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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- Greater Gains, Lesser Risk

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Jun 08, 2016


Roy CookeAmong other things, thinking and planning moves ahead often reduces your assumptions of risk and gives you superior options on future streets. Too many players contemplate only the current circumstances and neglect to analyze how the hand will play on future streets.

A solid player, around $1,100 deep, opened the pot in middle position for $20 in a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game. In the cutoff, having Mr. Solid covered, I three-bet to $65 with AClub Suit QSpade Suit. The field folded, Mr. Solid called, and we took the flop heads-up for $65, about $135 in the pot.

I smashed the flop, which came KHeart Suit JDiamond Suit 10Club Suit, flopping the nut straight on a rainbow flop. Additionally, that flop texture was highly likely to hit my opponent’s range. It doesn’t get much better than that. Now, how do I maximize my value?

Mr. Solid checked to me, I fired $90, and he called. The turn came the 5Spade Suit; I still had the nuts on a rainbow board. Mr. Solid checked again, I fired $150, and he check-raised me to $320.

Yeah, I had the stone cold nuts. I thought it highly unlikely Mr. Solid was bluffing. That made my read of his range as a straight, a set, or maybe two pair, though I heavily discounted any two pair hands due to how he would play any of the two pair hands preflop, and how he played the flop and turn. And if he had a straight, it was with A-Q, same as mine. I didn’t think Mr. Solid would call three-bets preflop with Q-9, even suited.

So, how can I get the highest value out of my hand? Mr. Solid had over $600 left, and I wanted those chips in my stack, though I would like to put my chips in with as little risk as possible. I could shove and he would call with any set, as well as the Ace-high straight, though I might lose the action from his two pair range. Yeah, I had the nuts, but was there a better strategy to minimize my risk and maximize my overall value?

If he had a set and filled on the river, he would continue betting. If he had a straight and the board paired, he’d likely check. So if the board paired, and he checked and I shoved, he might fold a straight. And if the board paired, and he bet, calling the river wouldn’t be +EV, and I could fold saving myself the –EV of the final wager.

I flatted the $170. If the board paired and he bet the river, I was folding. If the board didn’t pair, I felt confident I would get his remaining stack. By just calling, I eliminated the risk of losing my stack when the board paired. Yes, I assumed some risk of being outplayed off my hand, but my read in this particular situation was that that risk was very minimal. He’d have to be bluffing or semibluffing the flop and turn play, and follow through with the third barrel on the river after being called. A scenario I deemed unlikely.

The river came the 4Diamond Suit. Mr. Solid went all-in for just over $600 more, and I insta-called. He turned over two black kings for top set. I turned over my straight, and his face transformed from glee to disappointment in a second. He was confident his top set was good, until he knew it wasn’t.

I liked how I played my hand. On the turn, after Mr. Solid check-raised with just over a $600 effective stack size to play and a pot just under $1,000, there was only one bet left to take. By just calling the turn, I lowered my assumption of risk. If the board paired and he bet, I wouldn’t have lost the final $600. And if the board paired and he checked, I might have made him lay down the same straight at little to no risk. By playing my hand in that manner I’d added value to my holding.

The hand speaks to the value of thinking moves ahead, analyzing how differing scenarios will play out, and calculating how you can maximize your edge. Contemplating those issues will help you to decide how to maximize your EV. Ask yourself: Are there ways to maximize your edge? Will a different play on another street provide you an even bigger edge? Is there an approach that will reduce your risk without sacrificing any or only a little edge? These greater-gain/smaller-risk calculations come up constantly, but most players don’t think far enough ahead to utilize the concept.

Think about how the hand will continue to play. Think about how it will play differently given the cards that may come. How can you manipulate your hand’s edge based on those factors? Yeah, it can get mighty complicated.

However, winning at poker isn’t easy. But if you put in the effort, it does have great rewards. ♠

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 His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke