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Avoid Going Broke When You Make Your Hand

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Nov 15, 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 hand from a $70 buy-in live poker tournament that illustrates a major mistake many recreational players make with premium, but possibly second-best, hands.

With blinds at 1,000-2,000 with a 200 ante (what poker rooms still aren’t using a big blind ante?), an unknown player in second position raised to 4,500 out of his 80,000 effective stack. The players in the hijack and cutoff seats both called, as did our Hero on the button with 8Heart Suit 7Heart Suit.

Hero’s call is excellent. 8Heart Suit 7Heart Suit flops well and should be able to navigate difficult flops reasonably well due to being in position. The main time Hero should fold suited connectors is when it is clear someone yet to act plans to three-bet, which was not the case this time.

The small blind also called. The flop came 10Diamond Suit 9Club Suit 5Spade Suit, giving Hero the worst open-ended straight draw. Everyone checked around to Hero, who also checked.

I would have at least considered betting about 9,000 into the 26,500 pot. Most initial raisers will continuation bet with their strong hands, meaning the initial raiser likely has a marginal made hand or junk. After the initial raiser checks, the remaining players will usually bet with their strong hands, meaning the hijack and cutoff also likely have marginal made hands or junk. This means that the only player Hero has to worry about having a premium hand is the small blind.

From in position, it is usually profitable to bet with a wide range of draws and premium made hands into one completely unknown range. If one of the other players calls, Hero should usually bet again on the turn or the river, looking to make the opponents fold almost their entire marginal range.

The turn was the 3Club Suit. The small blind bet 6,900 into the 26,500 pot. The initial raiser and the cutoff both called. Hero called as well.

While there may be a bit of merit in raising because the initial raiser and the cutoff have marginal ranges, Hero’s call is best due to getting excellent pot odds closing the action in position. Hero will complete his straight about 17% of the time and based on the pot odds, he only needs to have 13% equity to justify continuing (6,900/54,000 = 13%). When your odds of improving to an effective nut hand are greater than the equity you need to continue based on the pot odds, you should stick around.

The river was the JHeart Suit, completing Hero’s straight. The small blind checked, the initial raiser bet 13,200 into the 54,000 pot, and the cutoff raised to 30,000. Hero decided to go all-in for 70,000 total.

Going all-in is a disaster for Hero. Even though he improved to what is likely the best hand, it is quite easy for him to be against one of the better straights after facing a bet and raise. While Hero should not fold (because the cutoff could have a set or two pair), he should not raise because his all-in will usually only get called by a straight.

Going all-in may win chips if the opponents can make a big call with a set, but in a tournament, there is significant value in not going broke. By just calling, Hero will have 40,000 chips remaining in his stack when he loses, and when he wins, he will still have a ton of chips. The risk of going broke is not worth the gains from extracting a bit more value.

Sure enough, the cutoff had K-Q for the nut straight, busting Hero from the tournament. Hero wanted to complain about his bad luck, but in reality, he made a blunder that costs many recreational poker players lots of money.

This hand illustrates just one mistake that many amateur players make on a regular basis. If you want more resources to help you improve your game, I put together a course called The 25 Biggest Leaks and How to Fix Them. This course 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:
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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