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Finding The Line: A Street By Street Strategic Look At A Poker Hand

We Give You The Options, You Pick The Line


Playing a hand well requires multiple streets of good decisions, which pros refer to as a line. In Card Player’s new Finding The Line series, readers will be able to let us know what they consider to be the most optimal lines in hands played by professionals.

Card Player will give the options of a player on each street and the readers can put together what they consider to be the most optimal line and leave it in the comments section below.

The Situation

You are heads-up in a live, mid-stakes poker tournament against a very aggressive, solid player. The blinds are 100,000-200,000 with a 30,000 ante and you hold a chip lead with 21 million in chips to your opponent’s 13 million.


You are in the big blind and hold ASpade Suit4Heart Suit. Your opponent min-raises to 400,000 and it’s your action. Do you:

A) Three-bet – Your opponent is aggressive and ace high rates to be ahead of his button raising range. You want to get in as many chips as possible while you have the best hand.

B) Call – You want to keep the pot small with a weak ace and bloat the pot with a hand that doesn’t flop well. You also have some added deception by not three-betting with an ace in your hand.

C) Fold – It’s just a weak ace and you will be playing out of position against an opponent who will be playing very aggressively post-flop and will probably force you to fold on the majority of flops you don’t hit an ace. You can find a better spot.


David Cossio is playing heads-up against James Dorrance in the World Series of Poker Circuit main event in Hammond, Indiana. Dorrance min-raises the button and Cossio calls.

The Flop

The flop is QClub Suit5Heart Suit3Spade Suit. You flop an overcard and a gutshot straight draw. Do you:

A) Check-call – You know your opponent is going to fire a continuation bet with most of his range and you can call with what could be the best hand and see what develops on the turn.

B) Check-fold – You didn’t flop anything that great and you can just let the hand go with a minimal loss.

C) Bet – You can take the initiative away from your opponent and maybe take the pot right there on the flop. This would force him to bluff-raise you or float you in order for him to bluff you.

D) Check-raise – You turn your hand into a bluff and maybe get him to fold a small pair. You also pick up the pot when he bets as a bluff and has nothing.


Cossio checks and Dorrance bets 400,000. Cossio calls and they see a turn.

The Turn

The turn is the 7Club Suit. You improve to a double-gutshot straight draw and you still have an over card that could be an extra three outs. Do you:

A) Check-call – You want to be able to see a river card with all of the equity your hand has. You think that check-calling will be the cheapest way to see the river.

B) Check-fold – You don’t think your opponent could be double-barreling light and he’s got to have a hand in order to bet the turn. If you hit the straight with the six, your hand will not be disguised and your opponent may not pay you off on the river.

C) Bet – You think your opponent may check back some of his bluffs that may have you beat like some bigger ace-highs and he also will have a decent amount of equity with two live cards to make a pair. You may also get him to fold some small pairs.

D) Check-raise – You can make your hand look very strong by taking the check-call/check-raise line. This is typically a line indicative of a lot of strength and you could maximize your fold equity.


Cossio check-calls 800,000 from Dorrance and they go to the river.

The River

The river is the 6Diamond Suit. You make your straight. Do you:

A) Check-call – You can let your opponent bet his worse hands and you doubt he can call a raise with a worse hand.

B) Check-fold – I can’t think of a good argument to check-fold this hand on the river.

C) Bet-fold – You make your hand and you don’t want to risk your opponent checking back some hands that he may call a bet with like a set or two pair. But if you get raised, you don’t think he could ever be getting raised by something worse than a chop.

D) Check-raise – You want to let your opponent bluff at the one-liner to a straight and then hope that he thinks you are bluffing and will call a raise.

E) Bet-call – You make your hand and you don’t want to risk your opponent checking back some hands that he may call a bet with like a set or two pair. But if you get raised, you think he could have some worse hands in his range or that you are getting too good of a price to fold a chop.


Cossio led out for 2.2 million and Dorrance moved all in for just under 9 million. Cossio tanked before calling. Dorrance tabled 9Spade Suit8Heart Suit, giving him the nut straight and Dorrance took a 3-to-1 chip lead.

He took that chip lead and went on to win the heads-up match and the tournament. Dorrance took home a WSOP Circuit ring and over $418,000. Cossio took $260,100 for his second-place finish.

