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Poker Strategy -- Jon Little Discusses Taking a Beat

Little Analyzes a Cash-Game Hand


Jonathan LittleJonathan Little is known for his huge tournament success. He has accumulated more than $4.3 million in winnings, including two World Poker Tour titles. But when he’s not competing in live or online tournaments, he’s working on his deep-stack play by grinding in cash games.

Little sat down with Card Player to discuss an interesting no-limit hold’em hand he played at Bellagio.

The Game:

Stakes: $10-$20
Game: No-limit hold’em
Location: Bellagio

Review of the Hand:

Preflop Action: Villain in middle position raises to $80. Little reraises to $260 from the small blind with pocket kings, and Villain calls. The pot is now $540.

Kristy Arnett: How was the session going before this hand came up?

Jonathan Little: I’d been doing decently well. I think I was up $1,000 or something, but nothing really important had happened. It was pretty early in the session for me.

KA: What information do you have on this opponent?

JL: I actually know this guy. He’s one of my good friends, so it surprised me that he’d try to go out of his way to outplay me. I’ve seen him take some weird lines before. He’s a loose-aggressive player, and I know that he never folds to reraises. After he called, I knew he could show up with a wide range of hands.

KA: What were you thinking about when deciding how to play your kings out of position?

JL: Well, preflop I definitely want to reraise with kings. I’m going to try to reraise a decent amount of hands against loose players who put lots of money in preflop with all of the bad hands he’s raising with.

Flop Action: The flop comes QClub Suit 9Diamond Suit 4Spade Suit. Little bets $340, and Villain calls. The pot is now $1,220.

JL: I pretty much continuation-bet with everything, especially my decent hands. Whenever the pot is reraised preflop, you can’t really be too scared to get it all in, because if your opponent hits any piece of the flop, especially a loose opponent, they’re just going to shove the money in.

Card Player Pro

Turn Action: The turn is the 8Club Suit. The board now reads QClub Suit 9Diamond Suit 4Spade Suit 8Club Suit. Little bets $500, and Villain goes all in for $1,200 more. Little calls. The pot is now $4,620.

KA: Why did you decide to lead into him again?

JL: When he just called me on the flop, the turn card kind of scared me, because he could easily have had J-10, which I wasn’t really happy about. But, if I checked and he bet, I would be in a pretty bad spot, because there are a lot of bad rivers I can’t really check-call. If any bad rivers come, I’m pretty lost. So, I bet here with the intention of calling a raise, because I thought he might try to represent a hand like J-10. He’s all about trying to represent stuff [laugh]. Whenever an opponent is trying to “represent” things, you can’t really believe what they’re saying.

KA: How do you find the line between when they are trying to represent a hand and when they actually do have that hand?

JL: Well, I’ve seen this guy try to represent hands twice in tournaments when he had nothing. If you see a guy doing that sort of thing, they probably have nothing most of the time. Some of the time, he could have had J-10 here, and I could have been drawing dead. But even then, the pot was already about $1,600 or something, so I was getting decent odds to call. Anytime you’re getting decent odds to call and you think your opponent could be bluffing a big percentage of the time, you can’t really fold.

River and Outcome: The river is the 3Club Suit. The board now reads QClub Suit 9Diamond Suit 4Spade Suit 8Club Suit 3Club Suit. Little shows pocket kings, and Villain shows 9Club Suit 2Club Suit for a flush. Villain wins the pot of $4,620.

KA: As a poker pro, you obviously have to learn to deal with bad beats. Do they still faze you at all and affect the rest of the session?

JL: It’s obviously no fun, but you can’t let it bother you. All you can do is get it in good and hope you win a decent amount of the time. If I do start to feel tilty, I just get up and leave, because the game is going to be there tomorrow. I don’t really feel the need to play all of the time, because I’m really playing cash to get better at poker. I think you do need to play through tilt sometimes so that you can get used it. Like in tournaments, if you go on tilt, you can’t just quit [laughs]. But the good thing about tournaments is that if you lose your stack, you’re just out, so you don’t have the option of tilting and losing more money.

Anytime I lose two buy-ins, I get up and take a walk or quit. I think it’s a good practice, because it ensures that I’m not really playing when I’m upset — or at least too upset. It also keeps me from tilting away my bankroll, which is good. In general, it doesn’t really bother me, because I got it in good. Anytime I get it in good, I’m not really too worried about it. I do get a little upset if maybe I don’t make a fold when I know I should have, because whenever you are calling down people relatively light constantly, you’ll make a few call-downs that aren’t that good. That’s what makes me unhappy.

KA: Looking back at the hand, is there anything you would have done differently?

JL: Not really. I think I played it pretty well. I wish I could have done something differently on the turn, but I don’t really think I could have.

KA: Could you maybe have overbet the turn?

JL: The thing is, I wanted him to bluff at me. Let’s say I went all in on the turn or something silly. He can’t really do anything but fold or call if I’m beat. You want your opponent to be making mistakes against you, and the only way I can make him make a mistake here is by betting and letting him shove. However, if I bet and he just calls, that puts me in a pretty tough spot too if a bad card comes on the river, because I’ll have to call any bet if the river isn’t a four-straight card. Just like in tournaments, you have to make sure you don’t get bluffed off of your good hands, because you don’t get that many.

Little provides his expert inside on all things poker on his website and also blogs at