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Trying to Squeeze Out Extra Equity

Creating maximum potential to earn extra bets

by Roy Cooke |  Published: May 28, 2010


Many players avoid tight games, particularly those who overemphasize hand selection. They find themselves unable to obtain edge over opponents whose hand-selection standards are equal to their own. Edge gained from superior hand selection arises principally from the fact that your opponents are playing hands that are eventually second-best. When that edge is not available, players who rely on hand selection for their edge cannot obtain an advantage.

There are many other edges available in poker beyond hand selection. And while large-pot games can be a lot of fun, tight games can present as many profitable opportunities, with significantly less bankroll risk and stress. In tight games, the profit comes from squeezing extra equity out of situations that your opponents don’t, creating extra edge. The equity from those bets adds up significantly over time, and the money it puts in your wallet is just as green.

Early one afternoon, I was playing in a tight $30-$60 limit hold’em game. I opened the pot with a raise from two off the button with the ASpade Suit AHeart Suit. The button, a tight player with a reasonable degree of poker knowledge, called, and so did the big blind. We took the flop off three-handed.

The flop came 6Club Suit 3Heart Suit 3Diamond Suit, an innocuous-looking board. The big blind checked. I bet, and was called by the button. The big blind folded, and we took the turn heads up. The turn card was the 8Diamond Suit, adding a flush draw to the board.

I pondered; where was I in the hand? What was my opponent’s range of hands?

When he called my preflop raise, I thought he had a good but not great hand; he would have three-bet me preflop if he held a premium pair. That made his likely range either overcards or a small or medium wired pair. Potential straight draws were not within his preflop calling range for two bets. It was possible that he had picked up the diamond draw on the turn. There also was some small chance that he held 8-8, 6-6, or A-3 suited, and had me beat.

I thought about his playing style; he was capable of bluffing. If I checked, he would likely read me as being weak, and perhaps take a stab at the pot.

Whenever I think about a poker play, I define it in risk-versus-reward terms. What am I risking and what can I gain?

Since I held two aces, my opponent was drawing dead if he held overcards, and thin if he had a pocket pair and had missed the flop. I felt that he would bet any pair or semibluff any draw, enabling me to check-raise in any scenario in which he was drawing live. If he would call the raise, it would cost him two bets instead of one to draw. That said, would he call my check-raise with a hand like 7-7?

I thought that since I had played my hand in an unusual manner, I could induce him to pay me off. I wanted at least two bets from those scenarios in which he had only two outs. The fewer outs your opponent has, the greater the value of the volume you get in.

In the scenarios in which my opponent was drawing dead, he might bet as a bluff if I checked. If he took a free card behind me, it wouldn’t cost me equity in the pot, since he was drawing dead. If he caught a card to get involved on the river, that would add equity to my holding.

Checking was the best play against all of his range, except if he had me beat, which was a small portion of his likely range. And if he had me beat, I was going to lose some bets anyway. By checking, I might lose one extra big bet in those spots. I checked, and he checked behind me.

The river was the 10Diamond Suit. A new calculation; bet or check?

I didn’t think he would bluff the river after checking the turn. If he hit the 10, he would bet and I could check-raise, but I didn’t think a 10 was in a large portion of his range. He might call a bet with an ace, as he would have some reason to think it would be good. I had raised from late position, and have been known to try to steal a pot every now and then. But the fact that I held two aces limited his ace-high combinations.

I thought that I could make two bets if he held a 10, and one if he held an ace. In an either-or situation, I thought the 10 was more than a third of his range. None of his other plausible combinations had play value for me. I checked. He checked behind me. I turned my hand over, and he showed me the AClub Suit 9Club Suit with a wry smile, as if he had outfoxed me by checking it down.

Well, he did outfox me in this particular situation. The way that I played the hand, I certainly made the minimum. Playing it as I did, however, I created the maximum potential to earn extra bets, regardless of whether or not that potential was actualized in that situation.

You adjust your betting strategies based on your opponent’s hand range and how that range plays against your holding. That’s relatively straightforward in heads-up situations; the more players you add to the field, the more complicated the analysis becomes.

While this hand did not yield my desired results, my thinking about how my hand played based on my opponent’s hand range was accurate. I played it as best I could, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s all we players can do — play our best. Just keep making the right expectation plays, and over time the chips will come your way. Spade Suit

Longtime poker pro and author Roy Cooke’s Card Player column has appeared since 1992. A successful Las Vegas real estate broker since 1990, his website is Should you wish to inquire regarding real-estate matters — including purchase, sale, or mortgage — his phone number is (702) 396-6575. Roy’s longtime collaborator John Bond’s website is