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Sticking Around Too Long

by Jonathan Little |  Published: May 09, 2018

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A recreational player recently told me about a hand from a $1-$2 cash game that illustrates a few common mistakes many players make on a regular basis. An unknown player raised to $4 out of his $160 effective stack from first position at a nine-handed table and three players called. Hero elected to call from the small blind with AHeart Suit 9Diamond Suit.

I am fine with Hero’s call, but he has to be careful to not lose too much money when he flops top pair with a marginal kicker and faces multiple streets of aggression. One of the costliest mistakes you can make is to blindly check-call down with top pair with a marginal kicker in an extremely multi-way pot.

The big blind called as well. The flop came 8Heart Suit 7Heart Suit 4Club Suit, giving Hero the backdoor nut flush draw and two overcards. Everyone checked to a player in middle position who bet $10 into the $24 pot. Only Hero called.

If the pot was heads-up, I would be fine with Hero’s call, but when the middle position player bets into five opponents, it is safe to assume he has a strong made hand or a premium draw. Especially since Hero will be out of position going to the turn, he should fold, despite his good pot odds. Calling flop bets with junky holdings from out of position will often lead to you either check-folding the turn or being in a dicey spot when you improve and face additional aggression.

The turn was the 10Heart Suit, improving Hero to an ace-high flush draw and an open-ended straight draw. Hero checked and the opponent bet $20 into the $44 pot. Hero min-raised to $40.

I do not like Hero’s min-raise at all. The only time it makes any sense is when Hero knows the opponent views turn check/min-raises as extremely strong. With no reads, Hero can expect to get called essentially every time, resulting in him going to the river out of position against a range that is difficult to quantify. I would much prefer Hero call in this spot because the opponent has now bet into multiple players on the flop and continued firing on an incredibly scary turn. When someone bets multiple times, it is usually a clear sign of strength. I understand Hero now has a premium draw but raising the turn as a semi-bluff is only a good play if the opponent will frequently fold, which will rarely be the case in this spot due to the opponent’s strong range and excellent pot odds.

The opponent pushed all-in for $146 total, $104 more, into a pot that will be $336 if Hero calls.

Hero needs to win $104/$336 = 31 percent of the time to justify calling. In this situation, given he is likely against either a flush, straight, or set, he will only win about 24 percent of the time.

Hero instead decided to call, thinking he had 15 outs to improve, which in his mind meant he would improve about 30 percent of the time.

It is vitally important that you do not mindlessly count your outs and see how often you will improve to a flush or a straight to determine if you should call because you may improve and still lose (when your opponent has a straight flush or a set), and some of your outs are likely dead (when you are against a flush). Instead of having 30 percent equity, against the opponent’s likely range, Hero only has 24 percent equity. Since 24 percent equity is way less than the required 31 percent equity, Hero simply must fold.

The opponent had QHeart Suit 9Heart Suit and did not get outdrawn. This spot could have easily been avoided by either check/folding the turn or check/calling the turn. Instead, Hero decided to get all of his money in behind. ♠

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.