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Misplaying A Full House

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jun 07, 2017

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An amateur poker player recently told me about a hand that demonstrates a few key errors that many players make that they are completely unaware of. In a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em cash game, a somewhat tight player raised to $15 out of his $300 effective stack from first position and an unknown player in middle position called. Our Hero called in the cutoff with QSpade Suit JClub Suit.

While this call may seem extremely standard to some, this is an easy fold because most competent players from first position only raise with strong hands that have Q-J in terrible shape. When you are likely dominated by a somewhat short stack’s preflop raising range, you should simply fold because the only good flops for you are those giving you two pair or a better made hand, which don’t appear on the board too often.

The tight small blind and reasonable big blind also called. The flop came QHeart Suit JHeart Suit 4Diamond Suit, giving Hero top two pair. That is fortunate!

The small blind checked and the big blind bet $50 into the $75 pot. Only Hero called.
While I am fine with slow-playing with premium made hands from time to time, this is a board texture that should connect well with anyone who wants to voluntarily put additional money into the pot. When the big blind leads into four players, he almost certainly has a hand that he thinks is strong. Since Hero’s top two pair beats most strong hands besides 4-4, Hero should raise and be content to get all-in. Notice that it is a fine result for Hero if the big blind folds a flush draw. If the big blind has a strong made hand, like K-Q, he will usually call off and be way behind. I would have pushed all-in for $275 total. I would also make the same play with all my other premium made hands, perhaps A-Q and better, and my strong draws. Raising small to $125 is also acceptable, but I think that will occasionally result in the big blind calling with a hand like K-Q and then check-folding on scary turns.

The turn was the JSpade Suit, improving Hero to a full house. The big blind checked and Hero checked behind.

I would have certainly bet on this turn because if it checks through, Hero will have a difficult time getting the big blind’s entire stack in on the river. Since the pot is $175 and the remaining stacks are $235, I would have made a somewhat small bet of about $60. If called, the pot would grow to $295 with $175 remaining stacks, allowing for a 60 percent pot river all-in. Unless the big blind is overly wild, he will almost certainly call a small bet because he likely has a queen or a draw. As played, if the big blind checks the river, the only way for Hero to realistically get all-in is to push for more than the size of the pot. Even if the big blind bets the river, if Hero raises, the big blind will only call off with incredibly strong hands.

The river was the 10Heart Suit. The big blind bet $75 and Hero raised to $175.

I am all for raising on the river, but I would have pushed all-in for $235. Any hand that will call $175 will call $235, so by raising to $175, Hero misses out on $60 when he gets called by a full house, flush, straight or trips.

The big blind goes all-in for $50 more and Hero calls, losing to AHeart Suit KHeart Suit, a royal flush.

I am fine with Hero’s call, mainly because he only loses to three combinations of straight flushes and most players don’t have Q-Q in their preflop calling range. Also, he is somewhat unlikely to be against AHeart Suit KHeart Suit because many players three-bet that hand before the flop. Coupled with the amazing pot odds and the fact that many small stakes players overvalue a “nut” flush or a weaker full house, Hero has an easy call.

It should be clear that Hero told me this hand not seeking advice on his play, but instead because he thought it was some sort of a horrible, unimaginable bad beat. In reality, Hero should be thrilled that he only lost 60 big blinds in an unfortunate situation. It is important to understand that you will run into difficult spots like this from time to time and you are going to double up your opponent. That is part of the game that you must accept if you want to have any chance of succeeding at a high level. ♠

Jonathan LittleJonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker. You can also sign up for his FREE Excelling at No Limit Hold’em webinars at HoldemBook.com/signup.