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Creative Reasoning

Adding value to your game

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Apr 29, 2011

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Designing inventive positive-expectation plays based on the situation at hand can substantially increase your poker profits. Of course, it has to be the right play in the right situation. To be skillful at creating plays, you need to comprehend poker situations, read hands well, relate to your opponents’ thoughts, and clearly understand the game conceptually.

I limped in from under the gun with the 10♥ 9♥ in a mostly loose-passive $40-$80 limit hold’em game at Bellagio one Saturday night. I play medium suited connectors from up front when I think I can get significant volume and a low entry price. Of course, it’s only a best-guess play, and I had concerns about being raised, particularly by the button, who was the only very loose-aggressive player in the game. But even if the pot was raised, I knew that with so many loose-passive players, I would generally still get a reasonable price on my call.

Four other players called, including Mr. Loose-Aggressive on the button. The small blind raised, the big blind called, and so did the rest of the field. We took the flop off seven-handed for $80 each, making the pot $560.

The flop came 10♣ 7♥ 6♣, giving me top pair with a weak kicker, a three-flush, and a gutshot draw. The small blind checked, as did the big blind. I was unsure if my hand was good, but I bet, not wanting to give a free card with a potentially vulnerable hand. I also didn’t mind gambling with my holding, because few hands were significant favorites over mine. Two players called, the cutoff raised, and Mr. Loose-Aggressive three-bet. The blinds both folded, I called the additional two bets, one caller folded, and the other two players called.

The turn card was the 3♥, giving me a four-flush in addition to my top pair and gutshot. I checked, as did the rest of the field to Mr. Loose-Aggressive on the button, who fired. I mulled over what my opponents’ hand ranges were and how they would play under various circumstances. The hand range of the caller behind me was wide, but I believed that he was either drawing or weak. I thought Mr. Cutoff likely held a 10, with a club draw also in his range. Mr. Loose-Aggressive’s hand range was extensive. He could hold a flush draw, and various holdings that beat mine, including hands like 10-6, as he would play those hands suited. Also, he might hold a hand like 8-7 or 9-6, which contains a pair and a gutshot. All in all, there were some hands in Mr. Loose-Aggressive’s range that he would bet and my tens with a 9 kicker could currently beat, although most would likely beat my holding.

There was also the issue of Mr. Cutoff, the other flop raiser; he likely had my hand beat. And what about the other caller in the pot? My thoughts revolved around whether or not Mr. Cutoff would call a double turn bet if he held only a 10? Was Mr. Other Caller going to call two bets with a weak made hand? I thought not, in both cases, although I knew that either one would call with a legitimate draw.

Even if Mr. Loose-Aggressive had me beat, I still had a bunch of outs. Plus, I was calling one bet anyway, so the expectation-cost loss of a raise if called by a better hand was minimal. And raising would have huge value if I managed to get an opponent to fold a better hand and Mr. Loose-Aggressive held an inferior hand to mine. There was also advertising value with the play. Executing such plays makes me more difficult to read and frustrates my opponents, both of which would have value in future hands. I raised, hoping to fold both opponents behind me. The initial caller folded, Mr. Cutoff cold-called, and Mr. Loose-Aggressive also called.

I was thinking of a card, and swish, nothing but net! The 5♥ hit on the river, filling my flush. I fired a wager, and Mr. Cutoff folded, showing the A♣ as he did so, leading me to the conclusion that he held the nut-flush draw. Mr. Loose-Aggressive called, and gave me a disgusted look and shook his head as he mucked his hand after seeing mine.

“You’re just a river rat,” another player stated to me as I was dragging in the chips. I smiled inside, knowing that I was getting full advertising value from the play.

Since the pot was large and it cost me only one extra bet — a bet that I would win the times I improved to having the best hand — my turn raise had to earn me the pot only a very small percentage of the time to make it the correct play.

These types of plays can add a lot of value to your game if applied correctly to certain situations. Think through your opponents’ possible hand ranges, and decide how they are likely to react to various actions from you. Then, analyze whether or not the risk is worth the reward. It’s a mentally challenging exercise at first, but over time, your mind will be trained to do it subconsciously.

And best of all, your opponents won’t figure out what you’re doing. You’ll appear foolish and lucky, which will create additional profitable opportunities for you. And while you’re stacking their chips, don’t ever tell them otherwise! ♠

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 RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You also may find him on Facebook.