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Smoking Out a Queen

Executing an information raise

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Jul 04, 2007


The first event of the World Series of Poker this year was a new one, $5,000 buy-in half no-limit/half limit hold'em, and my first table could have been better. Phil Ivey was on my left, Johnny Chan was on my right, and several other winning players were at the table.

After a few early rounds, I hadn't had much of anything worth playing, yet found myself even in chips. With the blinds at · $100-$200 during the no-limit portion, an interesting hand came up:

Mark Stubbs, an excellent player from Toronto whom I've known ever since I started playing poker, limped in from under the gun. Right behind him, Melissa Hayden also limped in. Then, Johnny Chan limped in from the button, so four of us took the flop after I checked my option in the big blind, holding Q-2.

The flop came Q Q3 , and I decided to check to see what developed. With $900 in the pot, "Stubsy" bet $500 and Melissa quickly called. To my surprise, Johnny also called. It was back to me, and a whole slew of things were crossing my mind as far as ways to play the hand are concerned.

With a bet and two calls, it's very likely that I'm not the only one with trips in this spot. Yet, folding for $500 with a pot containing $2,400 out there seemed awfully weak. Now, if I called the bet, all of the players in the hand would just have to know that I had at least a queen, if not Q-3 or 3-3.

After much deliberation, I finally came up with an idea that would help me figure out who else was holding a queen, while at the same time not committing myself to the hand with trip queens and a terrible kicker.

I check-raised the minimum, making it a total of $1,000. Now, if Stubbs were to call me, I would know for sure that he held the other queen, or maybe 3-3. Stubbs folded, and now it was up to Melissa. Once again, if she called or reraised me, I could rest assured that I was in big trouble. After all, not only would she have to deal with my hand, but she also had Chan behind her. She folded.

Now, it was back to Chan on the button. I'd already gotten past two players, but I fully expected a call or a reraise from Chan; surely he must have the other queen, in which case I'd be dead to a split or a long-shot hope of catching a deuce.

Chan folded, and I took the pot down without any resistance. I was a little shocked, actually, as at first I couldn't figure out why
Chan would overcall on the flop without having trips? Then, I figured it out: Chan is that good. He must have sensed that Stubbs and Melissa didn't have a queen, and was planning on stealing the pot on the turn or river. Then when I stepped in, he realized that I had to have a queen and it was now too risky for him to make a play at the pot.

As it turned out, the play that I made was an excellent information bet that also protected me against losing the pot on the turn. Stubbs later told the table that he had 8-8, and I imagine that Melissia had a pair, as well. If an 8 hit the turn, it would be well-disguised, and not only could cost me the pot, but some extra chips, as well, if I decided that I didn't believe him.

The other added value of my raise size is that (a) it looks as though I want customers, and (b) when I run into a player with a better hand, I save money by raising the minimum rather than making a big raise.

Now, I've never been a fan of information bets or raises,
especially in no-limit hold'em, as the play is costly, but in this situation, it seemed like a rather advanced play with little or no downside. Well, I shouldn't say no downside, because if I just call and snap off a deuce on the turn, I can potentially win a monster pot against A-Q or 3-3. The chances of that happening are remote, though, and besides, my opponent may not reraise me on the flop, so I still might have a chance to catch that miracle deuce.