In poker, it can often be difficult to remain focused. Sometimes it seems we can't win a hand regardless of what we hold. Our Aces get cracked, and every time we have Kings someone seems to show up with Aces. There's no doubt that poker can take its toll on even the most seasoned of players. The most important thing you can do is keep making the right decisions even under less-than-ideal circumstances.
I've gotten a number of questions regarding hands that are pretty standard, hands that should play themselves and that the right play is obvious in most cases. I started responding with my own question, “Why are you having difficulty with these hands if you already know how to play them?” The answer I get is usually something along the lines of, "I've just been running so badly and I'm not sure if I could have played the hand differently or some other way to lose less money." Honestly, this is quite normal in the poker world. I myself have had my fair share of running bad and questioned my own play at times, even when I know in the back of my head that it is completely standard.
The message I am trying to convey is to not solely be results oriented. Losing a hand does not mean you played it wrong. After all, poker is about odds and sometimes 72 off suit will crack Aces – it's just the simple math of the game. That doesn't mean you're going to fold Aces the next time you get them because the last time you lost to that 72. It is great that you question your play even when you know it was right. If you keep losing and never review your hands, that is when you are destined to lose.
Let's look at a hand that I received a question about. This particular person is dealing with a serious case of the run bads right now and is questioning every move they make. This hand is standard for most players and will tend to play itself. The hero has a read on villain that he seems to be pretty solid and tight for the most part. There is a dynamic of the hero 3 and 4 betting a good bit since the villain is on the tighter side. This hand was at a heads up table playing 50nl.
Hero is dealt Jacks on the button which is a very strong hand when heads up. In playing heads up, you should be raising almost every button so a standard raise is in order in this spot as well.
The player does make a standard 3x raise on the button and gets 3 bet by villain to $4.50. You now have a few options once we are 3 bet. If this was a tight player who never 3 bets, I might just flat and see what he does on the flop and not like my hand too much. However, since hero has been playing aggressive, it’s best to put in a small 4 bet to appear weak. Hero has 4 bet folded before and the dynamics are perfect for this type of play. Flatting or 4 betting are both fine here, but I personally like a 4 bet as a standard play here. I subscribe to the K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) method at low limits and try to keep things as easy as possible.
Hero does 4 bet to $12.50 which is a little big but still fine. The villain then comes back over the top and at this point we're playing for stacks. There's no way you can fold here, for a couple reasons. One, you’ve already put a good amount of money in the pot. Secondly, you have the fourth best starting hand and we’re heads up. It's likely Hero is up against some type of hand, but getting it in with Jacks here is more than fine. Given the fact that we have been aggressive, Villain could have hands like AQ, AJ, AK, or even a smaller pair. Of course, it is possible that he has Aces, Kings or Queens, but that's a chance were willing to take heads up.
Unfortunately this time the villain does have Kings and hero loses the pot. Although he lost the hand, this does not mean he played hand wrong. This is one of the more standard hands you can come across in poker, especially heads up poker. We will win this hand more often than we lose. As long as you can recognize that fact and not focus on the losing aspect, you will be fine. Remember, poker is a game of long term odds, and making the correct play will pay off in the long run.
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