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Gutted by an Attorney!

Q-Q vs. K-9

by Roy Cooke |  Published: May 06, 2011


Roy CookePart of the beauty of poker is that many very smart people think their intelligence alone will make them great poker players. While intelligence is unquestionably a significant factor, other factors such as knowledge, competitive skills, discipline, and emotional control also play huge roles in someone becoming a good player, and even more is needed to become a great one. That said, the fact that poker draws such a talented crowd is a big part of what makes it so interesting, both socially and financially.

I was in the small blind in a generally loose-passive $40-$80 limit hold’em game at Bellagio. Several players had limped in, and the button, New York lawyer extraordinaire Steve Schlesinger, limped in out of turn with K-9 offsuit. The player to his right then raised, and Schlesinger called, despite now having the right to withdraw his initial call.

Now, K-9 offsuit is one of my least favorite hands with which to call a raise. It plays very badly against A-A, and particularly poorly in opposition to K-K and A-K. And it doesn’t play well if someone has a king with a better kicker. Against A-K, among other things, you not only are outkicked when you flop a king, but should you make a straight, you are drawing to three cards for a chop. While those three hands are generally a small portion of most opponents’ raising range, the fact that K-9 plays so badly against them makes it an overall loser in most spots. The significant expectation that’s lost when facing those hands is almost impossible to make up when your hand plays well.

I looked down to see the Q♠ Q♣, and I three-bet. The big blind folded, and the rest of the field called. We took the flop six-handed, which is not my favorite number of opponents for two queens. It’s hard to win unimproved against that many opponents. Of course, I’ve been in much worse situations.

But a good flop can easily renovate any situation! It came Q♥ 10♠ 4♥, giving me top set. I fired into the pot, and nobody folded. Only God knows what they all could have had.
The turn card was the J♣, putting a three-straight on the board, which Schlesinger had just filled, unbeknownst to me. I fired once again, two players called, and Schlesinger raised.

I considered Schlesinger’s range of hands. I knew that he might have a straight, but if he did, it wasn’t the nut straight, as he wouldn’t have limped in with A-K from the button preflop. It was highly unlikely that he had a set. He would have raised preflop with jacks or tens, and I felt that he would have raised me on the flop with a set of fours.

I pondered what he might think I held. He is a thinking player, so he might put me on two aces or two kings, and might have made two pair and raised. I thought about reraising. He would have to consider that A-K was a highly likely hand, thereby stifling a reraise if he held a straight. Since the pot was large, I thought reraising might provide great value for me if he was raising with two pair and I forced a straight draw behind me to fold. Plus, I would charge any players with draws more if they chose to call. And even if I was beat, I still had 10 outs, and the lost expectation couldn’t be too great. I thought the blended value of all of the scenarios made raising the right play.

I hit it again, one caller folded, another called the two bets cold, and Schlesinger flat-called.

The river was a blank, the 5♠. I thought my hand was an underdog to be good, as Schlesinger’s most likely holding was a straight. I needed to consider how my hand would play, and not act based just on the probability that my hand was good. If I checked, Schlesinger would likely check two pair. If I checked and he bet, I would call, not wanting to fold with a pot of this size to two pair, if that’s what he had. He definitely would bet a straight if I checked to him. Since I thought that if any of his winning hand range would play out in a way that I would lose specifically one bet, and I’d lose a bet if I checked to him and he checked back with two pair, betting was the correct play.

I bet, and immediately after he called, I stated, “Straight’s good.”
He proudly turned over the straight and inquired, “Why did you bet the river?” I was in no mood to answer, having just gotten top set cracked.

Yeah, I lost the hand, and it was a big pot. But, most importantly, my play was correct, and I know that over time, that’s all that matters. Just play your cards right and let the chips fall where they may. Most likely, that will be into your stack! ♠

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.