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Home and the Range

Home and the Range

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Sep 21, 2011


Roy CookeWhen I’m considering paying off when I expect to be beaten, but am receiving a large price from the pot, I search for any hands in my opponent’s legitimate potential range that I can beat. Sometimes I can’t think of any unless my opponent is making a deception-play outside of his normal range — and some opponents never make deception plays. Sometimes I can beat only a very small portion of my opponent’s range, perhaps just a single hand. In those situations, I analyze the size of the pot vs. the odds that my hand is good to determine whether calling is correct.

I grew up and started my poker career in the Pacific Northwest, my stomping grounds being the neighborhood card rooms that populated Washington State before Indian casinos. Some of the old card rooms are still flourishing. Recently, I went to visit my family and popped into Diamond Lil’s, a neighborhood card room in Renton Washington that has been there for more than 35 years. It is well managed, with great action stemming from its proximity to the Renton Boeing plant — it’s a great spot to play.

I sat in a jammin’ $20-$40 limit hold’em game, sitting between Rick, a man I played with 30-plus years ago, and Jerry, with whom I have played often in Bellagio’s $40-$80 limit hold’em game. Rick is loose-aggressive, with reasonable reading skills. Jerry is solid by this game’s standards.

About an hour into the game, I picked up the AClub Suit AHeart Suit in the small blind. Several players limped, and Rick raised on the button. I three-hit it and was four-bet by Jerry in the big blind. Nobody folded. We took the flop six-handed, and since preflop action was capped at four-bets, there was $480 in the pot.

The dealer — by chance Rick’s daughter, Lauren — flopped the 9Heart Suit 9Club Suit 2Spade Suit, favorable to A-A. Yeah, someone could hold a 9, or even 2-2, but the board was a rainbow with no straight draws; it was implausible that the preflop raisers had flopped a set.

Knowing Jerry held a big mitt, as he both respects my raise and plays solidly out of position, I checked to check-raise Jerry and trap the field. I wanted all of the weak drawers to pay a premium to draw. Plus, Jerry would likely three-bet a check-raise from me with a big overpair, a hand that was a large portion of his range.

Jerry bet and received several callers before Rick raised. Rick’s raising range was wide, especially as he held the button. A 9, a wired pair, and maybe even A-K or A-Q, raising to obtain a free card (a play I had observed him make previously) all were possibilities. I three-bet, looking to create dead money in the pot if the weak-callers folded, lower the price my opponents were receiving from the pot if they called, make the pot bigger in case I won it, and possibly make reading the situation more clear on future streets.

Jerry called, two others called, and Rick four-bet on the button, increasing the likelihood that he held a 9. We all called. We all check-called the turn and checked the river. Rick bet.

I didn’t like my hand! Rick read hands well enough to know I held a big wired pair, but the pot was huge, and a mistake would be very costly. I pondered, was there a hand he could hold that I could beat? I thought he might hold K-K, or maybe even Q-Q, and think it was good. I paid off. Jerry, unbeknownst to me, held K-K and smartly folded. He acted with the greater information of the knowledge that I called; nonetheless, it was a great fold by Jerry. The rest folded, and Rick showed me the 10Heart Suit 9Heart Suit.

The very next hand, several players called preflop, and Rick raised again. On the button, I peeked down at the ASpade Suit ADiamond Suit — aces back to back, a rarity. I rehit it! Both blinds folded, the limpers called, and Rick four-bet. Everyone called.

The flop came the KDiamond Suit QClub Suit 4Diamond Suit, presenting both flush and straight draws, as well as increasing the probability that Rick had flopped a set. The field checked to Rick, who fired. I raised and was called by two opponents. Rick three-bet. I flat-called, thinking I would raise the turn. One of the callers four-bet, and I thought a diamond draw was a large portion of his range.

The turn was terrible for my aces, the JClub Suit. The caller and the four-bettor checked, Rick bet, and I called, not liking my hand much. The caller folded, and the four-bettor called.

The river came the 9Club Suit, another terrible card for my hand. The four-bettor picked up his hand, showed it to the person next to him, and checked. Both Rick and I knew Rick he missed his draw. Rick fired. I couldn’t beat much. He couldn’t have the ace-high flush draw, as I had the ADiamond Suit. If he held queen-high diamonds, he should have made two-pair or a straight. Any large pair setted or straighted! What could I beat?

I thought about the chances of Rick holding A-K and overplaying it badly. He had just won the previous big pot, and he often overplayed hands. That said, the fact I held A-A, along with the fact he would have had to play the hand unconventionally, greatly reduced the chances of that being his specific holding.

But, once again, the pot was large, making mistakes costly. The fact that I could conjure up a possible sensible scenario made me pay off. I tossed in $40. Rick turned over A-K, and I showed my hand and stacked the chips.

The hand speaks to paying off in large pots when erroneously folding can be a major error. Some players automatically pay off large pots, justifying the call due to pot size, but while the pot is always laying them a large price, it often is not laying them the odds to justify the call. In these situations, I try to establish if I can find any hands my opponent(s) might play in the current manner, or if I can unearth any mental or emotional reasons why he might have played the hand that way. If I can think of any reasonable reasons, I make the call.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I still can’t justify making dead calls based on the size of the pot. :-)

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.