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Real Poker: Guessing Wrong

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Mar 01, 2017


One early Sunday morning, I sat in a $2-$5 no-limit game, $500 deep, and posted the big blind immediately. The field appeared to have been there all night. Having never played with any of them, I knew nothing of their tendencies.

The player under-the-gun, about $600 deep, straddled to $10. He had a beer in front of him and looked like he needed a good night’s sleep. The field folded to the button, a young foreign man about $380 deep, made it $30 to go. The small blind folded, and I looked down to the AClub Suit JClub Suit.

My first thought was to three-bet. But I was unsure of Mr. Button’s potential to fold to a three-bet, limiting some of the three-bet’s value. Plus Mr. Straddler had $20 in chips in his hand ready to call the button raise. Both characteristics favored a call. The less information you have about your opponents, the fewer risks you should assume.

Blowing out the straddler didn’t seem like the right move either. When you remove an opponent who is prone to make egregious errors on future streets, your hand has lost value. In such situations, you must estimate the equilibrium point of the value of the fold equity and the value of playing your hand forward. It will always be a rough estimate at best, but understanding the concept will create better decisions.

I flatted the $30, and Mr. Straddler called. We took the flop three-handed with $92 in the pot.

The dealer flopped the KClub Suit QClub Suit QHeart Suit. I had a gutshot royal flush draw, and the nut flush draw. Thinking Mr. Button would continuation bet with virtually all of his range, I checked with the intention of check-raising, thereby forcing him to possess a holding he was willing to stack commit with or fold. If I got called by him or Mr. Straddler, my hand still would still have significant equity against their calling range.

Disappointingly, they both checked. The turn was the JHeart Suit, giving me a pair to go with my draw. I chose to check again thinking that no better hands would fold and few worse hands would call that wouldn’t bet. Additionally, better hands might raise and put me in a worse spot. By checking, I could induce betting action from any draw either of my opponents had picked up and chose to bet and any bets they made with air.

Mr. Button bet $45, I called, and Mr. Straddler folded. I whiffed the river, the 3Diamond Suit. I knuckled once again, and Mr. Button fired in $75.

I had a bluff catcher, meaning I couldn’t beat any of Mr. Button’s value-betting range, only his bluffs. I was getting $255-$75 on the call, almost 3.5-1. Would Mr. Button have 3.5 times more hands in his value betting range than his bluffing range? Truthfully, I had no clue!

If he had a value hand, would he check the flop with it on a very draw-heavy board? And if he had a king, would he value bet the river if his kicker didn’t play? Having never played a hand with him before, I couldn’t tell. I thought his hand was polarized and either contained a huge hand or a bluff. I called the $75, and he turned over the KDiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit.

Just about every thought I had in the hand was wrong. It felt like I’d been brainless. But in defense of myself, I had no history on which to base my decisions. And results do not always signify that the decision was wrong. It’s the case of the, “if I knew then what I know now,” cliché. Yes, decisions are MUCH easier in hindsight. But if you want to work on the quality of your decisions, you need to analyze them from the information you had at the decision point, period!

In this case I still think flatting preflop was correct, though close. It wasn’t unreasonable to assume that Mr. Button would bet a wide range on the flop. Nor was it unreasonable to call the turn with a pair of jacks and royal nut flush draw. And I don’t think it was unreasonable to think that Mr. Button might think I had a straight or flush draw and make a small-sized bluff to fold out my drawing range should he hold a hand with no showdown equity.

Sometimes your decisions are wrong, not because your thinking was in error, but because unbeknownst to you, the situation played non-standardly, and your decision was based on inadequate information because that information was unavailable.

When you’re reviewing your decisions, judge them based on the information available at the decision point. And if your decision made sense, don’t beat yourself up.
But do adjust your future decisions to the new information you acquired. ♠

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. Please see ad below!