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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- A Polarized Situation

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Aug 31, 2016


Roy CookeWe all know that reading hands is important. Sometimes you’ll totally misread the situation, and you should regard your mistakes as learning opportunities. That’s when you should analyze your own thinking, why you made the misread, and grow from the error.

Around $700 deep, in my first half-hour of play in a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game, I open-raised on the button to $20 with 6Spade Suit 6Club Suit. A stranger in the big blind, who had me covered, three-bet to $60. Getting 2-1 current and over 17-1 implied odds, I called the extra $40.

The dealer flopped KSpade Suit JSpade Suit 5Spade Suit, putting a three-flush on the board. Mr. Big Blind (BB) knuckled to me. Since he three-bet preflop, and from my limited perceptions, I pegged Mr. BB as an aggressive opponent who would semibluff with a good draw and protect any vulnerable made hand on a three-flush board. When he checked, I thought a significant portion of his range would be whiffs. I chose to bet half-pot, $60, in order to fold out his whiffs and deny his folding range of any possible equity, including any hands that beat me that he might fold (i.e. 7Diamond Suit 7Heart Suit). Betting and getting Mr. BB to fold also removed his opportunity to bluff the turn.

Mr. BB called. Not knowing my opponent well, though I had observed that he seemed to be an experienced player, I was unsure of his calling range. It could be the nut flush, or a smaller flush he was slow-playing, but I read it as being more likely to be a capped marginal hand, a pair of kings or jacks, maybe with a high, but non-nut spade. And when Mr. BB checked the turn after the 3Diamond Suit hit, I knuckled behind him.

The river came the 3Spade Suit, pairing and putting a four-flush on board. Without much hesitation Mr. BB fired a pot-sized bet of $240. I thought about his hand range. He’d check-called on the flop after three-betting preflop, albeit in a “squeeze” position. I gave him a wide preflop range, but felt the check-call on the flop was defining. If he had the ASpade Suit without another spade, I thought he would almost certainly bet. The pot was a reasonable size, and semibluffing would be a standard play. Would he check-call with the ASpade Suit and a king? Maybe.

I thought that, if he had flopped a set or two pair, he would have certainly bet since his hand would be vulnerable to another spade hitting, and he wouldn’t want to furnish an opponent his equity with a small spade.

I thought his hand was polarized. He might have flopped the nut flush and slow-played, or he was bluffing. Not much else made sense to me. In spite of the fact that my hand wasn’t strong, with my read of the situation, I thought there were enough bluffs in his range to warrant a call. I called. To my surprise, he flipped over KDiamond Suit KHeart Suit for kings-full.

Whenever an opponent shows a hand that I didn’t think was in his range, I contemplate his thinking. I think Mr. BB intended to check-call the flop and check-raise all in on the turn if no spade hit. I doubt, since he displayed experience, that he was much concerned that he was beat on the flop. It was a strategic line he took to make me misread his hand, and he was successful.

The hand speaks to range analysis. In this case, I excluded K-K from his river-betting range, and all other sets from his range because I thought he would bet the flop with those hands. It caused me to misanalyze the situation and to make a weak call on the river. And while I’m a believer in the range-analysis methodology, you need to be aware that you might be in error and assign some kind of weight to your propensity to make a mistake. The less knowledge you have of your opponent and/or the more deceptive they are, the greater fudge factor you should assign. That said, don’t use the fudge factor as an excuse to wildly pay off, but do give yourself a fudge factor depending on the confidence of your read.

Mr. BB took a non-standard line to cause me to misread his hand. He’d seen me make some aggressive plays early and trapped me into making the light river call. That said, he wouldn’t have been smiling had a non-board pairing spade hit the river. That’s the risk he assumed to take the trapping line.

It’s inevitable that players will make deceptive plays on you that will cost you money. Sometimes it’s just a matter of your opponents taking a strategic line you didn’t think he was capable of. You won’t be right all the time, so it goes. What’s important is that your decisions as a whole are sharp and logical.

And all you can do when you’re wrong is learn from the situation and play the next hand. ♠

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