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Hitting “Presto”

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Jul 11, 2012

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Roy CookeGood players figure out the odds of their hand in relationship to the price the pot is laying them and act accordingly. But thinking at a higher level, great players adjust their play based on the price their opponents’ hand range is receiving. Whenever you check, bet or raise you generate a proceeding that adjusts your opponents price as well as your own. And you want to adjust their price in accordance with your own best interests, making their play as unprofitable as you can while keeping your own pricing in mind.

Situated in the big blind in a $40-80 limit hold’em game at Bellagio, Kevin, a solid-aggressive Hawaiian transplant to Las Vegas, opened with a raise in second position. He was called by a loose caller on the button, a solid player in the small blind, and I tossed in the $40 extra with the 5Spade Suit 5Diamond Suit or “Presto” as wired fives is known to the BARGE poker group.

I liked my spot. If I hit a set I could check-raise the aggressive Kevin and trap the other two opponents in between the action. Or, if the flop texture was low cards, less likely to hit Kevin’s range, I could check, let Kevin bet and observe the action of the other opponents before deciding how to play my hand. Information gathering has value and is conceptually overlooked by many players. In poker, it’s often worth expending some chips or assuming some risk to create a situation in which you can make a more informed decision.

The dealer flopped “nothing but net,” the KDiamond Suit KClub Suit 5Heart Suit, endowing me with the underfull. The SB checked, I followed suit and Kevin fired a wager. The button folded and Mr. SB check-raised. I contemplated how the hand might play in distinctive scenarios.

I thought Mr. SB’s most likely hand was a king, with some chance he had a medium pair. While Mr. SB’s hand selection was solid, he wasn’t one who had enough confidence in his reads to make significant laydowns. He was the sort who “just wanted to see it” even if he knew he was beat. Kevin was another story, a thinking, pragmatic player who will actualize his judgments. So, how do I acquire my highest equity?

I assessed Kevin’s hand range to be a big king, a medium to large wired pair or a big ace type of hand. If he held a big ace, like A-Q or A-J he would fold to Mr. SB’s check-raise and my call, feeling he might be drawing close to dead. If Kevin had a big king, I was going to get great action on the hand. He wouldn’t feel beat if I three-bet and would be expected to raise on a later street. But if Kevin had a wired pair over fives he would be getting 13-1 current if I flat called, and with the prospective vigorous future action in the hand, Kevin would be making a correct call. A correct call I didn’t want him to make, as assuming that risk would cost me overall equity.

Therefore, raising both shut Kevin out from making a correct call, and wouldn’t induce him to fold an incorrect two-bet call. Also, my three-bet wasn’t likely to lower my action threshold from Mr. SB. He would pay off thinking I might be protecting a single five or medium pair and might check-raise the turn with a big king.

I three-bet, Kevin folded, and Mr. SB called. The turn came the 3Heart Suit. Mr. SB check-raised me, I three-hit it to $240, and he called. The river came the QDiamond Suit, he check-called, and I turned over my fives. Mr. SB flashed me the KSpade Suit and mucked his hand. I receptively stuck the chips in my stack.

The hand speaks to valuing the bets made or lost in terms of equity, both yours and your opponents. Bets gained where you assumed a risk of losing the pot where your opponents were getting a correct price to draw gains no equity for you. Likewise, a bet lost when you were getting an overlay from the pot actually increases your equity. All poker bets have varying degrees of equity ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent. And while most poker players think in terms of actual dollars of bets made or lost, the conceptually correct way of thinking is in equity won or lost.

It’s essential to structure your play to acquire the highest equity possible, and, done correctly, over time, the chips will come home to roost. You need to determine the price your opponents hand range would receive in the differing manners in which you can play your hand and determine the best course of action. Yes, I understand that these equations are too difficult to calculate in the time allowed in the heat of battle. But if you think in these terms conceptually and analyze your plays in hindsight along these theoretical lines, you’ll develop a much better feel for situations at the poker table. That feel will translate into better decisions and better decisions means better results.

As the old saying goes “just play your cards right and let the chips fall where they may.” And if you do, the chips will fall into your stack! And you’ll doubtlessly think they’ll look mighty good there! ♠

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 any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You can also find him on Facebook.