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Minimizing Losses With Decently Strong Poker Hands

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Mar 09, 2022

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Jonathan LittleI recently played an interesting poker hand in a tough $10,000 buy-in event that demonstrates how to play a strong, but non-premium hand from out of position.

At 1,000-2,000 with a 300 ante, everyone folded around to a loose, aggressive young player in the cutoff, who raised to 4,000 out of his 150,000 stack. A 50-year-old player in the small blind called, investing 3,000 more out of his 21,000 short stack.

I picked up AHeart Suit 7Diamond Suit in the big blind with a 300,000 stack. While I was concerned that the small blind could easily be trapping with a premium hand, I decided to invest 2,000 more to see a flop.

When calling with hands that are easily dominated, such as A-7 offsuit or even K-8 offsuit, you must be careful to not put too much money in the pot after the flop, even when you improve to a normally strong hand like top pair.

The flop came ASpade Suit KSpade Suit 5Club Suit, giving me top pair with a weak kicker. The small blind checked.

On boards that should be good for the preflop raiser and bad for the players in the blinds, you should check with your entire range because on average, you will be at a disadvantage. If the cutoff bet and the small blind called or raised, I would make an easy fold with my weak top pair.

I checked, the cutoff bet 6,800, and the small blind folded.

While I am not in love with my hand, it is simply too strong to fold at this point. If you find yourself folding top pair to only one continuation bet, you are playing far too tightly.

I called. The turn was the ADiamond Suit, improving me to trips with a bad kicker.

While it may appear that betting both for value and protection is a good idea, you will find that when your opponent has you beat, he will almost certainly double up, which would be a disaster. By checking, you force the cutoff to stay in the pot with his entire range, which should result in him bluffing some portion of the time.

I checked and the cutoff bet 15,300 into the 28,300 pot.

This situation is similar to the flop where if you raise, your opponent will almost certainly play perfectly, calling when he has you beat and folding when he doesn’t. While the kid usually has some number of outs, it is worth it to let him draw to them in exchange for not opening yourself up to doubling him up when he has the nuts.

I called. The river was the 6Diamond Suit.

I again checked for the same reasons as on the flop and turn.

The cutoff bet 43,800 into the 58,900 pot.

At this point, even though I have trips, my hand is a bluff catcher. If my opponent was a tight, passive player, folding is a reasonable option. However, since my opponent is loose and aggressive, I have to make the hero call. Having an ace blocker is powerful because it takes many of the value betting combinations out of my opponent’s range. If I had a slightly worse bluff catcher, such as K-Q, I would probably fold because then it would be too likely that my opponent has an ace.

I made the call and was pleased to see my opponent muck his cards, awarding me the pot. I have no clue if he was bluffing with a flush draw or if he had something much worse, such as Q-10 or 8-7. Either way, if I raised at any point throughout this hand, I would have won less money while opening myself up to losing a huge amount of chips if my opponent happened to have me beat. ♠

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.