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A Lot Of Decision Points

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Apr 19, 2023


Jonathan Little If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at

I was recently told about a $5-$10 no-limit hold’em cash game hand from one of my poker students that illustrates a few mistakes many recreational players make on a regular basis.

A loose, splashy, player with a $2,000 effective stack raised to $30 with AClub Suit 9Club Suit from middle position and then an excellent loose, aggressive player three-bet to $95 from the cutoff seat with 10Heart Suit 8Heart Suit. From there, a tight, aggressive player elected to call $95 on the button with AHeart Suit QHeart Suit. The initial raiser called $65 more.

I am perfectly fine with the initial raise and three-bet. Of course, the cutoff could also call with 10Heart Suit 8Heart Suit, but three-betting applies pressure and builds a pot that can be stolen postflop when the initial raiser fails to connect with the board.

The button with AHeart Suit QHeart Suit should have four-bet or folded. The main problem with calling is that if a lot of money goes into the pot after the flop, A-Q cannot happily continue with even top pair, second kicker, which is what it will most likely flop. In this scenario, given his opponents’ loose tendencies, I would have four-bet to around $250.

Facing the three-bet and the call, AClub Suit 9Club Suit has an easy fold because he is highly likely to be dominated. If he flops a flush draw, he probably will not want to check-raise the flop and pile his 200 big blind stack in because when he gets called, he will be decently far behind. Due to his lack of position, he will have a difficult time getting a lot of money in if he check-calls the flop and makes his flush on either the turn or river. This should lead him to simply fold to the three-bet. However, in middle stakes live cash games, you rarely see players make snug (standard) folds before the flop, which is a costly leak that keeps many of them stuck in those games for their entire poker-playing careers.

The flop came QClub Suit JClub Suit JDiamond Suit, and everyone checked.

While it may be tempting for AClub Suit 9Club Suit to lead with the flush draw, that is not a good idea because it is too likely someone has connected well with this board. 10-8 should also check for the same reason, despite having the preflop betting lead. You may be surprised to find out that I actually like checking with A-Q as well. It is usually not too susceptible to being outdrawn and if it bets and gets called or raised, it will usually be in marginal shape. It is best to check behind and try to get closer to the showdown.

The turn was the 10Spade Suit. The middle position player with AClub Suit 9Club Suit bet $130 into the $300 pot, the cutoff folded, and the button called with AHeart Suit QHeart Suit.

I am fine with AClub Suit 9Club Suit’s turn bet. He has to expect one of his two opponents to have at least a marginal made hand, but his flush and straight draws have a lot of equity. 10-8 has an easy fold even though it “improved to a pair.” It is important to realize that bottom pair and an awful straight draw are not worth much in this spot.

A-Q again made a good call, opting not to raise. As on the flop, if a lot of money goes in on the turn, he will either be crushed by a better made hand or a bit ahead of a strong draw.

The river was the QDiamond Suit. AClub Suit 9Club Suit bet $325 into the $560 pot, AHeart Suit QHeart Suit raised to $1,000, and AClub Suit 9Club Suit folded.

I really dislike AClub Suit 9Club Suit’s river bluff. If his opponent had a missed draw, ace high is likely the best hand. Knowing his opponent is a fairly straightforward player, AClub Suit 9Club Suit can expect the river to check through quite often when his ace high is good. While his opponent usually will not have a jack or straight, he could easily have a queen (as he did). AClub Suit 9Club Suit simply has to check with the intention of folding to a bet.

A-Q should definitely raise the river, but he chose a bad size. When the river bettor has worse than a jack, he will fold to any raise, and he will always call a queen. So, the goal is to get value from a jack. In my experience, most players will call a small raise to about $720 with a jack.

A-Q’s raise to $1,000 is simply too large, which will often result in a fold from the opponent’s entire range, resulting in A-Q missing out on a hefty amount of value some portion of the time. Don’t leave that money on the table! ♠

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