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Be Careful What You Wish For

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Mar 19, 2014

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Gavin GriffinI made a mistake the other day that made me upset with my play. In most live games when a player check-raises or even just raises you on a dry board, especially one where a draw completed on the street they raised, you can fold most hands that aren’t trips or better. I found myself in that situation and couldn’t find a fold with an overpair when I probably should have.

Before we take a look at the details of the hand though, let’s talk about the player I was playing against. He’s definitely a recreational player. He likes to come in, have a good time, get some food, perhaps bet on the horses, and play a little poker. His style is decidedly “old school.” He limps often, three-bets with relative infrequency and a wacky, inconsistent range, stacks off pretty light, but will fold some pretty big hands (top pair-decent kicker, two pair, etcetera) in the face of postflop aggression. He’s the type of player that I’m looking to get all the chips in the middle against when I have a good hand, and I begin each hand against him with the intention of doing just that.

So, that’s where we find ourselves. I raise to $25 under the gun (UTG) with kings in a $5-$5 blind game with effective stacks in this hand of $880. Our villain calls in the field and both blinds call, putting $100 in the pot. The flop is Q-5-3 rainbow. Both blinds check to me and I bet $65, roughly my normal bet for a pot this size. Villain calls and the blinds fold. Let’s take a look at how I think our ranges are at this point in the hand. This is a pretty good flop for me to continuation-bet (c-bet), so my range is a little wider than it might usually be in a four-handed pot. I’d say it looks something like this: A-Q plus, Q-J suited, Q-Q, 5-5, 3-3, 8-8 plus, A-K, and A-J suited. Our opponent has what can be considered a wide range in this situation. Any suited queen, Q-8 offsuit plus, 6-5, 7-5, 5-4, 4-3 suited, K-3 suited, J-3 suited, A-2, A-4, A-5, A-3, 7-6, 6-4 suited, 4-2 suited, A-K, A-J, A-10, any pair from deuces-to-kings. Against this range, I’m a comfortable 3-to-1 favorite.

The turn is a good one for his range, an offsuit seven. I bet $140 into $230, though I probably should have bet more if my goal is to stack opponent on river. Betting $190 leaves $600 behind on the river in a roughly $600 pot, perfect. Instead, I bet $140 into $230 which leaves us $650 behind in a $510 pot, boo. My opponent throws a wrench into my plan but gives me the opportunity to get the chips in when he raises to $300. Let me add some extra information here. My opponent is an older gentleman who has been coming in more lately. We’ve battled quite a bit over the previous weeks, though I’m not sure he remembers any of the hands with me. He often forgets what the minimum legal raise is (or so he’d lead you to believe) and will try to make it $260 when you bet $160 or some such nonsense. In this hand he didn’t do that. He confidently said $300 and put his chips out. This should have been an indicator of his strength, but I missed it while trying to figure out the best way to stack him still. I estimate his check-raising range on this board to include good queens, say Q-10 plus, along with two-pair hands, sets, and straights. I’m still a 62 percent favorite versus this range, which I’ll admit is probably flawed, but it’s what I was working with at the time. I think he’ll fold some of his queens if I jam, but will jam himself on the river with all of them if I just call. There aren’t really many scary river cards, so I don’t have to worry about him giving up if one of them hits. I decided to call and call most rivers that weren’t queens.

The river is an offsuit trey which only helps me. If he had a trey in his hand, it would be two pair or a set already and it counterfeits his two pair when he has Q-7, Q-5, or 7-5. I check and he goes all-in for $490. This is where he gave me his second clue via a physical read. He will often make a comment about going home or a similar thing when he goes all-in and it usually means that his hand isn’t that strong. This isn’t a very reliable tell on him because he mixes it up fairly well, but I saw something else that I thought made him seem confident. It probably should have made me adjust my range for him some but I stuck with my original range, which I’m smashing to the tune of 75.6 percent equity in my favor on the river, and called. He showed me Q-Q and I had myself an article to write so I guess it’s not all bad.

The truth is that sometimes we get so caught up in trying to stack someone that we perceive a certain way, but they can always have a good hand some of the time. When they do, and they give us the clues that they do, we would be wise to heed them so we don’t get stacked ourselves. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG