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Online Poker: Play Some Hands with David 'Hickboy' Hickman

Hickman Talks About Two Hands From His Recent Win in the PokerStars $100 Rebuy


David 'Hickboy' HickmanDavid “Hickboy” Hickman is one of the most consistent players in online poker. He started playing during the Moneymaker boom, and when he got laid off from his “normal” job, he opted to take a shot at professional poker. Well, it worked out for him, because shortly thereafter, he took down the Full Tilt $750,000-guaranteed event. That was March 2 of this year, and he has since gone on to rack up consistent cashes online.

Hickman most recently took down what is commonly regarded as one of the toughest tournaments on PokerStars, the daily $100 rebuy. He earned nearly $30,000 for his finish, putting his lifetime Online Player of the Year-qualified winnings at nearly $400,000.

Card Player got ahold of Hickman to talk about two key hands from that tournament and to find out what makes him tick:

Hand No. 1

Info  PokerStars $100 rebuy (early stages) Blinds: 100-200
Player  Josh “bbbbb33” Weizer David “Hickboy” Hickman
Stack  9,810 12,650
Hand  K J K Q


Hickboy is dealt K Q in the big blind, and bbbbb33 opens for 560 from mid-early position. Action folds to Hickboy, who calls. The flop comes K Q 6, and Hickboy checks. Bbbbb33 bets 650, and Hickboy check-raises to 2,250. Bbbbb33 calls, and the turn is the 2. Hickboy bets 2,400, and bbbbb33 raises all in for 7,000. Hickboy calls, and bbbbb33 shows K J and is drawing dead. The river is the 3, giving the 19,720 pot to Hickboy.


Shawn Patrick Green: First off, what’s the situation in this tournament? Are you still at your first table?

David “Hickboy” Hickman: It’s still at the first table, and I’ve played with everybody during the rebuy period. It’s in the second level after the rebuy period right now.

SPG: Since it’s just the second level after the rebuy period, does that give you enough time to really judge how they’re going to be playing? Because you’ve been seeing them play during the rebuy period, which isn’t much of an indication as to how they’ll play after the rebuy period, so have you had enough time to adjust to how they’ll actually be playing?

DH: Well, as far as the villain in the hand, bbbbb33, I’ve actually played with him quite a bit in the past, so I had a pretty good read on what he was capable of doing preflop and how he plays postflop. So, that swayed my preflop decision to call, based on what I knew.

SPG: You have K-Q offsuit, and you’re in the big blind. Blinds are at 100-200, and he’s the only person who comes in. And he comes in in early-mid position for less than three times the big blind. Are there really that many situations where you’d fold K-Q with your big blind already in, heads up, and last to act in that scenario? Because you had said to me, in your e-mail, that it was a marginal call, preflop.

DH: The problem with playing a hand like K-Q out of position is that against an aggressive player, the reverse-implied odds are pretty high, meaning that if you flop a hand like top pair, it’s still possible to get into a lot of trouble, because you might be up against something like A-Q or A-K, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to lose a lot of money in that situation. Playing a hand like that [from out of position] against an aggressive player would be very difficult, because it is hard to be sure if he’s value-betting or semi-bluffing or just making an outright bluff. It’s hard playing K-Q out of position profitably against really aggressive players.

But with my read of bbbbb33, he tends to open a lot of hands, preflop; he’s very loose. He can open suited connectors, K-J, K-10, and sometimes even K-9 suited from middle-early position. Just knowing this information, I can profitably call with K-Q off from the big blind getting 2.5-1 odds on the call, preflop.

SPG: So, you end up calling preflop, and the flop comes out giving you top two pair. The only real danger out there is that there are flush and straight draws out there. However, you have to be pretty confident, at this point, that you have the best hand.

DH: Absolutely. You almost have to treat playing top two pair as the nuts since there are a lot of worse hands that would be willing to get the money in in this situation. For instance, say bbbbb33 had something like J-10 of hearts or A-Q of hearts, maybe even like a pair of aces or A-K, he would oftentimes want to get all of the money in in this spot.

So, the way that I approached the pot was to try to get as much money in as possible. There are pretty much two ways to accomplish this. I can lead out with a bet of, say, 800 into the pot of 1,200 or so. That gives bbbbb33 the option to simply call behind, and if he calls, that puts an extra 1,600 into the pot, making the pot close to 3,000. There are a lot of cards on the turn that could either kill the action for my hand or make me not quite as confident that I have the best hand. For instance, I consider the scare-cards on the turn to be any heart, an ace, or even a 9 could be a scare-card, here, because those cards could complete any draws that could potentially call me when I lead on the flop.

