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A Big-Blind Hand - A middle-limit hold'em hand played well

by Jim Brier |  Published: Aug 09, 2005


This was a ninehanded $40-$80 limit hold'em game at Wynn Las Vegas. I was in the big blind with the A Q. The game was unusually passive, playing more like a $15-$30 game. I was not familiar with any of the players, but some of them were limping in with weak hands. Both the under-the-gun (UTG) player and the small blind seemed to be typical of the players in this game.

The UTG limped in and it was folded to the small blind, who called. There were three small bets in the pot.

Question No. 1: What would you do?

Answer No. 1: You must raise. Your hand figures to be the best, especially when one of the players is the small blind and was already partially in and might well be playing virtually any two cards. Make your opponents pay to take a flop. You should be raising with even weaker holdings, such as K-Q. Against a passive field like the one described, you might raise in this situation with Q-J, since you will get paid off if you hit top pair and you might bet them out of the hand even when you don't connect with the flop. With J-10 or weaker, you should not raise. You could easily be third best, and it is too easy to make a pair but have overcards flop, making the hand difficult to play.

I raised and both opponents called. There were six small bets in the pot. The flop came 9 6 2, leaving me with overcards. The small blind checked.

Question No. 2: What now?

Answer No. 2: Bet. This flop missed you completely, but it may have missed your opponents, as well. Against two passive players, a bet could win the pot outright. Even if you eliminate just one opponent, that alone could significantly improve your winning chances. If the flop was more coordinated, like 9-8-7, or was single-suited in spades or clubs, it would be wrong to bet out, since it is too easy for someone to have connected with it. With a 9-8-7flop, these loose players will call with any 10, 9, 8, 7, or 6. One of them might even call with a jack or a 5. With a single-suited flop, they will call with any card in that suit. The point is that you would have little chance of winning the pot outright by betting. Since one opponent has already checked, you may get a free card, giving you a more accurate feel for where you stand.

I bet and both opponents called. The turn card was the 2. The small blind checked. There were four and a half big bets in the pot.

Question No. 3: What is your action?

Answer No. 3: Bet again. The bottom flop card pairing does not figure to have helped anyone. Although your opponents are loose, they may fold on the turn because the bet has doubled and they may be concerned that you have an overpair. If you get raised, you can fold, since you easily could be drawing dead. To digress, occasionally with overcards, you pick up some kind of a draw on the turn, such as a straight draw or a flush draw. When this happens, you have additional outs, and the combined probability of either your opponents folding or you making the best hand on the river is quite high, which means that betting out is very important. On the other hand, if you are playing in a tough game with tricky opponents who will raise on the turn with all kinds of hands, you might consider checking even when you pick up a draw since you don't want to be pushed off the best hand. It strictly depends on who your opponents are and how they play. But in this particular game, your two opponents have not shown themselves to be tough or tricky but merely loose and passive.

I bet and only the UTG called. There were 6.5 big bets in the pot. The river card was the 4.

Question No. 4: What is your play?

Answer No. 4: You should check. You have a very strong non-pair hand (only A-K is better) and may induce a bluff bet from a busted draw. If you bet, your opponent will not fold a pair when a blank shows up on the river, given that he chose to call your bet on the turn. Someone with a worse hand is certainly not going to call. This is the classic "a better hand won't fold and a worse hand won't call" situation, so betting is totally pointless.

I checked, and my opponent bet. There were seven and a half big bets in the pot.

Question No. 5: Now what?

Answer No. 5: Call. You are probably beat, but you have to catch your opponent bluffing only one time in seven to make money in this situation. He easily could have been hanging around on a club-flush draw that didn't get there, and has decided to launch a bluff since he does not have a hand to show down. Trying to get a loose, passive player off a better hand by raising would be silly. He is simply not astute enough to make good folds on the river.I won, as my opponent showed the 8 7.

My opponent's play was poor. Preflop, it is not a good idea to limp in from under the gun with a suited connector like 8-7. The game would have to be extremely loose and passive to make this play right. In a low-limit game (preferably with a reduced blind structure), where you know you will have four or more players taking a flop and where preflop raises are rare, you could justify limping in with this hand from this position. But you cannot do it in a $40-$80 game, even one as passive as this one. My opponent picked up a great flop for his hand. He had both a flush draw (nine outs) and an open-end straight draw (six more outs). He was about even money to make a straight or a flush by the river. In this particular case, he had even more outs by pairing one of his cards. He should have played much more aggressively. He could have raised the flop bet and then led out on the turn. This would have made it very difficult for me to stay around. He could have raised my turn bet when the board paired, making it impossible for me to continue playing. Finally, his bet on the river was simply throwing money away. How could someone who raises from the big blind and proceeds to bet every street suddenly fold when the river gets bet after a blank arrives? It simply won't happen.

With the recent explosion in poker, I see lots of new players arriving at the tables who play this way. They play too loosely preflop and are too passive post-flop. These are two of the many reasons the games have become so profitable, even at the higher limits.

Jim Brier has co-authored a book with Bob Ciaffone titled Middle Limit Holdem Poker. It is available through