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Combining Values

Blend expectations to determine your best play

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Oct 15, 2010


Roy CookeWhen analyzing a poker situation, decide which poker concepts apply and then blend their expectations to determine your best play. Consider all plausible scenarios to come up with a fairly accurate approximation of your total expectation. By constantly thinking in these terms, you’ll expand your ability to read how hands will play out and will have a more accurate assessment of various plays’ values. You then will be able to create positive-expectation plays that many of your opponents will not even comprehend. In addition, the confusion that you create in your opponents’ minds will increase your future action.

It was late on a Saturday night, and I was stuck to the gills in a loose $30-$60 limit hold’em game at Bellagio. I had been card-dead preflop most of the night and had played few hands, missing the flop in most of the hands that I did play. In short, I had been doing a lot of folding, dribbling my chips into the abyss. In those card-dead situations, your opponents tend to read you for being tighter than you actually are. And when you know how your opponents will read you, it creates opportunities to make creative plays based on their misreads.

I picked up the ASpade Suit KSpade Suit under the gun. Wanting to play a volume pot, I limped in, hoping to get both several callers and, with a bit of luck, a raise so that I could reraise. A very weak-tight player to my immediate left raised, one player called, as did the big blind, a very loose-aggressive player. I reraised, and they all called. We took the flop four-handed for $90 each, and $380 was in the pot.

The flop was a swing and a miss for me, 8Heart Suit 3Spade Suit 2Heart Suit. The loose-aggressive player led into the pot from the big blind. Mr. Loose-Aggressive’s potential hand range was wide. He check-raised only when he held a monster. His tendencies were such that he would lead with any pair and with any draw that he would call a bet. I was in a difficult spot. With a spade on the flop, I had a three-flush, two overcards, and a reasonable possibility of having the bettor beat if he was betting a draw. But I also had two players yet to act behind me, and both of their hand ranges included wired pairs. Mr. Weak-Tight’s likelihood of holding a medium-sized pair was high, and so was the probability of him raising if I flat-called. When you are likely to get raised, you must tighten up on your marginal calls. A raise greatly reduces the price that you are receiving from the pot. Plus, you may get trapped between raisers, forcing you to either call multiple bets or fold without seeing a card. So, your call could become a dead bet.

That said, there was $410 in the pot, and I wanted those chips in my stack. I thought about different ways that the hand might play out. Mr. Weak-Tight prided himself on being able to lay down a big hand, and the other caller would have put in more action preflop if he had a big wired pair. I thought that with the combination of my extremely tight image and the fact that I had trapped and three-bet preflop, a raise might cause Mr. Weak-Tight to lay down a wired pair, even a fairly big one. The other caller would be in a tough position to call a double bet. Also, Mr. Loose-Aggressive was fearful of me, and slowed down his aggression whenever I showed strength and would likely give me a free card. The combination of possibly getting a better hand to fold, possibly catching a free card (or two) to win the hand, and possibly having the bettor beat made raising the right play. So, I raised Mr. Loose-Aggressive’s post-flop wager.

Mr. Weak-Tight thought for a while, and tossed his hand into the muck, as did the other preflop caller. Mr. Loose-Aggressive flat-called. So far, so good.

The turn card was the 10Club Suit. Mr. Loose-Aggressive checked, and I took a free card behind him. The river brought the 3Club Suit, and Mr. Loose-Aggressive fired a wager. The way that this pot had been played, I thought that he would think I had A-K and not call a bet without a pair. I was getting $560-$60 that he was betting a busted draw, and he was the type of player to bet any pot in which he smelled weakness and thought that he might win with a bluff. I called the $60, and he turned over the AClub Suit 5Heart Suit. He had flopped a gutshot and bet, and then tried to bluff the river. I turned over my ASpade Suit KSpade Suit, and the dealer pushed me the pot. Mr. Weak-Tight looked at me as if he wanted to kill me. I’m pretty sure that he folded the winner.

This hand speaks to reading your opponents well and combining the values of plausible scenarios to design a creative play. I understand that the hand didn’t necessarily have to play out that way, and I was fortunate to win the pot, but the price that the pot was laying me made my play correct. If Mr. Loose-Aggressive wouldn’t lead with all of his draws and Mr. Weak-Tight wouldn’t fold a medium pair, I couldn’t even have made a correct call on the flop. But by thinking the situation through, I created positive expectation for myself, and even won the pot. I also confused and irritated Mr. Weak-Tight, and for the rest of the night, he called virtually every situation when we were in a pot together.

When you are faced with a decision, think about how the hand will play, who is likely to raise, how big the pot might get, and the many other variables. Train your mind to think in these terms and eventually it will come naturally for you, which will improve your poker game immensely. ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas real-estate broker/salesman in 1989. Should you wish to get any information about real-estate matters — including purchase, sale, or mortgage — his office number is (702) 396-6575, and his e-mail address is His website is You also may find him on Facebook.