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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- Getting Stacked with Two Queens

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Apr 13, 2016

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Roy CookeAround $800 deep, in a $2-5 no-limit hold’em game at Caesars Palace, I opened the pot from under the gun with QHeart Suit QSpade Suit for $15, lighter than my normal opening raise size. There were several loose tourists that I wanted to induce into calling. I had a tight image, and they seemed to shy away from bigger pre-flop bets, but they couldn’t resist a bargain and seemed to liberally call the lower-sized wagers.

By sizing lower, I wanted them to call with hands that would induce them into trouble spots, feeling that, if they made a medium-sized hand, they would call large bets and/or on all three streets. And since they played their hands straight-forwardly, I assumed minimal risk if beat. I could just fold if they represented a better hand.

Two players about $400 deep called, one loose tourist and one local regular. The big blind, a young aggressive local just under $500 deep, reraised to $70, a hefty raise. I attempted to read the situation and contemplate my best option.

Looking at it through Mr. Young-Aggressive’s eyes, it would appear to be a lucrative squeeze situation. A player had open-raised light, indicating a marginal holding. Two players just flatted, so it would be very unlikely they were strong. A hefty raise from the big blind with no undeclared opponents to act behind him would look to be in the cards to take down the pot. Additionally, he had the knowledge and the capability to make that play. With all that in mind, Mr. Young-Aggressive’s value range should both be wider than standard, and also include many light three-bet bluffs.

Believing that was the case I chose to four-bet to $160. I thought that it would fold the other two callers and give Mr. Young-Aggressive $260-$90 on his call with about $330 behind. I chose that sizing because it offered him an incorrect price to call with an under-pair or one overcard. Anytime you induce an opponent to make a call getting the incorrect odds, you have gained expected value. Generally, the best play is to size your bet to the maximum amount you think your opponent will call which would be an incorrect call. If the maximum amount he will call is still correct for his range, generally the best play is to wager an amount that he will fold to rather than give him the corrects calling odds.

The two pre-flop callers folded, and it got back to Mr. Young-Aggressive who tanked for a while and shoved. Getting $590-$330, I thought about my price against his range. Against a range of A-A, K-K and A-K I was about 40 percent to win the runout, or a 3:2 dog. So, given the money already in the pot, Q-Q was a correct call against that range. But did I think he’d move all-in with AK, or was I facing only A-A or K-K? Were there any bluffs in his range? My best guesstimate was that he would shove with A-K and I called.

He turned over K-K; I whiffed the runout and watched in sadness as he stacked my stack. Yeah, I lost the pot, and a big one at that. But did I misplay my hand based on the information I had available at the decision points? In retrospect, I still didn’t think so. Just because you lose the pot doesn’t mean that you misplayed your hand, even if playing another line would have won you the pot.

In this case, my logic was sound. Preflop, I believed Mr. Young-Aggressive would have possessed a mix of legitimate strong value raising hands as well as some “squeeze hands” in his range. Two queens would play well against that total range. And the risks I assumed by four-betting pre-flop were compensated for by increasing my value by either charging him more to draw with the portion of his range I beat, or folding out the equity of those hands. If I thought his range wouldn’t include a significant number of squeeze plays and value raises with inferior hands to my Q-Q, then four-betting wouldn’t have been the correct play.

When he shoved, since Q-Q is about 40 percent against an A-A, K-K, and A-K range, I felt my hand had high enough value against his shoving range to warrant a call getting $590-$330. It wasn’t the way I wanted the hand to play out, but Mr. Young-Aggressive was just at the top of his range. If he would have held other hands that I believed were in his three-bet range in that particular situation, my line would have been good. I was only in deep do-do against A-A and K-K. With those hands I was going to get a lot of money in at a very poor price. And while they were hands he would definitely three-bet with, I analyzed that, because of his aggressive nature, A-A and K-K were a small part of his range. It was a scenario I still feel I played correctly, but I ended up paying a high price. That’s the way poker goes sometimes.

The hand speaks to the importance of knowing your opponents and how to adjust to their differing ranges. It’s a big part of what makes no-limit decisions so complicated. With the large bet sizes in no-limit, small differences in your opponents’ ranges make big differences in a play’s EV. And it’s tough to accurately evaluate your opponents’ ranges, particularly those you haven’t played with much. Even with the world’s best players, it’s generally an educated estimate. But nonetheless, you must try to estimate their ranges as best as you can. Paying attention and having a mental compartmentalizing system go a long way towards improving your ability to evaluate ranges.

Think about how your opponent is currently thinking. Is he in an aggressive mindset? Or has he “turtled” up and playing passive? What’s his knowledge level? How does his knowledge level relate to the current situation? Adjust your play based on your reads.
Do that effectively, and you’ll improve your game immensely. ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.RoyCooke.com. Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at www.RoyCookePokerlv.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke