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Tough Hand From The California Swing

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Apr 27, 2016


Jonathan LittleI recently had the opportunity to play in the World Poker Tour California Swing, which is a trio of WPT events scattered around California over the course of three weeks. I had a lot of fun and met a bunch of new people over the course of the adventure. One of my friends, Adam Geyer, managed to take second in the $7,500 buy-in WPT Shooting Star event at Bay 101 in San Jose. Talk about lucky! Somehow I busted out of two of the three events with flush draws. In this article, I am going to share one those hands with you, and hopefully find a better way to play it.

This hand took place during day 2 of the Shooting Star event. At 1,500-3,000 ante 500 blinds, a somewhat tight, aggressive kid raised to 7,000 from second position. So far, he had generally been in line. The player in fourth position and the button both called. I decided to call 4,000 more out of my 125,000-chip effective stack from the big blind with 9Spade Suit 5Spade Suit. While 9Spade Suit 5Spade Suit is certainly not a great hand, calling from the big blind with a wide range when getting amazing pot odds is usually a good idea. If you fold too often from the big blind, you will be easily exploited by your aggressive opponents. Take a look at the chapter by Alex Fitzgerald in Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em for a thorough analysis of this situation. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the free Excelling webinar series I am presenting at

The flop came QClub Suit 7Spade Suit 2Spade Suit, giving me a flush draw. While leading has some merit, I decided to check. The initial raiser bet 18,000 into the 34,000-chip pot. Only the button called. At this point, I thought the initial raiser must have a reasonably strong hand to continuation bet into three players, even on this somewhat dry board. I assumed the button would call with all of his one pair hands as well as his flush draws. I had 118,000 left in my stack. So, what should I do?

I think folding is out of the question because, even though I could be crushed by a better flush draw, most of the time my draw will be live.

When you have a draw, calling is rarely a mistake, assuming you are getting the correct immediate pot odds to call (as I was). If I was facing a larger bet, perhaps 26,000 into the 34,000-chip pot, I think calling would be a worse play. The main problem with calling is that if I hit my draw on the turn, I will have a difficult time extracting additional value because I am out of position and I will not have the nuts. Notice that if I improve to a flush and lead into my opponents and face a raise, my flush will shrivel into a bluff catcher. If I check and it checks through, I have to fade another spade. If someone bets the turn, I can only check-call, again having to fade a spade. Playing draws from out of position is difficult!

Raising small, perhaps to 44,000, is not a good idea because it will frequently induce my opponents to call, which may induce them to call my small turn all-in with an overly wide range. When you have a junky draw and decide to play it aggressively, you want to ensure you can make your opponents fold.

Going all-in seems like a reasonable play, especially if I can make my opponents fold marginal top pairs and better flush draws. This at least ensures that most of the time when I get called, my outs will be live.

After some thought, I decided that going all-in would lead to the best result for me. The initial raiser called with 7-7, middle set, and I was out of the tournament when the QSpade Suit came on the turn, completing my flush, but also his full house. Interestingly enough, if I called the 18,000 bet on the flop and saw the QSpade Suit turn, I would have checked, the initial raiser would have bet with his full house, and the button (who folded K-Q face-up) would have either called or raised. Facing that action, I would have likely made a snug fold because it is quite likely that one of my opponent has at least a flush, most of which I lose to.

After discussing this situation with a few of my friends, I think calling the flop bet is ideal, mainly because I am getting acceptable odds to see one more card and it decreases the chances I go broke. Minimizing the chances you go broke is a skill you must master if you want to succeed at poker tournaments. Although I gave myself the best chance to win this specific pot, I also opened the door for me to go broke, which lead to disaster this time. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker.