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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- Highest And Best Value With Pocket Aces

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Dec 07, 2016


In poker you must adjust to your opponent’s knowledge, texture and strategies. It’s not good enough to execute the best play on average. That’s because the average best play will be incorrect when the current situation falls outside of standard circumstances, as it often will. Correctly adjusting is a demanding component that requires that you accurately read your opponents, and also know how and when to adjust strategically. It’s an ability that separates the good from the great.

I moseyed down to the Aria to play a little $2-$5 no-limit hold’em. It’s a well-run cardroom with a good clientele, good dealers and floor staff, a nice ambience, and a better rake structure than most strip casinos. It also spreads $1-$3 rather than $1-$2 for those who like to play a little higher.

Several hours later, I picked up ADiamond Suit AHeart Suit. An older local, about $250 deep, who tended to call and then fold to preflop raises, limped UTG +1. It was folded around to me in the hijack, and around $770 deep, I raised to $25. I sized my wager slightly small because I didn’t want to fold Mr. Weak-Tight. My hand was strong, Mr. Older-Local’s implied odds were low since his stack size was small, and I figured to increase my expectation by playing my holding against his rather than having him fold and possibly just winning $12. The button, a loose-passive tourist around $600 deep, flatted the $25. Sadly, Mr. Weak-Tight mucked. I took the flop heads-up, out of position, with around $60 in the pot.

The dealer flopped the 9Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit 3Club Suit. Looking to maximize my value, I considered Mr. Button’s texture. I’d played many pots with him previously. He’d always called liberally on the flop, but had folded five out of five times when I had fired again on the turn. With this in mind, I fired $40, a two-thirds pot bet, slightly larger than standard, but not large enough to induce Mr. Button to fold the weak portion of his range. He called.

The turn card came the 2Diamond Suit, putting three diamonds on the board. I‘d picked up the nut flush draw along with my aces. It’s a turn card I’d standardly bet, but since Mr. Button had previously always folded when I’d double-barreled, I was concerned he would just muck. Still sensing I had the best hand, along with the best draw, I wanted to get more value out of my hand.

I contemplated the risks and rewards of slow-playing the turn. If I checked, Mr. Button might bluff a weak holding, he might call a river bet with a weak diamond he would have folded on the turn and with luck made a flush on the river, or call the river with a weak hand he would have folded on the turn. And while I thought I had the best hand, I didn’t have to, and checking might make for a cheaper showdown should I hold the worse hand.

That said, he also might check a hand he would call with, and I’d lose that value. Or a scary looking card could come that would deter his river call. Worse yet, he might make a winning hand with a hand he would have folded to a turn bet, and the check would cost me not just the money in the pot, but also any additional bets I might make or call.

I weighed my choices. Overall, I judged the rewards of checking to exceed the risks. I thought the chance of my hand being good was high, the potential for improvement good, the risk of giving a free card that would beat me slight, and any overall expectation loss costs of my checking was more than made up by the potential expectation of the expanded options should my hand be and/or remain good, or suck out. I checked, and Mr. Button knuckled behind me. I was now almost certain I held the better hand.

The KClub Suit came on the river, and I fired $75. Mr. Button tanked for a long time and hesitantly called. I flipped over my two aces, and he tossed his hand into the muck. I never saw his hand, but I felt he had called with a weak hand, and my turn check had probably netted me the $75 call on the river.

The hand speaks to designing plays based on your opponents’ tendencies. Against another opponent who would call more liberally, I would have bet the turn. Knowing when and how to implement these types of strategies not only requires focusing on your opponent’s tendencies, but thinking about situations in which you can exploit them.

It takes a lot of deep thinking. But as you start to expand your strategic thoughts, new ideas come to you, your game grows, you perform better, and your confidence grows. The success you create compounds upon itself.

And then, your opponents will be bitching about what a luckbox you are! ♠

Roy CookeRoy 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