AA is the winning hand, but did he play it right?

This week’s hand comes from Roger F. who was struggling with AA in the hole in a multi-player tournament on a small American poker site.

The hand went as follows... Roger is UTG with blinds at 100/200, and he has 4600 in chips. Villain was seated right next to him with just over 6000 in chips. Roger, understandably, raised UTG to 500. Villain immediately called and everyone else folded. The flop was K85 rainbow. When Roger bet out for 900, Villain called and when a useless 2 on the turn made Roger check villain bet 1800. Roger called and the river was another 8. Roger checked and villain went all in for his remaining 2700 chips or so.  Ultimately, Roger called down his opponent’s AK to take down the pot, but he still wants to know what the correct play would be on each street.

First of all, Roger, thanks for writing in. Even though you won the hand it´s an interesting hand to talk about for multiple reasons.  Let’s look at each step.

Your initial raise was the right size, as it was around 2.5 times the big blind, which is a good bet. As soon as your opponent called the alarm bells should have been ringing a little and you should put him on a FAIRLY big hand here. Anything like AQ and JJ should not be flat called there, so he “must” have a hand like AK or QQ+.

On the flop, the bet is again roughly the right size. Personally, I would have made it round 1000 even for an 80% of the pot size bet, as I would want hands like AK and KQ to commit to that pot as well as hands like QQ and even JJ.

On the turn, I would never have checked. “Double barreling” (making two continuation bets in a row) is a very good way to get players committed to pots. In this case, Villain thought strongly about his hand (as he should), so he bet a decent sized 1800. This is around 60% of the pot, and it looks like he wants you to re raise all in there. Of course he did not know he was behind, but the play is really enticing for a shove and in your place, Roger, I would have shoved.  My reasoning is this: you were pot-committed already, and you only had another 1400 behind when you called the 1800.

On the river, there is no doubt it should have been a blind shove as there was already 5x the amount of your remaining chip stack in the pot.  Even with a K on the river it would still have been a shove, but not such an enthusiastic one. The good thing is that Villain made top two pair with the best kicker, so he was shoving his stack right in the middle hoping for a call by a worse hand or at worst splitting it (you holding AK is a pretty fair line to take seeing how the play went).

The good thing is that you won the pot here, but you could have been more aggressive in these spots and get paid by hands like AK and QQ on the turn. If they hit on the river it’s a shame, but you still got it in good, which is the most important part of playing poker.

Thank you, Roger, for bringing this interesting hand to our attention and we would love to hear from other readers and their hands on the felt.  Please join us again next week for hand analysis.

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