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Card Room Quiz: Top Pair On A Scary Board

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Nov 15, 2023


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You are eight-handed playing in a $1,000 buy-in live poker tournament with 80,000 at 1,000-1,500. It folds to you in the cutoff and you raise to 3,000 with KHeart Suit 10Diamond Suit. Both the button and the big blind call. The flop comes KSpade Suit 6Club Suit 5Club Suit and the big blind checks to you.

Question 1: Should you check, bet 4,000, bet 8,000, or bet 12,000?

Answer: In the past, I would have bet this flop every time, but after studying lots of multi-way situations, I have learned it is optimal to check a ton from out of position, especially with hands that are almost always good if only a little more money goes into the pot.

Top pair, marginal kicker does not want a lot of money to go into the pot. Checking from out of position helps controls the size of the pot while allowing you to reassess the situation if the button bets. If you want to bet, it should be on the smaller side.

After you check, the button bets 4,000 and the big blind folds.

Question 2: Should you fold, call, raise to 12,000, or raise to 20,000?

Answer: The only two viable options are to call or fold, with folding being out of the question as that would be too tight. With a better kicker, a check-raise could be considered, but with the 10Diamond Suit it is better to call and see the turn.

Y*ou call and the turn is the 3Club Suit. After you check the button bets 10,000.*

Question 3: Should you fold, call, raise to 26,000, or go all-in?

Answer: At this point, you are only ahead of straight draws and stone bluffs. Raising for any amount is not ideal, as any hand that calls is certainly better than KHeart Suit 10Diamond Suit. While you usually have enough equity to call, folding is reasonable, especially if the button is not inclined to bet with draws or junk on the flop and turn.

You call and the river is the 8Club Suit. You check and your opponent bets 20,000.

Question 4: Should you fold, call, or go all-in?

Answer: The four cards to the flush on the board are terrible for top pair. There are a lot of strong club cards in your range, and by continuing to bet on the river the button is not displaying any fear of you having one of them. Your hand is incredibly well protected, allowing you to fold hands like top pair. It is optimal to call with top pair on similar boards without a four flush, but in this spot, folding is the correct play.

You fold and live to fight another day. While it is never fun giving up on big pots, you must be willing to make a big fold when you are likely beat if you ever want to win large field tournaments. ♠

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