In poker, we are sometimes faced with hands where our decisions about how to play can go either way. What I mean is, sometimes it isn’t easy to determine the best possible play, and either a raise or a call could work.
When determining what the play we make is, we need to take into account many factors. The hand history I will be reviewing today is one of the more interesting I've come across from our readers. It's a marginal but solid starting hand, and there are various factors that come into play. The choices for our hero are not so clear-cut, making this hand difficult on every street.
We start the hand with 77 on the button. There are several new players sitting in on this hand who have posted the big blind so they can immediately play. Right off the bat, we can assume these players are weak, as it almost always a mistake to post the blinds when sitting in. This is a common move among fish. We can also see that these same new players bought in for less than half the full amount, creating further evidence of their fishy behaviors.
Our read on Villain is that she is a bit aggressive and on the reckless side. She seems to have an idea of how to play the game and is not necessarily a fish. I would classify her as a Gus Hansen type player. Knows how to play, but makes some pretty loose and wild plays.
Right away we are faced with a tough decision. Villain makes it 5x the big blind. This is a common raise amount when there are limpers pre-flop so the bet sizing is not too important. What is important is the fact that a common play among regulars is to raise when limpers are in the pot to either steal the dead blinds or get the pot heads-up against one of the limpers.
We can make a good assumption that the Villain may have a weak hand, since there's a lot of dead money out there and she’s just looking to steal a pot. Now we definitely want to play this hand, but how? We first need to weigh our options.
Calling: If we just flat call, we are most likely going to see a flop with 4 players. Our call almost always sets a chain reaction of fish who limp in behind us, making a call. While this isn't terrible, it is not ideal. We do have position, but if we call and go 4 handed or even 3 handed to a flop, we are only giving ourselves one way to win the hand. That's by hitting a set or possibly stealing it on later streets. Stealing a pot 4 handed is very hard and not recommended. Thus, I would suggest that calling is not bad but not optimal.
Raising: In my opinion, raising is the best option here. We do have a pocket pair, but it's not a very strong pair. It's basically a set mining hand or one that plays much better heads up. The pot is already $0.85 and it’s worth trying to pick up at this point. If we raise and get a fold, we still win a decent pot. Also, we are in position and if someone calls, we can play this much easier heads up in position.
Our hero does raise, and the villain flats out of position. We can put her on a hand like TT or AJ, maybe AQ at this point. We flop huge and our only decision is how much to bet. Being a 3 bet pot we are expected to bet so check raising is really not an option. Also, since the Ace is there, it's likely our opponent has an Ace and she will call.
Our hero opts to bet around half pot and get a call. We can now safely assume Villain has an ace or possibly a flush draw. The turn card could go either way for us. It is another heart, but it could also mean our opponent has AK and now two pair. We must still bet since checking and seeing a fourth heart is the worst possible outcome. Our opponent may also have the Ace of hearts and they will always call a bet here.
Again, our hero does bet, but I would have preferred a bit larger to make the villain pay for draws and get maximum value out of hands like AQ and AK. The other problem is we will have to make a large bet on the river to get the money in. Almost a pot size bet, to be exact. If we bet even $1 more, the river bet will not have to be so large. Making a large bet on the river may scare off a lone Ace.
The river brings a blank and now we are forced to either make another half pot bet or just shove all in for almost pot. Our Hero elects to shove, which is perfectly fine, and is shown AQ by the Villain. Thus, we take down a huge pot.
In a hand like this we have to know how our opponents will play. It's also important to understand how fish play, smaller tells like posting blinds and limping into pots. Being able to distinguish the fish at the table from your true villain will help you make better decisions and take down more pots.