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Almost Folding a Set

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Apr 16, 2014


I recently played a hand in the $7,500 Niagara Falls WPT event where I possibly should have found a tight fold on the flop with a set. With 30,000 effective stacks at 100-200-(25), a loose-passive player limped from first position, a good, tricky player made it 425 from second position, a tight player called in fourth position, I called in the hijack with 3Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit, and the small blind (SB), big blind (BB) and first position players called. I think calling the 425 raise preflop is by far the only play that makes any sense. I am risking very few chips to win a lot if I flop a set, and I will be likely to get paid off if I hit due to the number of players in the pot. I don’t think there is much room for debate about the preflop play.

The flop came 7Spade Suit 5Club Suit 3Club Suit. Everyone checked to the tight player in fourth position, who bet 2,200. I elected to raise to 5,400. While there is certainly merit to calling, given that I don’t mind if my opponents fold out reasonable draws, I think raising makes the most sense. You will find most amateur players make large raises in this spot, perhaps to around 8,000, trying to make their opponent’s fold everything. In reality, you want to keep your opponents in when they have some or no equity while giving them the improper price to outdraw you. By calling, you allow everyone in cheaply but by raising small, you will find most players besides the flop bettor will fold marginal flush or straight draws and consider continuing with decently strong made hands, such as overpairs or better. While the initial bettor will usually continue with draws due to his decent pot odds, I will be in position throughout the hand and will be able to play intelligently on future streets if he calls.

When the action folded back around to the flop bettor, he made it 23,000 almost instantly. Seeing how this was for almost my entire stack, I decided to put the rest of my money in. If there is ever a spot to fold a set on a somewhat innocuous board, this is it. As an aside about this specific opponent, I had yet to see him bluff but I have seen him play one hand in this exact manner, quickly putting in a giant raise on a marginally scary board, although there was no showdown. If I knew he previously had the nuts when he made that absurdly huge, fast reraise, I would have confidently folded. Also, he could be vastly overvaluing a marginal made hand such as 8-8 or 7-6. It is always interesting playing with opponents who rarely see flops because it is impossible to quickly learn which hands they perceive as powerful. Seeing how most tight recreational players tend to think an overpair is strong, I elected to accept that generic read. Since I had no real way of knowing if he had the nuts, a marginal made hand, or a semibluff, I decided to go with the idea that since he has made this play twice in two hours, he is more likely doing it with a marginal made hand or semibluff, as it is way easier to have those hands than the nuts.

One final factor that I considered was that if I busted, I could play Sunday tournaments online the next day, where I could invest around $6,000, perhaps winning around $3,000 on average. If I folded and kept around 23,000 chips, I would perhaps profit around $4,000 in the WPT event, meaning if I lost, it would only cost me an extra day at the table and a somewhat marginal amount of equity. Of course, if I won the hand, I would have lots of equity in the WPT event and have a great shot to do well. Seeing how I lacked any legitimate reason, namely past examples of my opponent playing the nuts in this manner, besides the fact that my opponent put his entire stack in the pot, I decided to put my money in. He showed me 7-7 and I was out the door, making one of my quickest exits from a WPT event to date. However, not all was lost. I ended up chopping a $200 turbo event and taking fourth in a $50 event online, cashing for $30,000. At least my backup plan worked. ♠

Jonathan Little, 2-time World Poker Tour champion has won more than $6 million in tournaments since 2006. He is sponsored by, Instapoker and BlueSharkOptics and teaches poker at and Follow him on Twitter @ JonathanLittle.