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Folding Top Pair, Top Kicker On The Flop

by Jonathan Little |  Published: May 20, 2020

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Jonathan LittleWhile I have a fairly solid grasp on how to play fundamentally sound poker, I often find myself calling a bit too often with good, but second best, hands when my opponents are willing to put all of their money in the pot. I have been working hard to plug this leak, and this hand demonstrates my progress.

In a recent $5,000 buy-in live partypoker event in Montreal, I started the hand with 280,000, which was a ton of chips at the 1,000-2,000 level. I raised with ADiamond Suit QDiamond Suit from first position to 4,500. A tight, passive player who had 120,000 chips called from middle position. An excellent tight, aggressive player with 200,000 chips also called from the small blind.

The flop came QSpade Suit 9Diamond Suit 6Spade Suit, giving me top pair, top kicker. The small blind checked. I certainly want to make a bet to get value from numerous worse made hands, like K-Q, Q-J, and A-9, while also protecting my hand against various draws, such as 5Spade Suit 4Spade Suit and K-J. Of course, I do not expect anyone to ever fold a premium draw to any reasonable bet. The idea of betting a large amount to try to force the premium draws to fold will almost never work. I bet 12,000 into the 17,500 pot. This bet easily allows worse made hands that I crush to call while giving the draws poor pot odds.

The middle position player thought for a while then called. The small blind then started thinking, and thinking and thinking, for about three minutes total. While he was thinking, I realized that the small blind would probably only raise with a set, Q-9, 9-6, or a premium draw. Against the sets and two pairs, I am crushed. Against the premium draws, I will win roughly 60 percent of the time. Against exactly that range, A-Q is in terrible shape, winning only 25 percent of the time.

While the small blind may occasionally run a big bluff, since our table was decently soft, I did not think he would want to make an overly risky play. He may also check-raise with a marginal made hand such as K-Q or Q-J to try to price out the draws, but I thought that was unlikely because it is a generally bad play, given I could easily have a premium hand. If he check-raises with Q-J, he will usually only get action when he is against a strong draw or when he is crushed, which is a terrible result for him.
He eventually check-raised to 38,000.

As soon as his chips hit the felt, I folded my hand. The middle position player thought for a while and then called. The turn was the 3Club Suit. The small blind went all-in for the middle position player’s remaining stack. The middle position player instantly called with 6-6, which he was quite happy with, but he lost to the small blind’s 9-9.

I dodged a bullet! Maybe I am the next Phil Hellmuth.

In the past, I would have lost a few more chips in this situation, usually by calling the flop raise and then folding to the turn bet. Many players would simply go all-in on the flop, putting the small blind on a draw or a marginal made hand that A-Q beats.

Most players don’t even consider that the middle position caller could have a strong hand. Even though this was actually a fairly easy fold once the small blind check-raised due to my poor chances of winning at the showdown, it is important to make sure you are folding reasonably strong hands when you are almost certainly crushed by your opponent’s range. ♠

Jonathan Little Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and best-selling poker author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. If you want to learn how to play fundamentally sound poker and increase your win rate, check out PokerCoaching.com. Click here to try PokerCoaching.com for free.