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Poker Strategy With Jonathan Little: Two Common Mistakes

Little Breaks Down A Small-Stakes Cash Game Hand

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Jonathan LittleI was recently told about a hand that illustrates two errors that many amateur players make on a regular basis. In a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em cash game, a tight, straightforward player limped out of his $120 effective stack from first position. Everyone folded around to our Hero on the button with AClub Suit QSpade Suit, who raised to $14.

I like Hero’s raise, especially if he thinks the limper will rarely limp as a trap with a premium hand, looking to re-raise. Raising will often result in the limper either calling or folding with a vastly inferior hand, allowing Hero to extract significant value with what is usually the best hand at the moment.

The blinds folded and the initial limper re-raised to $40.

When facing a limp/re-raise, Hero should fold all but his most premium hands unless he is confident the opponent is capable of getting way out of line. Even if he is out of line occasionally, perhaps semi-bluffing with ADiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit or 10Spade Suit 9Spade Suit, Hero should still fold. It is too likely that this opponent is the type of player who is happy to win a small pot with his most premium hands because he is deathly afraid of getting outdrawn.

Do not fall in love with your hand just because it is normally strong and you are getting decent pot odds in position. If your opponent’s range is only A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and a few bluffs, folding is the only play that makes sense.

If instead of being tight and straightforward, the opponent was loose, active, and maniacal, Hero should go all-in for the $120 effective stack, making the opponent fold numerous hands that will win about 45 percent of the time against A-Q.

Hero called, which is probably the worst option. The flop came JSpade Suit 10Diamond Suit 6Club Suit. The opponent pushed all-in for $80 into the $81 pot.

While a gutshot straight draw with overcards is normally a decent hand (because it has roughly 10 outs against top pair), it is much worse in this situation. In fact, Hero loses to all big pairs, as well as A-K and A-J. The only hand he is ahead of is K-Q, and almost no one limp/re-raises K-Q.

Notice that instead of having 10 somewhat live outs, Hero will usually have only four or seven outs because he is often dominated in some way. Hero has an easy fold, given he is getting only 2:1 pot odds. He needs to win 33 percent of the time and unless the opponent is a lunatic, he will only win about 25 percent of the time.

Hero called and lost to K-K. Against this player, folding before the flop would have easily avoided this costly mistake. Do not make these common, but avoidable, mistakes of calling too loosely preflop and then calling when you are getting the incorrect odds post-flop. ♠

Jonathan Little Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and best-selling poker author with over $6,900,000 in live tournament earnings. If you want to learn how to play fundamentally sound poker and increase your win rate, check out PokerCoaching.com. Click here to try PokerCoaching.com for free.