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Mixing It Up

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jul 12, 2023

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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 PokerCoaching.com/CardPlayer.

I recently played an interesting hand in a $1,000 buy-in live tournament where we started with 30,000 chips at 100-200 with hour-long levels, meaning there was lots of time to hang out and wait for strong hands.

Everyone at my table was doing exactly that, so I switched it up and made a point to steal every pot once it was clear no one was interested in winning it. This allowed me to double my starting stack within three hours with almost no risk, which is always an amazing result.

However, when you are constantly pushing your opponents around, your observant opponents will eventually assume that you are overly wild and may adjust and play back at you.

At 300-600 with a 600 big blind ante, a super weak, tight player who was clearly waiting for strong preflop cards raised to 1,500 out of his 22,000 stack from first position. The hijack and button called. I looked down at A-K (normally a premium hand) in the small blind and just called.

When facing a first-position raiser who almost certainly has a premium hand, bloating the pot from out of position will get you in trouble. You must realize that A-K will only win around 40% of the time against a range containing only A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and A-K, which is almost certainly what you will be against if the initial raiser decides to re-raise.

If you re-raise and the initial raiser calls, everyone else will likely call, forcing you to play a four-way pot from out of position. Since both of these results are quite bad, calling is likely the best play because it forces your opponents to stay in the pot with hands you dominate while also under-representing your hand.

The flop came A-10-8, giving me top pair. I checked, as I would do with all of my hands, and the initial raiser bet 3,000 into the 7,200 pot. Everyone folded around to me.

While I would normally call in this situation to keep my opponent in the pot with hands that are drawing thin, such as A-J and K-K, I was convinced that my opponent liked his hand. Since I have an ace in my hand, I am unlikely to be against A-A. I also thought it was fairly unlikely that he had 8-8 because he would have limped with that preflop (for the record, limping 8-8 is vastly inferior to raising).

This means that unless he has exactly 10-10, I am either chopping against A-K or ahead against A-Q or A-J. I did not get the vibe that my opponent would fold his strong hands because most amateur players who use an overly tight preflop strategy tend to go way too far with their marginal made hands. They feel that since they so rarely enter the pot that they must win every time they connect with the board.

So, I went all-in for my opponent’s 17,500 remaining stack. My opponent proudly called and turned up his A-Q.

He could not believe it when I turned up A-K because in his mind, I “must” re-raise with A-K before the flop.

Even though I got all-in with 86% equity, meaning I will win 86% of the time, my opponent caught a queen on the river, awarding him the pot.

Although I suffered a bad beat, I still had 50,000 remaining, which was more than my starting stack. Playing a loose, aggressive strategy allowed me to not only accumulate a big stack with little risk, but also to get paid off in a situation where my opponent should have at least considered folding. Despite the unlucky situation, I still had plenty of chips that I used to make a deep run. Always pay attention to your opponents’ strategies and adjust your play to take advantage of their mistakes.

If you want to improve your preflop game even more, I put together a 5-Day Preflop Challenge with the help of Jonathan Jaffe and Matt Affleck. This challenge is completely free inside the Card Player Poker School!

When you join the Card Player Poker School (it’s free to join), you’ll also get:

✔ Free downloadable preflop charts
GTO preflop charts
✔ Video Classes
✔ Interactive Hand Quizzes
✔ Free Course: Master the Fundamentals
✔ Free Course: The 25 Biggest Leaks and How to Fix Them
✔ Free training every week

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.