By Jonathan Little
In cash games, you should usually strive to extract every little bit of value that you can, but in tournaments, you should often pass up on small amounts of value in order to ensure you do not lose a substantial amount of chips on any individual hand, allowing you to play more hands and realize more profits
The following hand took place in a $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour event right after we got in the money. When you get in the money, it is usually wise to take it easy for a bit because there will be numerous short stacks at the table that are looking to either double up or go broke. That said, you should still try to accumulate chips in reasonable situations.
The relevant chip stacks in this hand are:
HIJACK: I have 50 big blinds. I have generally been loose and aggressive so far.
CUTOFF: 30bbs. A tight player.
BUTTON: 70bbs. A WPT champion who has no problem taking flops and getting out of line.
SMALL BLIND: 40bbs. A super-tight player.
BIG BLIND: 20bbs. A straightforward amateur.
I raise with As-10c to 2.2bbs out of my 50bb stack. The button calls and we see a flop of Ks-Td-3h.
I make a 3bb continuation bet and my opponent calls. At this point, it is difficult to narrow his range too much because he will probably continue with any pair or gutshot straight draw. He would probably raise with hands better than A-K, meaning he has mostly decent top and middle pairs, as well as the various draws. He is also capable of floating with junk like a backdoor straight draw with a backdoor flush draw, such as Ad-5d from time to time, although given he has a lot of potential gutshot straight draws, he should not stick around with too many worse hands, otherwise his range will be incredibly weak.
The turn is the (Ks-Td-3h)-Ac. Before I get too excited, I need to see how this card interacts with my opponent’s range. If he had a gutshot with an Ace, he will almost certainly bet the turn if I check. If he has a hand such as K-9 or J-T, he will almost certainly fold to a bet, which is bad for me. If he has one of the missed gutshots, he will probably bet if I check. So, betting only gives me value from a few decently strong top pairs such as K-Q and K-J that may check behind. If I check, I allow him to bluff with his missed draws, value bet most of his decently strong made hands, and I also save money when he happens to have Q-J. So, I check. He bets 7bbs into the 12bb pot and I call.
The river is the (Ks-Td-3h-Ac)-5c. I want my opponent to continue bluffing with his missed draws, so checking is the only option that makes sense. If I instead lead into him, he will call with most top pairs hand worse than mine and raise with most better hands. As a general rule, you should rarely lead with a marginal made hand. While two pair is usually quite strong, when the opponent could easily have the nuts, you should proceed with caution, especially when he also has a lot of potential bluffs in his range.
I check and my opponent bets 16bbs. I have an easy call. Again, check-raising makes no sense because he will only call when I am beat. I think he would value bet all top pairs and better made hands, many of which I beat. He may or may not continue bluffing with his missed draws, but it does not matter too much.
I call and lose to his Q-J.
Notice if I had bet the turn and he raised, I would be in an awful spot and probably would have gone broke. Instead, I left myself with around 13bbs, which I used to take eighth place in the event. If you pay attention, there are numerous spots in tournament poker where you can give up a little value and have a few chips left when you happen to be beat. This trade is almost always worth making.
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Jonathan Little is a two-time World Poker Tour champion with over $7,000,000 in tournament cashes. He is a prolific author, coach, and owner of PokerCoaching.com. This article and more can be found at www.jonathanlittlepoker.com/blog/.http://www.www.jonathanlittlepoker.com/blog/