What I prefer to do here is to check with the intention of raising, because, for one thing, it allows bbbbb33 to make a continuation-bet with the hands in his range that completely missed the flop that I wouldn’t get any value from if I just led out. So, bbbbb33 led out after I checked, and this allowed me to put in a check-raise. A check-raise actually looks really dry, because I guess it’s pretty stereotypical for players to check-raise when they have a flush draw or a straight draw on a board with this kind of texture.

SPG: So you don’t think that it gave too much away about your hand that you check-raised?

DH: Correct. I think check-raising instead of leading out potentially widens my range of hands. So, he could still give me action with a hand like A-K, K-J, K-10, pretty much any king, and maybe even hands like A-Q, Q-J, or Q-10. I think check-raising allows him to make a bigger mistake by putting more money into the pot when he has the worst hand. So, that’s why I ultimately settled on checking with the intention of raising.

SPG: So, you do end up check-raising, and he calls. Considering what you’ve just said, what does a call mean on his part? Can you narrow down his range at all?

DH: I was really confident that he had a lot of one-pair hands, here. I didn’t think that he had a flush draw, because I think bbbbb33 would probably three-bet shove over my reraise with the nut-flush draw, like if he had A-X of hearts or Q-X of hearts. The fact that he just called made me think that he was trying to control the size of the pot as much as he could. So, that led me to believe that he had an A-K, K-10, K-J type of hand, some marginal one-pair hand in that spot.

SPG: The turn is pretty irrelevant, the 2 couldn’t have done much. After you check-raise, do you pretty much commit yourself to leading out on the turn to tell a continuous story?

DH: I do lead out on the turn, for a few reasons, actually. If I check and he checks behind, there are plenty of cards on the river that could potentially kill any action for my hand or potentially outdraw me. So, I don’t like checking. And there’s no need to control the size of the pot in this situation, either, since top two pair is very profitable on a board of this texture. I decided to lead out for a little bit less than half of the pot to give bbbbb33 the option of raising my bet and perhaps to make him think that he has more fold-equity than he actually has in this spot.

SPG: So, you end up betting a little less than half of the put, and he does push all in, thinking that he has fold equity, but does it strike you at all that he could be pushing all in here think that he’s ahead of you?

DH: I really think he thought he had the best hand, based on the way the hand played out. He could have thought that I would be pushing a lot of draws or maybe even A Q, or other flush or straight draws, as well. So, I think he was pushing his hand for value in this spot.

SPG: So, you end up calling, and he had K-J, which was the kind of hand you figured he might have after his call on the flop. You take down about 20,000 in that pot.

DH: Playing the K-Q offsuit definitely worked out for me in that situation.

Hand No. 2

Info PokerStars $100 rebuy final table Blinds: 3,500-7,000 with a 700 ante
Player David “Hickboy” Hickman MSUcougar
Stack 391,482 222,370
Hand J J ?-?


Hickboy raises to 18,000 from under the gun with J J, and MSUcougar calls on the button. The flop comes 7 3 2, and Hickboy leads out for 25,000. MSUcougar calls, and the turn is the Q. Hickboy checks, MSUcougar bets 42,000, and Hickboy pushes all in, having MSUcougar covered. MSUcougar folds.


David 'Hickboy' HickmanDH: This is at the final table, and there were seven players left.

SPG: You end up raising to 18,000 from early position with pocket jacks, and you get one caller, MSUcougar, who is on the button. So, you’re left playing with pocket jacks out of position. How hard are jacks to play in this scenario?

DH: Pocket jacks are a difficult hand to play out of position, until you see the flop and get an idea of how you’re opponent is playing the hand.

SPG: Well, they’re usually difficult to play out of position, but this flop comes out 7 high. The flop has two spades, but otherwise it’s pretty uncoordinated; you’ve got to be pretty happy about that flop.

DH: Yeah, that’s one of the better flops I could hope for. I guess the flush draw is a little bit of a scare, but there’s no need to be afraid of a flush draw at this point in time.

SPG: Is it also the case that this kind of flop is especially good for you because you’re almost expected to continuation-bet at this point, and he’s pretty much expected to not believe that you hit that flop.

DH: That’s correct. I’ll oftentimes be betting with hands that completely miss the flop, like any combination of high cards or even 10-9 offsuit. I’d almost bet my full range on this flop.

SPG: Is there ever much of an argument for checking here with pocket jacks in an attempt to induce a bluff or show weakness?

DH: I think leading out actually induces a bluff more often than checking, because MSU knows that I’m capable of betting a wide range of hands in this spot. [By continuation-betting], I give him the option of raising my flop bet as a complete bluff. If I check and then call a bet, that just leaves me … I wouldn’t be 100 percent sure where I stood in the hand. I just prefer to lead out in this spot to maintain control of the pot.

