Every move has a purpose

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JGiles | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

No matter what your poker experience or skill level it is important to be reminded from time to time that every single action you make at the table, whether online or in person has a purpose. In this case, I am not talking about possible tells like how long you take to make a decision, how you put your chips in the pot or things like body language. Today I am focusing on the simpler things, betting, checking, raising, re-raising or check-raising.

My girlfriend played an interesting hand last week where we had a chance to discuss this. Here’s how it played out. She was on the button with AK off suit, the blinds were 50/100, there were 4 players left who all had about 2,500 chips (give or take a few) and by the time the action got to her she was alone against the blinds. She raised to 300 (a pretty standard play in this spot) and got 2 callers. So now the pot had 900 chips in it, and looked like it had the potential to be an interesting hand.

The flop came A 9 5 – all diamonds. She didn’t have a diamond in her hand but did have top pair and top kicker so I advised her to be half the pot once both of her opponents checked to her – of course, this bet is known as a continuation bet, which is to say, the person who raises before the flop continues with a bet after the flop – sometimes regardless of the flop. The continuation bet is also a standard move in this situation, it accomplishes a couple of things. First, it tells your opponents that you liked your hand before the flop and you still like it, in this particular case it says I might have the flush or more likely I have an ace with a decent kicker …. maybe another decent pair. Secondly, it forces your opponent to put you on a hand and make a decision. Depending on how your opponent(s) react then you reassess the situation yourself. Clearly, in this situation we did not want to see a re-raise and really didn’t even want to see a call, but with the continuation bet we wanted to maintain control of the hand. Small blind folded, big blind called. Not exactly what we would have hoped for but our continuation bet did get us some information and got one player out of the hand – not bad.

The next card was a 3 – also a diamond. Remember that we didn’t have a diamond at all. So, what is our play here? Well, if we didn’t put him on a flush before, it was pretty believable he had one now, like 50% believable. After the one player left in the pot checked my girlfriend commented that he had the flush and was waiting for us to bet. Whoa! Wait a minute here. Did he have the flush? Maybe. Did he have high enough of a flush to call another bet or could he lay down here? We didn’t know for sure. There were 1,800 chips in the pot at this point and I was wondering about him checking both the flop and the turn. Many of us have the patience to check the nuts and hope for our opponent to bet into us but lots of players don’t have that patience or don’t know the difference and bet big hands. With so much invested I suggested she bet 450 again, my thinking was that we got ourselves pretty deep into this hand and we would put out an information bet here. If he was waiting for us he was all-in, if he wasn’t sure he would lay down or call. He called. At this point we had committed 1,200 of our 2,500 chips to a pot that we really were not confident we were winning anymore but this had become a make or break hand. Our continuation bet got called and our information bet got called and we were likely going down on this hand. My advice to her before the river came was if he goes all in we’re out, if he checks we’re all in. After a continuation and information bet I was not sure what to call this bet, but for some reason I thought it was the play to make.

The river drew an inconsequential card, he checked, we shoved them all in, he folded and we took down a nerve racking monster of a pot and she went on to win that tournament.

While I am sure the way we played the hand was not great, I think it was a good example of three different types of bets. We never did find out what he had to call our pre flop, flop and turn bets but it was a safe bet that he didn’t have a high diamond in his hand.

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2 Comments to Every move has a purpose

September 30, 2008

Hi JGiles

Great post, we all learn a lot from these hand discussion style posts, so keep em´coming:-)
I don’t like your 450 chips bet on the turn. It gives him good odds to hit the full house he was aiming for.
If he puts you on the made flush on the flop and he has trips 5, then he has a 34% chance of winning the pot on the flop. He has to call 450 to win 1350 on the flop, which is odds 3, so his flop call was correct. On the turn he has a 23% chance of winning the pot, and he has to call 450 to win 2250. He needs odds 4,3 to justify a call on the turn, and you offer him odds 5, so again he is making the correct call. I you instead went all in on the turn he would have to call 1300 to win 3100 chips which would not have been good enough odds for him to call.
Having said all this I probably would have checked him all the way to the river thinking there was something sneaky about his check/calling:-)
I guess we can all learn more….

October 3, 2008

Hi JGiles

I think I made a mistake with the odds calculations. Calling 450 to win 1350 is odds 4 because you should also include your own bet in the calculation. Similarly calling 450 to win 2250 is odds 6, not odds 5.

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