Cossio took a line of B-A-A-E with this hand. Let us know what line you would take and why in the comments below for a chance at winning a Card Player digital subscription. We’ll post the results of the most popular line in the next edition of Finding The Line.



almost 8 years ago

Effectively, pre-flop your starting with 91 bb's. Your aggresive-solid opponent has 56.5 bb's. It's kind of tough to say one hundred percent what my option would be as table dynamics, previous hands played and overall previous interactions on the table with this player. For arguments sake I'm going to assume that we made the funal heads up winning a spot from a seperate table (no history). I would have to safely assume that a min bet to me, OOP may get a fold but would likely get a call. On the flop, I believe a check-raise or a fold would be my option. If your raise is too large you may encite an all-in from your opponenet (depending on his aggression level) so bet size selection is key. If you do not take the pot down there, I believe your behind and chasing the whole way so a check-fold-maybe maybe a small bet call on the turn. River you've made a hand, your opponent is either holding QX, the nuts or a bluff. Too much aggresion in my eyes to be holding air. Your probably beat and have to fold to all but a very thin value bet.


almost 8 years ago

I don't like all the check-calls, preferring to be more aggressive and put some pressure on my opponent in this situation. If I have a good sized chip lead, I'm going to take advantage of it on early streets. A 3 bet before the flop probably makes him lay his hand down, and if it doesn't a flop bet or raise certainly does unless he actually has a hand. If he comes back at you then you can probably safely assume that you're behind and get away from the hand. Opponent's bets are probably being made just so he can see some cards and hope to get lucky (he does) and by calling along you're allowing him to control the hand when you don't need to.


almost 8 years ago

I do not mind the preflop call out of position, as well as the check call on the flop. You most likely have the best hand in both spots and it allows for your opponent to continue to bluff off chips. However, not check raising the turn here is the real crime. Your opponent is still betting with a very polarized range here. It is either a strong hand that you cannot beat or a double-barrelled bluff. The check-raise helps to reveal it to you, as only better hands will continue on here. By calling you allowed his blocker bet to get him to see the river. The board is coordinated and you need to either take it down on the turn or release the hand.


almost 8 years ago

@NoEyeContact - I agree with you completely! I like the call pre and check-call on flop. But as you said, the check-call turn is a big mistake. He should know he's already likely to be ahead and that turn gives him more equity. Check-calling turn makes the opponent think an 8,9 or 6 is probably good will just continue bluffing if he's competent enough- seeing as he's heads up I'm sure that's the case! You're saying you basically have a pair less than a Q and will be raising all pocket pairs pre so it's likely to be like a suited 5 or 3 in your hand in the opponents mind! Check-raising turn will either make him shove or fold...he never finds just a call there unless he has 6-4!


almost 8 years ago

A-B is my decision tree. I like going strong with the Ace but that flop is just not worth it. I'll take my chances later.


almost 8 years ago

@karasz lol at 3bet pre, check-fold flop.genius. 3betting is probably ok but you need to have a good idea about how your opponent will respond to 3bets. I prefer to flat with hands like A4o heads up to avoid possibly getting 4 bet bluffed by a worse hand against an aggressive opponent. Flop is easy check-call. Turn is only real decision and I think flatting is better than raising because we can still beat a lot of his range and have a lot of equity even against the very top of his range like KQ. Raising and having to fold to a shove would suck, plus if he just flats we are clueless what to do on the river. On the river bet-folding is probably best but in game I dunno if I would be able to find the fold button in this spot, just a terrible river card and a cooler imo but he played it well.


almost 8 years ago

Flatting with A4 pre is not a strong play if you are not gonna bluff at least some of the time - this hand just does poorly post flop. Check calling the entire way compounds this mistake.

On the river: when the hero's lead out gets raised, he should ask himself: "if the villain is bluffing here, then he HAS TO THINK that I am also bluffing and that his bluffs cannot beat my bluffs."

That scenario is probably unlikely. Villain is raising for value here at an insanely high frequency.


almost 8 years ago

Bet fold on the river is the correct play.


almost 8 years ago

Flatting pre is OK in pos but being OOP I'd like to 3bet - again without any history of the fellow - if he's capable of 4 betting light then might just flat but just playing hand OOP..I tend to 3 bet - especially with a top 20% starting hand heads I have chips..

It looks like he didn't have a plan for any streets - and when he finally got there - he bet and then got stacked.. Gulp..

I think we have to look at the hand - how many times would have have called 3 bet with 89, how many times would he have called a check raise (pflop) - he had opportunities to take this pot down instead gets swallowed up on the river..

Also he has a decent size to put pressure on him through out the hand and did not..

So not thrilled with the line but eh - it would be interesting to see how the players viewed their rationale..

WSOP in my backyard starting tomorrow ..


almost 8 years ago

I would have taken B then B. The ace is strong preflop and I expect a min raise from an aggressive player from the small blind heads up. The gutshot is 11.75:1 on the turn if you assume I'm only going to see one more card (as you should guys. I don't teach people how to play poker generally but you cant depend on being able to go the the river here. I've seen a lot of people do that.) My pot odds are 3:1 and the ace hurts me. It's an easy fold.


almost 5 years ago

I hate calling and this hand is the perfect example why. Assuming I wanted to continue with the hand at all I'd have brought matters to a conclusion BEFORE the river (most likely on the flop), putting him to the test with either a bet or a raise rather than chasing the second nuts. The SECOND nuts!? The hand as played should make clear the danger of chasing ANYTHING not the mortals.