponents to call. I just wanted to make a normal bet-size, one that I would use if I had A-K or pocket threes, or something like that.
KA: When he reraised you, did you think that he may have a strong hand?
JL: I thought he could have something, but not likely. On a board of 10-10-2, there’s not a lot that he can actually have. He called a reraise preflop, and he could have a hand like 10-9 or J-10, so those are really the only hands he could have with a 10 in them. If he had a pair, he would probably just call here, so no hands really make sense besides a really strong hand or a really weak hand, and he can’t really have a strong hand because I have a 10. Basically, he has to have a weak hand, and that’s why I didn’t reraise him.
The turn is a 2. The board is now 10-10-2-2 rainbow. Little checks, and Villain bets $1,200. Little calls. The pot is now $4,640.
KA: So, you continued with your read on the flop and decided to check here because you thought he was weak?
JL: Yeah, and I’m not really a big fan of checking whenever you have a big hand, but whenever you put your opponent on pretty much nothing, you kind of have to check to let him put more money in the pot.
On a 10-10-2-2, the only hand he can really put more money in with is a 10 and maybe a 2 if I raised him here. When I called here on the turn, I wanted him to think I had maybe nines or jacks, or maybe even aces or kings that I might give up on the river because we had a decent amount of stack left behind after the turn.
The river is a 3. The board reads 10-10-2-2-3. Little checks, and Villain goes all in for $2,500. Little calls and shows A-10 for tens full of twos. Villain mucks. Little wins the pot of $9,640.
JL: He had a good river bet left, and he planned that well, if he was assuming he was going to go ahead and barrel it. He probably thought he could get me off of a hand like jacks. In reality, I would never fold jacks here anyway, because I know he’s trying to outplay me.
KA: So, would you have taken a similar line with pocket jacks, then?
JL: Yeah, this is probably about the way I would go about playing jacks here, because against guys who are trying to outplay you, you can’t really fold big hands like that.
And I checked on the river because he’s either bluffing or, if he’s got a 10 or even a 2, he’s going to bet anyway, since my hand looks like jacks, and he wants to get lots of value out of it. In reality, he shouldn’t ever have a 2 because he called a reraise preflop, unless he has maybe A-2 suited. At first, I remember thinking, “Man, I need to shove to make sure I get it all in.” But then I thought, “Wait a minute. He probably doesn’t have anything.” So, the only way I could get money was to check and let him bet.
You have to think, “What hands would he call off with here?” If he does happen to have a hand like jacks, he might even fold if I shove. Assuming he’s going to show up with a decent range here, even though it’s probably really skewed toward either a really strong hand or a really weak hand, what is he really going to call with here that doesn’t have me beat? The only hand that has me beat is pocket twos. There’s really no point in shoving here, because you’re never going to get called.
Little provides his expert inside on all things poker on his website jonathanlittlesecrets.com and also blogs at www.floattheturn.com.
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