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I was recently told about a hand that illustrates a key mistake that many players make with their draws on a regular basis.
With only 15-big blind effective stacks deep in a tournament, everyone folded around to the Villain in the small blind, who is a young, tight player. He raised to 2.5 big blinds. Our Hero looked down at J 6 in the big blind.
While J 6 is certainly not a premium hand, due to the ante in play, Hero only has to call 1.5 big blinds more into a pot that will be six big blinds total, meaning he only needs to realize 25% equity, which is not too difficult to do with a suited hand from in position.
In fact, the only time he can justify folding in this situation is if the opponent’s 2.5 big blind raising range is incredibly strong, and even then, calling is not too bad. When you are in position getting amazing pot odds, folding is simply not an option with a hand that has any potential at all. If you fold too often in spots like this, your aggressive opponents will run you over, resulting in you consistently chipping down while they are chipping up.
Hero made the right decision, and called. The flop came A 8 4, giving Hero a flush draw. The Villain made a continuation bet of 2.5 big blinds into the six-big blind pot.
At this point, many players elect to go all-in, but that is a poor decision due to the fact that the opponent’s range should be much stronger than normal, and certainly much stronger than our Hero’s.
Think about it. The opponent raised to a small amount from the small blind, implying he has a premium range that does not mind giving Hero excellent pot odds. How does a premium range connect with an A-X-X flop? It has a lot of top pair combinations.
Furthermore, even under pairs like pocket queens are not going to fold against a raise. The opponent can remove most aces from Hero’s range because he almost certainly would have pushed all-in preflop with most of them, maximizing his fold equity. So, the opponent has many strong hands in his range, whereas Hero has almost none.
Many players think they should always raise with their draws, because applying aggression gives you two ways to win the pot. You can either make your opponents fold, or if that fails, make your draw. But when your range is crushed by your opponent’s range, you should not raise with anything.
In this situation, Hero is even getting excellent immediate pot odds (he has to put in 2.5 big blinds to win a total of 11 big blinds), making a raise even worse. If the stacks were deeper and the opponent bet larger, raising would become a more viable option because Hero would be getting worse immediate pot odds, and he would likely have more combinations of A-8 or A-4 (two pair) in his range.
When your range is in terrible shape against your opponent’s range, the best play is to call and see what develops on the turn. If you improve to a flush, you can be happy getting your money in. If you improve to a pair and your opponent keeps betting, you cannot fold, again due to your excellent pot odds. If you miss and your opponent bets the turn, you can call a small bet and fold to a large bet. If you miss and your opponent checks, you can turn your hand into a semi-bluff.
The point is that by calling on the flop, there are lots of reasonable outcomes without risking your stack on the flop against a range that should be quite strong.
Unfortunately, our Hero made the typical amateur mistake of going all-in. The opponent quickly and comfortably called with A-J, putting Hero in bad shape. Luckily, Hero got bailed out when he made his flush on the turn. Hopefully that will not lead to him jamming his draws in similar spots for a long time to come, resulting in him losing equity every time this situation presents itself. ♠
Jonathan Little is a professional poker player with over $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site PokerCoaching.com. Click here to try PokerCoaching.com for free.