Hand played on Pokerstars
Seat 1: Player 1 (1340 in chips)
Seat 2: Player 2 (1680 in chips)
Seat 3: Player 3 (1010 in chips)
Seat 4: Player 4 (1700 in chips)
Seat 5: Hero (1800 in chips)
Seat 6: Villain (1470 in chips)
Hero: posts small blind 15
Villain: posts big blind 30
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [8d Ah]
Player 1: folds
Player 2: folds
Player 3: folds
Player 4: folds
Hero: raises 60 to 90
Villain: calls 60
*** FLOP *** [Ac Qh 8c]
Hero: bets 125
Villain: calls 125
*** TURN *** [Ac Qh 8c] [9h]
Hero: bets 235
Villain: calls 235
*** RIVER *** [Ac Qh 8c 9h] [2c]
Hero: bets 289
Villain: raises 731 to 1020 and is all-in
Hero has timed out
Uncalled bet (731) returned to Villain
Hero is sitting out
Villain collected 1478 from pot
Villain: shows [Qd Jd] (a pair of Queens)
So it’s folded round to me in the SB and I’m dealt A-8o. It’s early on in the tournament so I’m not gunning to play a big pot with this hand out of position but against a regular who is likely to attack passivity I see no other option than to make my standard 3x raise. This is preferred to 2.5xn since will lay him slightly inferior odds and at a positional disadvantage I would have no problem in ending the hand right here. My opponent calls however, and we’re off to a flop.
So, it’s pretty much as good a flop as I could have hoped for – we flop top and bottom pair and it’s time to build a pot. You’ll often see weak players check here because they want to “slowplay” their hand and get more value in the remaining betting streets. Not only is that flawed since if your opponent has a piece they may be willing to call a bet now meaning the bets going in on the end will be bigger, but you’re also allowing draws the option of a free card and so further missing out on value. Besides, if betting out is usually what you do when you miss then it only makes sense you c-bet when you hit – this is most likely to get action from your opponent’s entire range, and is the least suspicious way to play it since you would typically be betting missed hands on this board since it would appear to solidly hit your range.
I elect for an almost ¾ pot bet and my opponent calls. Even though we’ve flopped a very strong hand, there’s a range of flush draws/straight draws out there so this bet is preferred to around half pot and really anything up to 150 would be fine. At this point, his range is fairly open, he could have a pair of As, a Q (K-Q/Q-J/Q-10 most likely), J-10 for a double gut-shot and a flush draw. It’s possible he may float with air to attack passivity on the turn, although this particular opponent folds to flop bets 78% of the time so it’s more than likely he doesn’t have complete air as a float, especially on this board since it would appear to solidly connect with my range. Nonetheless, we can evaluate on the turn since it’s unlikely an opponent with such a high fold to flop bet would elect to float the turn to bluff on the river, especially this early on when excessive risks aren’t needed as such.
So, the turn is a 9 of hearts which is a decent enough card. There’s not many hands that we were ahead of on the flop but aren’t ahead of now – J-10 and A-9 would appear to be the only obvious ones. It’s more than likely he would 3bet pre-flop with a hand as strong as A-Q and he would most certainly 3bet any pocket pair that’s hit a set on this board, so the chances are we still have the best hand. Instead, it’s more likely he’s holding a pair of As, a Q or a flush draw (perhaps a flush/gut-shot combination like K-J/K-10 of clubs) so with this in mind it would seem like a good spot to bet again. As far as I can see, there’s 0 value to checking and giving draws the option of taking a free card, especially on this turn which brings a series of gut-shots for hands he may be holding like A-10/Q-J/Q-10. Besides, it’s tough to know what to do on the river if we check-call the turn and go on to face a big river bet – it’s usually much easier to know where you’re at/put your opponent on a range when you’re the aggressor so will make the hand easier to play for most part.
So, the river brings the 2c completing any flush draw so isn’t my favourite card. This leaves us in a rather awkward situation with 900 in the pot and stacks of just over 1k behind. We reasoned on the turn that we were ahead of a single pair of As and Qs so that remains true on the river whilst we’re now behind flushes as well as the J-10 straight. It therefore doesn’t seem very clear cut as to what's the best move between betting and checking, and if betting, the question remains, how much? Let’s think about the pro’s and cons of each move:
My opponent stacks all-in, and I have to stick to my plan on folding vs a shove, and my opponent reveals Q-J for second pair turned into a bluff. Somebody got owned!
What’s particularly interesting about this river is if I check my opponent will most likely check since he’s ahead of all of my bluffs and can’t know I’m not planning a check-call, so for most part the action should go check-check and I should scoop the pot. Instead, I've bet and ended up not only conceding the money in the pot but also another bet to go along with it.
As we've addressed, when I’ve bet small against this type of opponent, he’s reasoned he’s behind but correctly interpreted the bet as weak/scared of the board run out and has turned a bluff catching hand into a stone cold bluff, so my mistake was betting so weak into a tight-aggressive regular who is thinking about what bet sizing’s mean and is capable of making moves when the situation presents itself. The mistake isn't necessarily betting but the bet sizing in this case. The bet of 289 really does appear weak and even if we made it 389 (adding on only an extra 100 chips) this may have dissuaded him from making a move as it appears that much stronger (it is conceivable we could bet this amount with a flush) and he would appear to have less fold equity on a shove.
So, the question remains: To bet or to check?
Of course, betting small does do well if he has a hand like A-J/A-10 or even A7< as he's unlikely to turn those hands into a bluff and instead pay me off, whilst loses the minimum to straights/flushes assuming we're still bet-folding so there is definitely a good argument for betting in this spot. Truth be told, the EV of betting and checking must be pretty close and it may well be betting is more +EV against mass tabling regs who are unlikely to turn their worse hands into bluffs and play more straightforward in this spot, whereas checking may be more +EV against a creative player with less tables who has more time to think through the situation. The bottom line is, if electing to bet you must ensure it's not so small that it appears really weak and defensive otherwise you're just leaving your opponent room for a move and you would be playing a guessing game calling off.
There is no doubt blocker betting against a loose-passive player who is very
likely to pay this bet off with any worse hand and super unlikely to raise as a
bluff would be the best move, and perhaps even against a tight player with no finesse moves. That more or less guarantees us value when we’re
ahead and we can be fairly comfortable bet-folding knowing where we’re at – the same can't be said for when we're up against a creative, thinking reg. As
it was, in the actual situation, I was unfortunate to run into that small part of my
opponent's range that could be turned into bluffs, and was unfortunate my
opponent made what in my opinion was an excellent shove. Of course, this wasn't helped by my super small bet which was a crying sign of weakness and so all I can do is kick myself and congratulate my opponent on a nicely timed move.
Live long and prosper