In my new book, Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em, out of the 500 pages, quite a few are dedicated to in-depth range analysis. While most advanced players know how to put their opponents on a range of hands, it seems like very few of them actually get out of line and take advantage of their range assessment abilities. I recently played a hand in the $3,500 Borgata WPT event where I was fairly certain I knew both of my opponents’ ranges. The only problem was that one, if not both of my opponents had me in bad shape.
To start this hand, I had 340,000 at 600/1,200-200. I was crushing the table and running hot. The average chip stack at this point was around 90,000. I imagine I had a fairly loose image although in reality, I was simply getting a good run of cards. A loose, passive player with 170,000 limped from second position. He was limping with his entire range, both with premium and trashy hands. He would occasionally fold his limps to preflop aggression. Knowing this, when I woke up As-3c on the button, I decided to make it 3,500. I expected him to either fold preflop or call preflop then play in a fairly straightforward manner postflop. To my surprise, a tight, aggressive middle aged man with 150,000 called in the small blind. The initial limper also called.
The flop came Ac-Ks-2d. My opponents checked to me. At this point, you must realize that it would be relatively difficult to get much value from my hand. At the same time, if I checked behind on the flop and someone bet the turn and the river, I would be in a nasty spot because my hand would be fairly face up in a large pot. Because of this, I decided to bet 6,000 into the 13,500 pot, hoping to either pick up the pot or get called by a worse hand. Notice if I bet around 10,000, my opponents would likely only continue when I am crushed. By betting 6,000, I allow my opponents to continue with some worse hands. When you have a weak value hand, it is important to make bets that allow your opponents to stay in when they are behind.
The player in the small blind raised to 12,000 and the player in 2nd position thought for a while before calling. At this point, I thought the small blind had a strong hand, probably A-J or better. I was not sure if he was raising with A-J to “find out where he is at” or if he was raising with a premium hand such as A-2 to try to get all the money in. All I knew was that he had something he thought was strong. Given what I knew about the player in 2nd position, I thought his range was at best an Ace and most likely a hand such as K-Q. Notice there are already 3 Aces accounted for, one in my hand, one on the board and one that is probably in the small blind’s hand, making it fairly unlikely that he also has an Ace.
Knowing I am crushed by one opponent and probably in mediocre shape against the other, what should I do? While this may seem like an easy fold because I am behind, I think it is an excellent spot to reraise. I thought the small blind would view 2nd position’s call as strong although to me, it was clearly weak. I thought the player in 2nd position would certainly fold if I reraised unless he was somehow trapping with a premium hand such as 2-2. In the end, I decided to reraise to 36,000. Notice this sizing gives me an excellent price on my bluff while forcing both of my opponents to risk a significant amount of chips in order to continue in the hand.
The player in the small blind thought forever before folding, flashing an A in the process. The player in 2nd position also thought for a while. As he was thinking, I was trying to decide if I was going to call if he went all-in. It may sound insane to play a 300 big blind pot with top pair, bottom kicker, but given that he knew an A was in the muck, I thought he might think I could only call a push with a premium Ace or better. He eventually decided to fold and told me he almost pushed with a King. I had pretty much decided I was going to call if he pushed, so I suppose my thought process was at least somewhat reasonable.
I think most players simply throw their A-3 in the muck when facing the flop raise simply because they think they are beat. While it is nice to always have the best hand, you will find it quite difficult to win, especially at the medium and high levels, if you only win the pots that belong to you, even if you win slightly more money with your big hands than your opponents do. When getting way out of line, always think about your opponent’s range, how he views your range, and how he will react if you apply extreme pressure. You will find that most of the time, unless your opponent has a premium holding or is a world class hand reader, he will simply get out of the way and give you the pot. The next time you are playing, try to find spots where your opponent simply cannot continue when facing a raise. This will usually be when you think they have a strong, but not amazing hand, such as an overpair or top pair with a good kicker, on a scary, draw heavy board, such as Ts-9d-7s or 8c-7c-4d-Tc. As long as you know your opponent is capable of folding, these plays will show a huge amount of profit. However, you must be careful. If your opponent is a calling station, these plays will quickly turn your bankroll into a pile of ash.
For a thorough treatment of range analysis, I strongly suggest you check out my new multi-author book, Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em. There are a few chapters in the book detailing how to put your opponent on a specific range and also what you can do to get out of line and exploit your opponent. I will also be hosting lots of free webinars with the authors of Excelling starting at the end of this year and in 2016. To sign up for free, check out HoldemBook.com.