|January 3, 2005
Theyíre often difficult, those decisions after the Flop. Iíll describe a recent game and let you follow my thinking process. Maybe youíll agree; maybe youíll disagree. But in seeing how a conclusion is formed, I hope youíll at least be asking yourself the right questions the next time a difficult decision comes your way.
I was in a $5/$10 No Limit game at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. It runs Friday nights and occasionally at other times. They have some unique rules that include a requirement to raise to $20 if you want to play. But by unanimous consent this peculiar rule was suspended the night I played.
The other players were of mixed ability. There were two strong, aggressive players in the Three and Seven seats. They mixed in bluffs and semi-bluffs with their play and it was tough putting them on hands. I knew that I needed something if I were to go up against them because they didnít make the rookie mistake of raising by small amounts, which would have allowed me to draw cheaply. There were four very weak and timid players - playing tightly and passively for the most part - as if they were on very limited bankrolls and were stepping up to the "Big Game" for the first time. They exerted little pressure, gave away their hands by betting overly strong when they had a strong hand, and not betting aggressively at all if they didnít. They would fold to almost any pressure, even with excellent hands, if they didnít have the nuts. They played like they just wanted to sit in the game without mixing it up. They were in the One, Two, Four and Ten Seats. There was a wildman in the Five Seat. He would frequently go all-in with little, kept rebuying for the minimum of $200, and was tough to get any read on. There were a couple of players I couldnít type, with short bankrolls, in the Six and Eight Seats. I was in the Nine Seat.
I was in the cutoff seat (one to the right of the button). I had about $700, up $200 from my initial $500 buy-in. I watched the action around the table: SB $5, BB $10. 3 Seat Folds, 4 Seat Calls, 5 Seat Folds, 6 Seat Calls, 7 Seat Folds, 8 Seat Calls. Up to me.
I looked at my cards quickly. I was dealt KhQh. Iíve found that this is a tough and deceptive hand to play. Itís one of those hands that can really get me into trouble: suited connectors, that can easily make second best.
I did not want people calling easily with an Ace, as some of my opponents might if I just checked along. Similarly, I wanted to exert pressure on the blinds to get them to fold if possible. And I surely wanted to buy the button - being the last to act on subsequent hands. So I decided that even though I didnít have a very strong hand for No Limit that I should raise.
My standard raise is 3XBB. When the Big Blind is $10 Iíll make it $40 to go. But this was different insofar as there were three callers in front of me. I wanted to deny them good pot odds for their call. Put another way, I wanted to make it expensive for them to see the Flop - since the pot was giving them better than normal odds for a draw. So I made it $50.
The Small Blind and the Big Blind folded. The Four Seat called and the other players all folded. The Four Seat and I took the hand heads up into the Flop. I had about $650 left in my stack. He had about $350 left.
The Flop was Ks Kd 7h. I watched the 4 Seat, whom I had pegged as a weak/tight player, as the flop came out. He looked back at his cards and then at the Flop. Finally he checked.
I had hit a monster: Trip Kings with a Queen kicker. Still, it wasnít the nuts. AK would beat me as would K7 or 77. Happy to win the pot, and perhaps a bit overeagerly, I bet $100.
He looked at his cards again and said, a bit loudly, "ALL IN," pushing in what looked like $350.
I thought for a while about this raise. It was not an automatic call. Here was a timid player going all-in after checking: Check-raising me all-in! That was a very, very strong move. I didnít have any strong reads on him - only his initial reaction to the flop, which seemed weak and tentative to me. He had checked his hand and the board itself didnít seem very strong. Was he acting?
The pot was giving me better than 2:1 odds for a $250 call. I was probably 50:50 on whether he had a better hand, and I was leaning toward a pair of 7s in his hand because of the way the hand was bet (he was the type of player who would raise, even in early position, with an AK, no?)
I knew that the hand would not cost me any more money on the Turn or River because he was all in. So since I was getting 2:1 for my call and I was only 50:50 on whether he had me beat, and I had three outs to beat him even if he currently had me beat, the outs tipped the scales in favor of a call.
I called. As I pushed my chips in he asked, dejected, "So you have the Full House?" I was still counting my stack, preoccupied, and wondering what he was likely to have, and didn't respond right away. I was thinking that I'd flip my cards over since he was all in, but he didnít flip his cards.
The dealer dealt a 2h and then a Qc. As the Queen fell I flipped my cards over and said, "Now I do. Now I have a Full House." He mucked his hand in disgust.
"Man, you lucked out," said one guy to my right. "Pulling that perfect River Card."
"You think he had AK?" I asked.
"Of course he did," chorused everyone. "What else could he have had?"
I donít know. But I do know that my call was correct. For $250 more it surely made sense for me to call to win a $600 pot, since it seemed no better than 50:50 that he had me beat. Of course my read could have been far off the mark. But when youíre in a serious money situation you need to stay with your initial impression and not let the amount of the bet erode the confidence of your read. Make your read first. If itís wrong, itís wrong. Size up the percentages as best you can. Then do the math regarding the pot and your call. Otherwise, the size of the bet will tend to influence your certainty and youíll find yourself wilting in the face of serious action. Thatís not the way to be a winning player.
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Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 42 years, since learning the game literally at his grandfather's knee. He's been playing seriously (and winning) in casinos, poker rooms, living rooms and kitchens all over the world, for the past 12 years. He started playing seriously in 1993 at the poker room in Foxwoods Resort Casino and he's been winning just about ever since. He's won No Limit HoldĎEm and 7-Card Stud tournaments in Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and Nevada.
He is the author of Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and articles in Card Player Magazine, Poker Player Magazine, Live Action Poker Magazine, Southwestern Poker Magazine, 5thStreet Magazine, and numerous online sites. He is under agreement for his next book, Winning Low Limit/No Limit HoldĎEm, due to be published by Kensington in early 2006.
He is by profession a union organizer and negotiator, representing broadcasters, health care workers and now teachers. He has two daughters, both of whom play poker.