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Messing Up A Full House

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jun 05, 2019


I was recently asked my opinion about a poker hand by one of my fans that illustrates numerous mistakes you should strive to avoid. Early on in the first day of the $1,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Seniors event, the cutoff raised to 150 out of his 5,000-effective stack, the small blind called, and our Hero in the big blind decided to min-three-bet to 250 with 5-5.

I do not like this play at all. Some players mistakenly think that if they are “ahead” that they should put more money in the pot. While it is true that either opponent is unlikely to have a pair, they are nearly certain to call only 100 more with hands that simply must fare quite well against a small pair. Notice that the only time Hero is happy with the flop is when he flops a set. Even normally safe boards like J-6-2 could improve the opponents’ holdings. Hero should have instead just called the 150 raise before the flop, looking to see a cheap flop with his hand that will either be the effective nuts or a weak bluff catcher after the flop.

As expected, both opponents called. The flop came KSpade Suit 5Club Suit 2Diamond Suit, giving Hero middle set. That is lucky! The small blind bet 400 into the 750 pot.

I am normally not a fan of slow playing, but it is a fine strategy in this situation. The small blind’s leading range is likely marginal made hands and junky draws. Since Hero crushes that range, he really wants to keep it in, which calling accomplishes. Hero has to be sure he understands which turns could be bad for him (ace, six, four, three) so he doesn’t make the blunder of paying off the opponent if he improves to a straight. Calling also allows the cutoff to stick around when he is drawing nearly dead, which is a great result.

Hero called and the cutoff min-raised to 800. The small blind called.

At this point, it is highly likely that both opponents either have reasonable made hands or draws (like 4-3). While Hero should not be overly concerned that he is beat, he wants to ensure he gets all-in by the river. If he calls and the turn checks through, he will have squandered his opportunity, so putting in a re-raise to about 1,800 is ideal. Although Hero probably never takes this line with a bluff (meaning he is completely unbalanced), that is fine because many amateurs can’t fold top pair or an open-ended straight draw for only 1,000 more into a pot that will be 6,150. It is acceptable to have no bluffs in your range if your opponents don’t care about the contents of your range.

Hero decided to call. The turn was the 8Heart Suit. The small blind checked.

Assuming Hero called the flop, I think his only option is to continue checking, looking to check-raise all-in over the cutoff’s bet. Leading small has no merit because his opponents may make big folds with top pairs and will be getting a decent price with their draws. Leading large doesn’t make sense unless Hero is confident the cutoff is completely bluffing and also that the small blind has a premium hand.

Hero led for 1,100 (about one-third pot). Both opponents called. The river was the 8Spade Suit. The small blind checked.

At this point, Hero only has 2,850 remaining in his stack and the pot is 6,450. When you have about half-pot or less remaining in your stack, going all-in with your premium hands is almost always the best option because if your opponents have strong hands, they will call any bet and if they have a busted draw, they will fold to any bet.

Hero bet 1,200. The cutoff called with 2-2 (a worse full house) and the small blind folded K-Q face-up.

Hero was thrilled that he won a big pot early in the tournament, but in reality, he should have been disappointed that he failed to stack another incredibly premium hand. When you take abnormal lines, as Hero did, you give your opponents a chance to either get off the hook completely or save a substantial amount of the money. Don’t get fancy! ♠

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, 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