Don’t be a pushover

jacksThe following hand illustrates a common leak that many amateur players have in their poker strategy. When they face the least bit of resistance, they fold all but their best hands. With blinds at 250/500-75 with 25,000 effective stacks in a $500 buy-in tournament, the cutoff raised to 1,200 and our Hero in this hand reraised to 3,000 with Jh-Jd on the button. Only the cutoff called.

The flop came Ks-Ts-9c. The cutoff checked, Hero bet 3,500 into the 7,425 pot, and the cutoff called.

I am perfectly fine with making this continuation bet, be aware that this is a decent spot to check behind. Notice that if Hero bets on the flop and either the turn or river, he will have a difficult time getting a significant amount of money in the pot when he has the best hand because most players typically only call two or three bets with strong made hands and premium draws. This means that Hero’s J-J is good for one or possibly two streets of value. While checking behind on the flop may appear quite weak at first glance, Hero should not plan to fold too often to turn and river bets because his hand is underrepresented.

The turn was the (Ks-Ts-9c)-4h. Both players checked.

Once Hero bets the flop, I think he has to check behind on the turn. If Hero continues betting he will have a difficult time getting called by many worse hands, meaning that when he gets called, he is either beat by a better made hand or he is against a strong draw. When that is the case, Hero should check behind and hope to see a cheap showdown.

The river was the (Ks-Ts-9c-4h)-6d. The cutoff bet 9,000 into 14,425 and Hero folded.

This is where I have a major problem with Hero’s play. While Hero clearly loses to all hands worthy of a value bet, given this is a somewhat small stakes event, many players will overvalue worse made hands, such as A-T and Q-T. Also, all of the flush and straight draws on the flop missed. While there shouldn’t be a ton of those in the opponent’s range due to Hero’s preflop reraise, I think there are enough of them to justify calling. Notice that Hero only needs to win 28% of the time to break even in this situation (9,000/(14,425 + 9,000 + 9,000).  I think there are enough combinations of poorly value bet worse made hands and busted draws in the cutoff’s range to justify calling. Do not fall into the habit of continuation betting the flop with a wide range, checking behind on the turn, and then folding to any river bet. If you take this line on a regular basis, your opponents will quickly figure out your weak tendency and adjust to take advantage of you.

Bluffs_cover_miniIf you struggle with getting pushed around and find yourself playing a generally weak/tight strategy, I suggest you read my most recent book BLUFFS. In it, I clearly explain 18 situations where you can get out of line and steal pots that do not belong to you. For example, as in this hand, if your opponent continuation bets the flop too often but then rarely calls river bets, float the flop a large portion of the time and then steal it when he checks behind on the turn. Against some straightforward players, poker really is that easy. You can get BLUFFS on Kindle, Paperback or for free on Audible if you have never signed up for their free trial. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Be sure to check back next week at for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “Don’t be a pushover”

  1. Thus is exactly me. Ive been considering your book, Bluffs, because commonly low stakes player never bluff enough. Thanks for great article.

  2. Hey John,

    Good post, interesting spot. I definitely find a lot of people struggle with spots like this too.
    Needless to say you write well and have some great insights.

    I just started a ‘Best of Poker’ series on my blog which aims to feature the best poker content on the web on a monthly basis. I think some of the articles you wrote would make for great pieces. It will help you because your posts will be seen by all of my readers, plus the link backs are great for your site as well.

    Feel free to submit any of your posts (old or archived posts are fine) on my blog here:

    Each month the most popular ones will be selected as winners, and I’ll include some of my personal favorites as well. My goal is to showcase the best poker content on a monthly basis and help raise the bar for what the influencers produce.

    Thanks for your time, good luck, and keep crushing.
    Alec Torelli

  3. Two of my fav poker players orbiting here, Alec
    And Johnathan, great blog Johnathan, interesting spot, another example of importance to take a deep breath and look at all your options when faced with these type of situations. Good lookin out brotha!

  4. Dear Jonathan,

    I had a spot somehow like this not a long time ago. It was in a small stack tournament of 150 euro buy in.

    I picked up Qh Qd UTG, on the blind 500/1000 ante 100 with 8 players, we were playing 50BB effective stack.

    I raised 2.5k and a realy loose splashy guy with a huge stack called in middle position and the small blind called as well.

    The flop came 6h 8d 4h, the small blind check and I bet 5.2K and both player called realy quickly.

    The turn was the As, the small blind checked again at this point I was thinking that maybe one of the two player could had an A but it was cleary more in my range so to pot control I bet 8.5k and the loose splashy guy snapped called me (the small blind folded).

    The river was the 6s, I checked and he made 25k. I thought fore a wihle thinking that he would not do that with a small A but more with a busted draw I called and I lose against his A6.

    My Question is did I make an error in this hand or is my play okay ? Should I never bet the turn and also never called the river bet ?

    Thank you in advance for your answer

    1. Just because you have more Aces in your range does not mean you should make a blind bet. You are essentially bluffing with the middle portion of your range (like QQ) when you do this, meaning you think the opponents are going to fold an Ace. Clearly that is not going to happen. You have either a check-call or check-fold on the turn. I would also fold to the river bet most of the time, although calling could be fine if the opponent is prone to bluff. Just remember though, that if he thinks you have an Ace, he has to expect you to fold an Ace to this reasonable bet size, which seems optimistic to me.

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