SPG: So, you do lead out. You lead out for a little bit less than half of the pot, which is a pretty small bet, true?

DH: Yes, it’s true. I actually do regret making such a small bet, but I don’t think it’s far off from an optimal bet size here.

SPG: Did you make it so small because you’re not too worried about him catching up? Like you said, you can’t be too worried about a spade draw, and you can’t always be afraid of an overcard hitting and killing the prospects of your hand. So, is it just because you do want him to call?

DH: I’ve played with MSUcougar quite a bit in previous multi-table tournaments, and I think of him as an aggressive, good-thinking player. I believe, most of the time, that if MSU had a flush-draw here, he would be raising my flop bet as a semi-bluff, trying to take me off my hand without having to make a flush. So, I wasn’t too concerned about pricing out the bad draws, since I figured that most of the time if he had a flush draw, he’d be raising in this position.

SPG: Well, he ends up calling, so that, intuitively, has to put flush draws almost completely out of his range. The Q comes on the turn, so that puts out the flush draw that you don’t think he has. What is your thought process, here?

DH: I tried putting MSUcougar on a range of hands that would make sense in this situation. I thought it was very possible that he had a hand like pocket aces or pocket tens. I actually think that that’s a very strong part of his range in this situation.

But I also think random floats [calls on the flop with the intention of bluffing later streets] are a big part of his range, as well. I thought he either had aces through tens, and maybe even fours through sixes, or random cards, here. I also wouldn’t quite believe that he would have a set in this situation, either, because I think that most of the time when someone has a set, they raise the flop to try to get as much money in as possible because if a spade comes on the turn, it’s a scare-card that would kill the action. So, that’s why I put MSUcougar on a range that leaned to being worse than pocket jacks.

SPG: So, you’re trying to get as much into this pot as possible, and you come out checking on the turn. How does that factor into trying to maximize your profits on the turn, here?

DH: The problem is that if I lead out here, I’m representing a flush and essentially turning my pocket jacks into a bluff, because there really aren’t going to be a lot of worse hands that MSUcougar would call with in this situation. If I bet out on the flop and the turn, is he really going to call with a pair of eights, nines, or tens? He should think that I have a really strong hand, here most of the time, but if I check, I give him the option to bet at it again with worse hands. So, pretty much my hand at this point is to check-raise all in, because I can get value from worse hands that might lead out on the turn, and I can get as much money into the pot as possible without having to see the river.

SPG: Is there much of a risk, though, of him checking behind you and either a fourth spade or another overcard coming out? You have the J, so are you even folding if the fourth spade comes?

DH: Most likely not. My read was that he didn’t have a flush draw, so I think that even if another spade came on the river, I would have the best hand the majority of the time. There are random times that he was floating me with ace high with the A, but I’d still think that I had the best hand on the river if a fourth spade came.

SPG: So, if he checks behind you and you get to the river, you’re probably going to lead out again regardless of the card that comes rather than check behind?

DH: If the fourth spade came, I’d probably check behind with the intention of check-calling, just because I don’t think that he would call with worse flushes if I led out on the river. It gives him the option to bluff at it, or I could just get a cheap showdown, which wouldn’t be a bad result, either, with four spades on the board.

SPG: But what actually happens is that you check, and he bets 42,000, into a pot of 101,000. So, it looks suspiciously like a value-bet, which, nowadays, especially in a tournament like the $100 rebuy here, doesn’t mean much, because it could still be either a bluff or a value-bet. You check-raise all in for what is effectively 180,000, because of his stack and the fact that you have him covered. What are you trying to accomplish by pushing all in, here? Are any other options on the table?

DH: I don’t like calling after he bets the 42,000, because it makes the pot huge, and it gives him an opportunity to catch up on the river. My reasoning, pretty much, for the check-raise all in was that since I put him on the range of smaller pairs and random floats — and I thought the flush draw was kind of out of his range — I interpreted the 42,000 bet as a smallish bet trying to take down the pot as cheaply as possible. Yes, it is possible that he had the flush, or maybe he had a set or a strong hand, but I thought that the majority of the time my pocket jacks were good in this situation. By moving all in I might be able to get him to call with a hand like pocket tens with a spade draw.

It’s a tough situation because none of the options are straightforward.

SPG: And that’s how a lot of options are in poker; there’s usually a best option, but it’s not always far and away the best. There are a lot of valid options to choose from, and some are only marginally better than others.

So, you end up pushing all in and he folds, and you take down a decent-sized pot. Thanks for talking with us, David!

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