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Betting – Lateral Thinking

by Daragh Thomas |  Published: Jul 01, 2009


I played a hand recently that I felt was interesting. On one hand it was an almost unique situation, but on the other it illustrates two key concepts that are relevant every time you make a bet.

There were four players in this hand; myself (voluntarily put into pot — 21/preflop raise — 17), the button (20/15), under the gun (29/17) and the small blind (61/17). Both myself and the button are reasonable “TAGs”. The button is quite passive for a TAG. Both under the gun, and the small blind, are very bad players. The 29/17 is worse than his stats suggest. We are playing a six-max no-limit hold’em cash game online. The stack sizes are all around $100.

Under the gun starts the hand by raising to $3.50, I call from the cutoff with Jc 10c. The button then makes it $12 to go. The small blind cold calls the $12, then under the gun calls the extra $8.50. I don’t like calling off nearly 1/10th of my stack with J-10 suited, but considering the price I’m getting and the implied odds it’s a must call. So it’s four of us to the flop, which is an interesting Js 5s 2c. I have flopped top pair and a back door flush draw.

Before we go further there is an important statistic I haven’t revealed yet. Whenever you get three-bet (or you want to see what a three-bet means) you should take a look at someone’s three-bet statistic. Assuming you have a good sample size, this figure is very informative. A three-bet statistic of 1-3 is very low, and means a player is pretty much only three-betting very good hands, Q-Q or better. The button who three-bet in this instance had a statistic of four, which means he is pretty tight when it comes to three-betting, and is rarely if ever light three-betting. Some aggressive TAGs three-bet stat would be as high as 10 or 11. (6-8 is more common).

So given how strong a range he has, I have to be very reluctant to think that my top pair is good on this board. So when the two loose players check to me I check as well. If I am ahead here giving a free card isn’t ideal, but it is still better than leading out. At this stage I am just planning on folding to a bet from the button, as his low three-bet statistic and a continuity bet into three other players would convince me I did not have the best hand.

06-07 SA Hand
The button makes a continuation bet of $20. The small blind and under the gun then both smooth call the $20. This leaves me in a strange situation, I’m still pretty sure I don’t have the best hand; but I’m getting a great price to try and hit a jack or a ten. I’m not very worried about being dominated (by a hand like A-J or a set). If either of the two loose players had a jack in their hand they would probably move all in on the flop, and I don’t think the tight player is likely to have any set here, bar a very unlikely J-J. (It’s very unlikely because there is only one combination left, given that I have a jack in my hand and there is one on the board.) The two bad players may well be slow-playing a set, but their range for calling on the flop is so wide that it’s not a major concern.

The turn is the 4c, giving me a flush draw. Both of the loose players check to me. Suddenly, I have a real decision. The pot is $129, and the TAG has $70 left. If I was to check to him, I would have to call his bet. I have about 30 percent equity against aces, depending on their suits. At this stage my read is that he has an overpair, and both of the loose players have either draws, or weak pairs. I also knew that the TAG would have a good amount of respect for my play, we had played over 1,000 hands together. So there was no real decision, I bet $100; I thought that this would elicit a fold from the TAG. I thought this because he has to know that I realise he has an overpair, and I also knew that it was very unlikely either of the two loose players had me beat, but that they would probably call anyway.

Once I bet $100 the TAG started to think. Luckily for me he mucked after about 15-20 seconds. I don’t mind his fold that much, my range is going to be pretty strong in a spot like this. The only weakness in my line is that I would never cold call the flop with a strong hand since I was closing the action. That said there was some strong hands that I could have made on the turn, like a straight or two pair. The small blind folded, and under the gun then called with A-5. The river was a blank and my hand held.

Two of the most basic objectives you should have when planning a bet are: 1) to get a worse hand to call, or 2) to get a better hand to fold. The beauty of this hand was that I could do both with one bet!

The only disappointing thing about this hand was that I didn’t need the backdoor flush draw to make it a profitable play. The flush draw was just an escape hatch, because even if aces call me it’s no disaster at all with regard to equity. But it’s such a perfect situation to squeeze the TAG out, that I’m disappointed with myself because I know I would be unlikely to have considered it had I not picked up the back door flush draw. Spade Suit

Daragh Thomas has made a living from poker over the last three years. He also coaches other players and writes extensively on the poker forum, under the name hectorjelly.