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Two Heads Are Better Than One

by Jeremiah Degreef |  Published: Aug 20, 2010


Game: $30 no-limit hold’em tournament
Opponent: Unknown player
Stacks: Mine: 2,273; His: 9,581 (after the antes)
My Cards: AClub Suit KDiamond Suit
My Position: Under the gun plus one

One situation that many players struggle with is letting go of top pair, top kicker hands. In some situations, it’s fine to put your stack in the middle with A-K on an ace-high flop, but depending on the specific board texture and opponent type, doing so might be overplaying your hand. I can’t recall how many players I saw at the World Series of Poker taking their top pair, top kicker hands too far — and ending up on the rail. For this hand analysis, I’ve asked high-stakes tournament player Jeremiah DeGreef to help me break down a recent top pair, top kicker tournament situation that I faced; let’s see if he agrees or disagrees with my play.

This hand occurred in a $30 online tournament, at the 40-80 level of an early-ante tournament (antes began on hand No. 1). I opened for 225 with 2,273 in chips, and it was folded around to the cutoff, who flat-called my raise with 9,581 in chips. The button and blinds folded, and we took a flop heads up.

Flop: 10Club Suit 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit

Many players’ first inclination here would be to continuation-bet. I was the preflop aggressor, and it seems only natural to continue that aggression on the flop. However, I decided to check.

JD: I like the check, as well. On a 10-7-6 flush-draw board, there are a lot of hands that can call your flop bet; tons of pairs plus draws, top pairs, and so on, and many of those hands aren’t going to fold the flop or the turn, so if you are going to bluff at this board, it’s probably going to take three barrels.

My opponent checked behind.
Turn: 4Diamond Suit

This turn really hasn’t changed much. I still don’t like betting, because I can’t really represent anything (after all, I would have bet the flop with all of my strong hands), and there are still many hands that aren’t going to fold to a turn bet alone. My plan was to check, and fold if he bet.

JD: I also like the decision to check, and it’s not one that a lot of players make. I think one of the mistakes that less experienced players make is fighting for every pot. This is just not a board that connects well with your early-position opening range, and it’s very easy for him to have a hand that can call one if not two bets here.

However, if you check, I actually think an argument can be made for check-calling his bet. It’s unlikely that he’s going to bet a 7 or a 6 here (most players will be content to get those hands to showdown), and there are many draws with which he might delay-bet here. If he bets big, I think you should fold, but if he bets half of the pot or less, I’d consider calling.

I checked, and my opponent once again checked.
River: ASpade Suit

Now that I actually have made a hand, it’s time to value-bet. Given that he has checked twice, it’s possible that he has a hand like A-Q or A-J that will call a decent-size bet, and even if he has a 10 or a 7, I’m guessing that I might get a curiosity call. I bet 485 into a pot of 600.

JD: I like the bet size, and agree with the logic. You’re going to get called here by any ace, and some 10-X and 7-X hands, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bluff-raise when you bet nearly the pot.

After thinking for four or five seconds, my opponent raised to 1,240. At this point, I was quite confused, and wasn’t sure what the best play was.

JD: This is a spot that less experienced players misplay a lot. I think the best play here is to fold. Given your line, your hand looks a lot like an A-J, A-Q, or A-K — and it’s very unlikely that he’s going to try to bluff you off it. He can very easily have two pair with A-6, A-7, or A-10, a flush, 9-8, or a set. Given that you checked two streets, he doesn’t need to be worried about protecting his hand, because very few players check their draws as the preflop raiser.

I know that it’s a natural reaction to see top pair, top kicker and want to automatically call, but all you beat here is a complete bluff. I believe that if your opponent was planning on bluffing this pot, he would have done so on an earlier street. This is a fold, barring a serious read on your opponent, and one that many players fail to make.

After thinking for 15-20 seconds, I decided to fold, figuring that he’d never try to move me off an A-K hand. He took down the pot. Spade Suit