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Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us With Jesse Martin

by Steve Schult |  Published: Jun 25, 2014


Jesse MartinIn an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to bring you Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.

ProJesse Martin

Concept – Playing Out of Position Against a Good Player

Jesse Martin is a professional poker player originally from Massachusetts, but is now based out of Southern California. Martin is mostly a cash game player, who plays in high-stakes mixed games in the southern California area, but has earned over $1.3 million in live tournament earnings.

Martin made a name for himself to the casual poker fan by winning his first career WSOP bracelet last summer. He earned $253,524 after taking down the $10,000 no-limit 2-7 lowball event.

Card Player caught up with Martin to break down a hand played by one of our readers.

The Hand

There are 11 players left in an $1,100 no-limit hold’em event. The blinds are 3,000-6,000 with a 1,000 ante and our hero is in the big blind with 10Club Suit10Spade Suit and 280,000 in chips. The table is six handed and action folds to the player in the cutoff, who the reader disclosed is a three-time bracelet winner with 680,000. The rest of the table has between 125,000-150,000.

The player in cutoff raised to 14,000 and our hero three-bet to 35,000. The cutoff called and they saw a flop of ASpade Suit7Heart Suit5Diamond Suit. Our hero bets 35,000 and is called by the cutoff. The 2Diamond Suit is the turn and both players check. The river is the KClub Suit and our hero check-folded to a bet of 65,000.

The Interview

Steve Schult: Do you like three-betting preflop in this spot? What are your thoughts on his sizing?

Jesse Martin: The only way you should be three-betting here is if you are willing to get it in against a four-bet. There are a lot of dynamics that I would be comfortable getting it in against a four-bet, but there are spots where it would be bad. Sometimes you are going to overplay your hand and get it in in bad shape. I think in general three-betting is fine for sure, but I think the sizing is too small.

Especially nowadays, people are calling three-bets with a lot more hands and you are kind of allowing them to call with a lot of hands that you really don’t want them calling with. At least a lot of hands that you don’t want them calling with for just 21,000 more when they are in position. This is another thing that is a little dynamic-dependent, but I would be making it 45,000-50,000 and I think that’s right. I think that making it so small is giving your opponent too good of odds to call and play against your range basically.

SS: The cutoff is the biggest stack at the table by a wide margin and there are a bunch of 20 big blind stacks besides our hero and him. Are there any ICM considerations that should be taken into account at this point?

JM: The first answer is that there is 100 perfect ICM considerations that should be thought about. The only problem here is that I don’t play no-limit hold’em tournaments for a living. If I did, I would study these spots much closer. I don’t really have any expertise in ICM considerations here, but there is the weird game of chicken that goes on here and some equilibrium that I don’t really know where it falls.

In some ways it is better to three-bet here because he will four-bet bluff you a decent amount because of ICM pressure. But it is also kind of a disaster to get it in here without a strong dynamic because it would be a huge ICM mistake. If you are 50 big blinds deep and there are a bunch of 20 big blind stacks, the general consensus in this type of spot is that ICM is really important and you want to make sure that you’re not getting money in in these close spots where it is +chip EV, but negative overall tournament EV. The problem is that I’m not super confident in telling you where it lies here.

One thing I do know is that because of that it makes the sizing worse because you don’t want to be playing this big pot. You want to create a situation where he is forced to four-bet you light and get it in or just have him fold. You don’t really want to encourage him to play flops against you because then he can just put ICM pressure on you throughout the whole hand. It’s a really dangerous situation. I don’t think flat-calling would be terrible considering all of that. If it were someone like Dario [Minieri], it would be terrible just to flat-call because he is all into putting ICM pressure on you, so you almost want to induce him to bluff four-bet you and get it in.

SS: Moving to the flop, what do you think about his c-bet? What are we getting value from and how often are we getting floated here?

JM: It’s a tough spot and I guess my plan would be to bet twice honestly. But the problem is that because he made it so small [preflop], he is still going to be up against a lot of aces. Maybe he could have made him fold a lot of off-suit aces if he made it bigger preflop. Your range is going to be stronger because you can still have a lot of ace-kings and ace-queens and he might have been four-betting these hands, but it would be even stronger if you made it 45,000 or 50,000 because he can’t call your raise with a lot of these off-suit aces that he could call you with.

He could take a flier with like ace-five off-suit because you made it so small and he can play in position and put ICM pressure on you. It’s kind of like a compounding error on the flop now, but it’s also a really tough spot. I think betting once for sure is right and I don’t think you can just check-fold the turn really, so I think I’m betting twice and then check-folding the river.

SS: If we are betting twice, what are we looking to get value from? Or are we just turning a pair into a bluff here?

JM: Well your first bet, you are betting because your range is stronger and your actual hand strength is probably just better than his. You are getting some value because he is going to float you sometimes and it’s not like he is only going to call you with better hands. On the turn, you have a problem. You can check-call and then check-decide the river. That could be a better option, maybe that is a better option.

The turn bet is certainly not a value bet and I guess now that I’m thinking about I think I would check-call the turn and check-decide the river. The turn is definitely not a value bet because now he is not going to call you with worse hands, but any hand that he floats you with has a minimum of five outs, outside of some gutshots that only have four. But he can have king-queen or king-jack that have some overs, so a turn bet can just take the pot down there. As I talk it out, I think check-calling the turn is better.

SS: When both players check the turn, what can we gather from him checking back on the turn?

JM: When your opponent checks back the turn, there is a lot of information. The main information is that he almost for sure doesn’t have an unpaired hand. He doesn’t have queen-jack or king-jack because if he had those floats, he would bet the turn. He would also bet the turn with all of his super strong hands most likely. So you can take out both ends of his range and he most likely has a hand that beats you. A weak ace is his most likely hand. He also could have a pair that he just correctly deduces that he thinks you are going to check-call the turn and is looking to get to showdown against a no pair hand that you give up on.

He still could have a hand worse than you like 7-8 or pocket eights or pocket nines or something like that. But most likely he has a one pair hand that is often a weak ace and unless he is pulling some elaborate play, he doesn’t have a no pair hand at this point.

SS: Is there any merit to betting the river just to protect against being bluffed?

JM: No, I don’t think so.

SS: Are we ever check-calling the river when our opponent bets 65,000? What is your standard play on the river here?

JM: I think the standard is to fold. It could be exploitable, but I don’t think it’s bad. Your opponent has played his hand like he has an ace and that’s probably what he has. It’s a little concerning because you are close to the top of your range here. The only better value hands you can really have are like queens and jacks, so you’re folding a lot. That is the only concern here against a really sophisticated opponent who can realize that your range is capped at pocket queens. An opponent like that can turn a hand like 7-8 into a bluff, but I would say that folding is pretty typical with this line that you’re beat and folding is the standard. It’s not something to do without thinking about whether or not your opponent could be turning a pair in the bluff. It kind of depends on the level of thinking that is going on at the time.