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Decisions From The Felt: Turning Tough Decisions Into Easy Decisions

by Ryan Laplante |  Published: May 22, 2019

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Ryan Laplante at the WSOPI recently took part in the U.S. Poker Open, hosted in the PokerGo lounge at Aria in Las Vegas. It was a great venue to play at and the atmosphere made it really feel as though you were a part of a high roller series.

I ended up playing the two $10,000 buy-in hold’em events, and each one had around 80-90 entries. It was a pretty typical field for this type of event, with around 25-30 recreational player entries, and the rest a mix of normal professionals and high roller phenoms.

This hand occurred during level 6 of day 1 of a two-day tournament. I’m newer to the table, which looked like a pretty reasonable draw given the field, with a couple recreational players on it and the rest pros. I built the initial stack of 125,000 to 200,000.

My opponent in the hand appeared to be a recreational player who had been working on his phone while playing. He was fairly loose and aggressive overall. He started the hand with 250,000.

Blinds: 1,500-3,000 with a 3,000 big blind ante
Stack: 200,000
Hand: ASpade Suit 6Spade Suit
Position: Small Blind
Opponent: Cutoff

The Villain raises to 11,500 from the cutoff. I have two very reasonable options here, I can either call the raise, or I can three-bet to around 45,000. Theory-wise (GTO) we should three-bet this around half the time and call the rest. Which one I choose is based on two different main factors. First: How loose is my opponent opening? Second: How good is the player in the big blind?

If the opener is too tight, we don’t want to have many light three-bets. If the player in the big blind is very good we want to three-bet more often to deny them equity and play heads up with a weaker opponent. Something to consider here as well is whether or not their sizing of almost 4x tells us anything about their opening range.

Action: As the big blind wasn’t an especially good player, and the sizing was large, I decided to call. The big blind folded.

Flop: 8Heart Suit 4Spade Suit 2Heart Suit (29,000)
Action: I check, and he continuation bets 10,000.

At first this doesn’t seem like a great flop for us. We didn’t flop a pair, we didn’t flop a draw, and we are out of position and we are facing aggression from the preflop raiser. However, folding here getting almost 4:1 odds would certainly be a mistake, as we have great backdoor equity, the ability to turn straight draws on three, five, seven and a nut-flush draw on a spade. We could also have the best hand currently, or pick up the best hand on an ace or even a six.

So, while I’m not loving this situation, I believe that either calling or check-raising are both very viable options and far better than folding. Which one I choose here comes down mostly to how I expect my opponent to continue on turns and rivers. The better or more aggressively I expect my opponent to play, the more willing I am to check-raise.

Action: I call.
Turn: 6♦ (49,000)

Hitting the six is great for us, because we now beat the A-X we were behind against, and beat a few pairs that he could have. Most people in this situation have a first instinct to check, and leading isn’t really a consideration. However, while leading may have picked up a bad reputation, “Donking,” there are actually many situations where leading with parts of your range is best.

The reason that this is one of them, is because this is a situation in which my opponent is very likely to check back many hands that I do well against but have a lot of equity. And as I don’t want to give those hands free equity, and as I can get called by plenty of worse hands, this is a good spot for us to lead. Simply put, by leading here we can get both protection and value.

Action: I bet 18,000, he calls.
River: KDiamond Suit (85,000)
Action: I check, he bets 70,000.

When deciding whether to bet or check a hand you need to figure out whether or not you need to/can bluff, or whether you are able to bet for value. As I didn’t believe I needed to or could bluff here, and didn’t see many worse hands that could call, checking made the most sense.

When he bets 70,000 we are obviously not happy. We have third pair on a fairly wet board in a situation where there has been aggression on every street. We are also facing a near pot-size bet of 23 big-blinds into a pot of 28 big-blinds and almost half of my remaining chip stack.

On the surface, this seems like a pretty easy fold. We are facing a very significant bet, for a large portion of our stack, there has been lots of aggression, and we have arguably a very weak hand. But, let’s break down what they can have, and what they are representing, and I will show you why the answer is an easy and logical one.

When they bet 70,000, such a large percent of pot, they are telling me that they have a very strong hand, or possibly a bluff. I thought it was possible for this opponent to maybe have a hand like J-J or Q-Q here, or K-X+. That is a decent number of total combos, 6+6+5+3+3+3+3 = 29 combinations of hands that are J-J, Q-Q, KHeart Suit XHeart Suit, A-A, or sets. Getting 2.2:1 on a call, I need them to have at least 14 combinations of bluffs in order to find a call.

We can assume that they have A-3 suited (4), A-5 suited (4), A-7 suited (4), 10-9 suited (4), and flush draws (9). This makes it a total of 25 bluff combos they can have, and that doesn’t even include offsuit combinations that could push this total a lot higher.

That means this tough and awkward situation is actually a very logical and profitable call.

Action: I call and win the pot.

When approaching hands, try your best to use your logic and reasoning abilities to figure out what your opponent is trying to tell you, then use the math of the game to figure out how profitable of a decision you are facing. This can turn the most awkward and difficult decisions into easy and profitable ones.

Thank you for reading and best of luck at the tables! ♠

Ryan Laplante is a 2016 WSOP Bracelet winner. He has more than $4.5 million in tournament cashes with seven WSOP final tables. His website is PokerProtential.com, and he is a coach for Chip Leader Coaching