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Poker Coaching: A Weird Spot With Top Pair

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Aug 23, 2023


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Key Concept: A Weird Spot With Top Pair

You are in the money with 21 players remaining in a $5,000 buy-in tournament. You have a stack of 274,000 with the blinds at 6,000-12,000. It folds around to the button who limps in, and the action is on you in the small blind with QDiamond Suit JSpade Suit.

Question 1: Should you fold, call, raise to 32,000, or raise to 60,000?

Answer: Any raise should be big enough to induce folds from the big blind and button. A raise to 32,000 offers both players too good of a price, so 60,000 is the only good size if you plan to raise. However, when players limp, they often do so with hands they do not plan on folding. Since your hand is not in amazing shape against a limping range, you would prefer to keep the pot small from out of position, especially when you lack fold equity, making a call the correct play. That said, if you think the limper is especially weak, raising to 60,000 gains a lot of merit.

You call and the big blind checks. The flop comes QClub Suit 5Club Suit 5Diamond Suit.

Question 2: Should you check, bet 18,000, bet 38,000, or bet 68,000?

Answer: Betting small is a fine play if you expect your opponents to call down with all sorts of junky hands like small pairs and ace high. Checking is usually preferable though because most players will not put in much money in this situation unless they have a queen, which you are perhaps a little ahead of, or a five, which crushes you. The best play is to check and make your hand look as weak as possible while also inducing a lot of bluffs.

You check, the big blind checks, and the button bets 20,000.

Question 3: Should you fold, call, raise to 42,000, or go all-in?

Answer: Going all-in to get your opponent to fold out their draws may come to mind, but when your shove gets called, you will usually be in rough shape against a better hand. While this would usually be a spot to min-raise with a polarized range, by limping from the button, your opponent has at least some trips in their range. Calling preflop from the small blind, you do not have many fives in your range. With the big blind to worry about as well, calling is by far your best option. If you had a flush draw or needed more protection because the board contained a straight draw as well, min-raising would be the best play, but in this spot, just call.

You call and the big blind folds. The turn card is the 9Spade Suit.

Question 4: Should you check, bet 35,000, bet 70,000, or bet 105,000?
Answer: You should strongly consider leading on this blank turn if you get the vibe that your opponent is going to check behind with most of their marginal made hands. If you can look at your opponent and can tell they are holding a marginal hand, consider making a bet. By betting, you can attract calls from worse hands and keep your opponent from seeing a free card with their draws. Checking with the intention of calling a bet should be your default play, however, especially when your opponent has far more trips in their range than you do, or if they happen to be on the loose, aggressive side.

Despite checking being the better play, you bet 35,000 and get called. The river is the QHeart Suit.

Question 5: Should you check, bet 65,000, bet 115,000, or go all-in?

Answer: While it is tempting to go for the maximum amount with the effective nuts, you should not overbet in this situation because it is extremely difficult to get called by worse hands unless your opponent is a calling station. By calling your small turn lead, your opponent likely has a marginal made hand that they will not use to bluff catch. Going for a check-raise also does not make sense because most players will not value bet thinly when checked to or bluff in this situation. With shoving and checking out of the question, you should bet for value. Some opponents will find a hero call with just ace high as long as you do not make them risk too much. Deciding between 65,000 and 115,000, both bets are likely to get called at roughly the same frequency, incentivizing you to make the bigger bet.

You bet 115,000 and your opponent quickly folds (probably with a busted draw), providing you with crucial chips late in the tournament.

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