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Don’t Be A Pushover

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Sep 22, 2021

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Jonathan LittleThis hand from a $500 buy-in live tournament illustrates a common leak of many recreational poker players. When they face the least bit of resistance, they fold all but their best hands.

With blinds at 250-500 and sitting with 25,000 effective stacks, the cutoff raised to 1,200. Our Hero in this hand looked down at JHeart Suit JDiamond Suit on the button and decided to three-bet to 3,000. Only the cutoff made the call.

The flop came KSpade Suit 10Spade Suit 9Club Suit, putting an overcard on board but also giving Hero a gutshot straight draw to go along with his jacks.

The cutoff checked, and Hero bet 3,500 into the 7,500 pot. Once again, the cutoff called.

I am fine with Hero’s flop continuation bet, but you should be aware that this is also a reasonable spot to check behind. Notice that if Hero bets on the flop and either on the turn or river, he will have a difficult time getting a significant amount of money in the pot when he has the best hand because most players typically only call two or three bets with strong made hands and premium draws.

This means that Hero’s pocket jacks are good for one, or possibly two streets of value. They are almost never good when three post-flop bets go into the pot. While checking behind on the flop may appear quite weak, when he checks behind, Hero should not plan to fold too often to turn and river bets because his hand is somewhat underrepresented.
The turn was the 3Heart Suit. The cutoff checked, and our Hero checked as well.

Once Hero bets the flop, I think he has to check behind on the turn against all but the most straightforward opponents. If Hero continues betting, he will have a difficult time getting called by many worse hands. That means that when he gets called, he is either beat by a better made hand or he is against a strong draw. When that is the case, you should check behind and look to see a cheap showdown.

The river was the 5Diamond Suit. The cutoff bet 9,000 into the 14,500 pot, and Hero folded.

Folding is almost always a clear mistake in this spot. When the turn checks through, many players will overvalue worse made hands, such as A-10 and Q-10. Also, all of the flush and straight draws on the flop missed. While there should not be a ton of those in the opponent’s range due to Hero’s preflop three-bet, there are enough of them to justify calling.

Notice that Hero only needs to win 28% of the time to break even in this situation, 9,000/(14,500 + 9,000 + 9,000) = 28%. There are enough combinations of poorly value bet worse made hands and busted draws in the cutoff’s range to justify calling.

Do not fall into the habit of continuation betting the flop with a wide range, checking behind on the turn, and then folding to any river bet. If you take this line on a regular basis, your opponents will quickly figure out your weak tendency and adjust to take advantage of you. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.