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Poker Strategy With Jonathan Little: Tricky Spot From A $1-$2 No-Limit Cash Game

Little Breaks Down Hand Played By Low-Stakes Player

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I was recently told about a hand from a $1-$2 no-limit cash game that illustrates a few errors many recreational players make on a regular basis. Two players limped from middle position and our Hero raised to $10 out of her $304 stack from the button with AHeart Suit 10Heart Suit.

Raising limpers with your best hands is almost always a right play. Do not feel like you should limp behind with your strong hands simply because a few other players limped before you.

The small blind and big blind, a tight aggressive player, called. The two limpers folded.

I cannot fathom limping with a presumably playable hand and then folding for only $8 more, essentially closing the action with strong relative position. Most of the time on the flop, everyone will check around to Hero, who will bet. From there, the players in the blinds have to act before the limpers, giving the limpers somewhat reliable information, despite being out of position against the preflop raiser. If you are going to develop a limping range, it should be structured such that you can call reasonably sized raises and see lots of flops. There is no point in limping junky hands like A-8 offsuit or 9-8 offsuit. It is fine to fold your junk before the flop!

The flop came ASpade Suit 9Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit. The blinds checked to Hero, who bet $15 into the $34 pot.

Hero chose an excellent bet size. By betting small on a dry board, Hero induces the opponents to stick around with all sorts of junk that is drawing thin. Notice that if Hero bets larger, her opponents will fold almost all unpaired hands and perhaps even some pairs. Especially when trying to extract value from recreational players, choose a bet size they can call with their inferior made hands.

Both opponents called. The turn was the 10Spade Suit. The small blind checked and the big blind led for $30 into the $79 pot.

This is an interesting spot to lead because if Hero has a strong made hand, she will certainly continue betting on this innocuous turn. This makes me think that most likely, the big blind has some sort of draw that is trying to get fold equity, but that may not be possible if he folds most of his backdoor draws on the flop (remember, he is known to be a tight player). If he does not have many draws in his range, he probably has mostly made hands, almost all of which Hero beats. In order to confirm Hero is in good shape, spend a moment counting the combinations of value hands that Hero beats and compare those to the value hands that beat Hero.

Hero beats six combinations of A-9 (two remaining aces X three remaining nines = 2 X 3 = 6), six combinations of A-3, and six combinations of 10-9. He loses to one combinations of 10-10, three combinations of 9-9 and three combinations of 3-3. This means that in the likely worst-case scenario, the opponent has 18 hands Hero beats and only seven hands that beat Hero, meaning Hero should certainly continue.

If the opponent is only leading with value hands and will confidently play for all his money with all of them, Hero should raise, looking to get all-in, despite the fact that she will lose about 28 percent (7/25) of the time. If the opponent will fold 10-9 and perhaps A-3 to a raise, then Hero should instead call. If the opponent’s range also contains numerous junky made hands that will fold to a raise, such as A-6, Hero should also call.

Hero raised to $75. The small blind folded and the big blind went all-in for $249 total.

This is a nasty spot, but if the previous analysis holds true that the opponent will go all-in with 10-9 and better made hands, Hero has an easy call because she will win 72 percent of the time and she only needs to win 32 percent of the time based on the pot odds (204/637). If he will only go all-in with A-9 and better made hands, Hero still wins 6/13 = 46 percent of the time. The only time Hero can possibly justify folding is if she knows with a high degree of certainty that the opponent has exactly a set and will never play draws in this manner. Given you will rarely have such an accurate read, Hero has to call.

Hero called and lost to 3-3. Tough luck! ♠

Jonathan LittleJonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker. You can also sign up for his FREE Excelling at No Limit Hold’em webinars at HoldemBook.com/signup.