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Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- John Racener

Racener Breaks Down Cash Game Hand From One Of Our Readers


John RacenerIt’s great to see pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth battling it out on poker’s biggest stages for millions of dollars, but the truth is that most of us will never get the same opportunity, nor will we really learn anything from their play that directly applies to our own games. The truth is that while we all aspire to be the next Phil Ivey, many of us will do so from the comfort of our friendly neighborhood home game or the low-stakes tables at a nearby cardroom.

In an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to present Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.

Pro — John Racener

Concept — Post flop bet sizing and bluff catching.

John Racener is most well-known in the poker world for his second place finish at the 2010 World Series of Poker main event, where he pocketed just over $5.5 million. While that is his most notable finish to the poker community, he has made four other final tables at the WSOP and a World Poker Tour final table while amassing just over $7.4 million in career tournament earnings.

Racener, like many well-known pros, made his mark on the tournament circuit, but makes his living playing cash games. The Florida native is a regular in the high-stakes games across the state, especially in the Tampa area. Card Player caught up with Racener to break down a $1-$3 no-limit hold’em hand played by one of our readers.

The Hand

The action folds around to our hero in the middle position who is sitting on a fresh stack of $300. He raises to $12 with the KDiamond Suit QHeart Suit and is called by the big blind, who has $675 behind.

The flop comes down 8Spade Suit 6Spade Suit 2Heart Suit and the big blind checks. The hero bets $17 and the big blind calls. The turn is the AHeart Suit and the big blind checks once again.

The hero bets $40 and the big blind calls. The river is the AClub Suit and the big blind leads out for $110. The hero calls with king high and is shown ASpade Suit KSpade Suit to lose the pot.

The Interview

(NOTE: Racener was not made aware of the results of the hand until the end of the interview)

Steve Schult: According to our reader, the player in the big blind had a family member coming over to talk about the $5-$10 no-limit hold’em game he was playing in, had three-betting a lot, showing down bluffs and overall playing a very aggressive strategy. It’s not a ton of information, but what kind of a range can we put this type of player on when he calls preflop from the blind?

John Racener: It’s a pretty standard hand so far. I can’t really tell you what he has, but if I had to start to guess it would be a bunch of ace-X hands, suited connectors, and some pocket pairs. I would need to know more information about how he had been playing before this to really narrow it down more than that.

SS: The flop is 8Spade Suit 6Spade Suit 2Heart Suit and our hero bets $17. Do you like his continuation bet on this board texture? If so, what do you think about his sizing?

JR: I definitely like the bet on the flop, but I would have bet maybe a little smaller. That is more my style of play though. I like to keep pots a little smaller and make it look a little stronger as a result. I think he’s pushing a little too hard here, which the big blind may interpret as a weak hand.

SS: The turn is the AHeart Suit and the big blind checks again. Our hero bets $40. Do you like the ace as a bluff card?

JR: I think the ace is a good barrel card, but depending on how good your opponent is, he should know that. I think you have to know your opponent pretty well before you make this kind of move. I don’t think he’s calling with ace-rag on the flop though. If he has like ace-nine or better, he might call the flop, so I like the bet on the turn, but I think I would have bet a little less than $40. It just seems like a little too much.

SS: Are you able to narrow down our opponent’s range now that he has check-called two streets?

JR: I really think he could have called the flop with like an ace-ten or an ace-jack type hand.

SS: The river is a second ace, but the spades missed and now the big blind leads out for $110. What would be going through your mind at this point?

JR: I think it’s kind of what I was feeling before, a big ace. He might have flopped the nut flush draw and paired the turn, but you would think he’d check-raise the flop with that type of hand. I’m really thinking it’s ace-ten, ace-jack or possibly ace-X of spades.

SS: Obviously our hand is just a bluff catcher is just a bluff catcher at this point. If we decide to bluff catch with king high, what other hands would we be bluff catching with? Is it fair to say that king high is almost the same thing as pocket queens in this spot?

JR: Pretty much because I don’t think he is leading out with anything besides an ace or a missed spade draw. So I guess you could basically say that king-high is the same thing as pocket nines through kings. I wouldn’t want to bluff catch with anything worse than king high though. You start to run the risk of calling and him showing you missed flush draws that beat you.

SS: So would you end up making the call?

JR: No, I think I fold pretty quickly and I just think that he has an ace in his hand.

SS: According to the results, you were right. The villain ended up having ASpade Suit KSpade Suit. A busted flush draw that ended up making trips.

JR: That’s weird. I don’t necessarily like the way the villain played it. I think if he is going to take that line, he should check the river as well. That will allow you to continue to bluff and sometimes value-own yourself.



almost 9 years ago

fresh stack of $300 and you're calling off half your stack with King high on the river, I dont' care if the guy is bluffing or not easy FOLD


almost 9 years ago

I disagree with JR's last comment. The villian cold-called to the river then lead out - a LOT of other players will read that as the villian "calling down to steal on the river". The bet in this situation will, many times, provoke a hero call AND prevent a hero shove.


almost 9 years ago

I agree with Gerry, I think Villian played the hand perfectly. Hero could easily have a mid pair here and most often a hand with showdown value. If he had a missed strait or flush he's taking a free turn card 80% of the time. Gotta bet.