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Real Poker: Letting Them Stack Themselves

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Jun 07, 2017


Average players tend to focus too much on standard strategies and don’t vary their play enough to fit the current situation. And, when accurately performed, varying from standard can create a lot of extra expected value (EV).

Playing in a good early morning $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game, I’d been preflop card dead for quite a while and hadn’t played a hand in several laps. I was striving to get into the vigorous action, but no reasonable +EV situations had presented themselves. In such situations, I often slightly increase my aggression against aware opponents who tend to tighten their calls against me, thinking I’m playing a tighter range than I really am. But, generally, in those situations it’s important to stay patient and not play any hands strictly out of frustration.

A solid regular, with only about $100 left, limped in, and it was folded to a tilted, highly-aggressive player, around $400 deep, who made it $35 in the cutoff. I peered down to the AHeart Suit ADiamond Suit on the button and pondered my best play. Within the last five minutes, Mr. Tilt-Aggressive had made a remark about how tight I had been playing. And the statement affected my thinking. I thought If I three-bet, he would put me on a very tight range. And since I was at the top of my range with my aces, looking to maximize value, I didn’t want to give him any thoughts that would cause him to play his hand more correctly.

I also thought that if I flatted, Mr. Limper might go all-in for the remainder of his chips and either encourage a preflop reraise from Mr. Tilt-Aggressive, or allow me to shove behind a call. That way, I’d either get all-in preflop, or get a fold from Mr. Tilt-Aggressive and force him to sacrifice around $100 preflop call with zero equity. Even if neither of those events transpired, there was still additional value in deceiving Mr. Tilt-Aggressive about the strength of my holding. And he was in the precise mood to try to bluff a perceived nit.

Generally, I don’t make many flatting aces preflop plays. Reason being, you lose the equity rich scenarios in which you get reraised and can stack off. But this particular situation was ripe for the play. Mr. Tilt-Aggressive possessed a wide range and I expected him to play aggressively. I flatted, and Mr. Limper folded.

Heads-up, $80 in the pot, the flop came the 9Club Suit 8Heart Suit 4Club Suit, a very draw heavy board. Mr. Tilt-Aggressive fired $60. I flatted, reasoning there were a lot of bluffs in his range that I wanted to get further value from, $200 in the pot.

I caught a great turn card, the 4Diamond Suit, eliminating the value of any two pair hand he may have or make. Mr. Tilt-Aggressive fired $125, leaving about $175 behind. Now, I had a new decision. Was going all-in to guarantee the equity from his calling drawing hands better than leaving him with the option of bluffing the river with his air?

Additionally, if I raised, I thought he might fold some of his paired hands that were drawing very slim. That would be a bad thing if I could acquire the rest of his stack with a call. That said, a card might come, such as the JClub Suit that would fill some draws, and cause him to check-fold. And would Mr. Tilt-Aggressive triple barrel bluff some of his air? I thought if the draws missed, he would, maybe even if they hit. I chose to flat.

The river came the 9Spade Suit. Mr. Tilt-Aggressive insta-shoved, I insta-called and he insta-mucked. I never showed my hand.

I thought I played the hand well. In this case, because of Mr. Tilt-Aggressive’s high bluffing propensity, I felt the value of him bluffing his air hands outweighed the value of shutting him out on the turn and/or assuming the risk of losing the final bet should he check-fold the river. Yes, I understand I sometimes will get beat by some hands that would be in his turn-folding range, but I deemed the equity lost in those few scenarios would be more than made up by the equity gained the numerous times he would fire air hands on the river. And if I was beat, I was going broke no matter what!

This was a non-standard play line and one I made only because my opponent was on aggressive tilt. If I would have been faced with a non-aggressive opponent, I would have played the hand very differently. Knowing when to take non-standard lines takes an understanding of poker conceptually as well as an awareness of your opponent’s tendencies.

To learn how to do this well, take the time to think through every play you make and observe, and try to determine if a better line was available. Over time, you’ll develop a better feel of which play line to take in any given situation.

And your game and bankroll will show the extra effort you’ve put in. ♠

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!