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In a $5,000 buy-in tournament in Las Vegas, I was playing my standard, fairly loose, aggressive strategy. That strategy usually consists of raising with lots of hands preflop and making numerous small stabs post-flop.
There was a young Brazilian guy across the table from me who also happened to be very loose and aggressive. We collided a little, with me getting the best of him twice (he bet the river twice and I correctly called down with middle pair both times) before this hand took place.
With 100-200 blinds, he raised from the cutoff to 600 out of his 40,000 effective stack and I three-bet to 2,000 from the small blind with Q Q. While you normally want to make a roughly pot-sized raise when three-betting, you should make it a bit larger when you are out of position.
He called, and the flop came A A 6.
Queens are clearly a marginal made hand on A-A-x because it is quite easy to be up against an ace. But if I am not against an ace, I almost certainly have the best hand and my opponent is drawing quite thin. If I bet and get called or raised, I will have no clue how to proceed on the turn.
The main problem with checking is that it makes my range look capped at underpairs in my opponent’s eyes. If you are going to check queens in this spot, also be sure to check some trips as well that can easily check and call down on all three streets. Checking in this spot makes a lot of sense due to my opponent’s loose, aggressive tendencies. If you know your opponent likes to bluff, do your best to not fold your decent bluff catchers.
I checked and my opponent bet 2,500 into the 4,200 pot.
Many recreational players see an ace on the flop and instantly go into check-fold mode with their underpair. You should rarely be looking to get away from a spot like this for one (or even multiple) bets against an aggressive opponent because his range is very wide, especially when he just calls my preflop three-bet.
His range could consist of perhaps jacks through deuces, A-K through A-2, K-Q through K-10, and numerous suited connectors and one-gappers, such as 8-6 suited. Against that range, most of which I expect him to bet on the flop after I check, I am in great shape. Also, he probably would four-bet preflop with his best A-X hands (like A-K and A-Q suited), and with the weak A-X hands, due to their poor post-flop playability, removing a few effective nut hands from his range.
I called. The turn was the 5. I checked and he bet 5,000 into the 9,200 pot.
Given my opponent’s aggressive tendencies, I was not too concerned about being against trip aces. The five on the turn may seem like a blank, but it actually gives my opponent many straight draws that can happily continue bluffing, allowing me to easily call. Notice that if instead of this loose, aggressive player, I was against a tight, passive player, I would confidently fold the turn because their range for betting twice in this situation is usually only trips or better.
I called. The river was the 7. I checked and my opponent bet 12,000 into the 19,200 pot.
At this point, my opponent’s two-thirds pot bet certainly looked and felt like a value bet, which should make this a rather trivial fold under most circumstances. The problem was he had shown a willingness to bet multiple times at as a bluff, plus, I thought he was smart enough to use the same bet sizes with his bluffs and value bets, meaning his size likely did not indicate strength or weakness. After thinking for a while, I decided to call and he turned up Q J.
While my opponent certainly could have had an ace, by considering his range and overall tendencies, I was able to find a somewhat easy call with my marginal bluff catcher, allowing me to scoop a nice pot that many more cautious players would have conceded. It is important to realize that when my opponent bets about two-thirds pot on the river, I only need to have the best hand 12,000/(19,200 + 12,000 + 12,000) = 28% of the time or more in order to profit by calling. Against a tough, loose, aggressive player who clearly came to battle, most bluff catchers will win more than 28 percent of the time in situations like this. ♠
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.