The most important question when making an important decision at the poker table is “WHY – What is your reason?” Along that line, here are two short quizzes to enhance your reasoning ability.
It’s a $4-$8 limit hold’em game. The texture of the game is loose-aggressive – many players staying to see the flop and lots of raising along the way; so the pots are good size. You are in a middle position.
Let’s consider two somewhat similar hands. In the first, you hold K-Q suited. Shortly after, you look down at 3-2 suited in the hole. Both hands are suited connectors, and offer the identical probabilities for making a flush or a straight.
Question: Of course, you would play the K-Q suited (maybe raise) and muck the 3-2 suited; but you should have a good reason for making this decision. Why?
Answer: The chances for making a straight or a flush are the same in both cases, but a King-high flush or straight using the K-Q suited is so much more attractive than the much smaller ones you might catch with the 3-2 suited. Small flushes or straights are often beat by higher ones.
There is a much better reason for this decision: The chance of flopping a straight or flush is very much less likely than pairing up one of your unpaired holecards. Indeed, the odds against pairing up on the flop are only about 2-to-1 against you; whereas, with suited connectors the odds are considerably higher against flopping a flush (about 120-to-1) or a straight (about 100-to-1).
Even if you’re lucky and catch two cards on the flop to give you four-to-a-straight-draw (about 4-to-1 against) or to a flush-draw (about 8-to-1 against), you would still have to connect on the turn or the river, and the odds are against that too.
OK, that was a fairly easy quiz. Here’s one that will be a bigger challenge.
Similar situation, in a middle position, you have been dealt K-Q suited and raised preflop. Four others see the flop with you: Ks-10h-5d. You have caught top pair on the board – a pair of Kings. There is an early-position bet by a tight player, and then you raise from your middle-position. Why?
Well, you want to protect your pair of Kings as much as possible by thinning the field. Only the Button and the early-position bettor call your raise. The turn is a blank – probably didn’t help anyone. Now the early-position checks to you. You bet out. It’s not just a continuation bet, you believe you have the best hand, so you are betting for value – to build the pot you are likely to win. Both opponents call.
The river is an Ace! That’s not to your liking; it could be dangerous. The early-position comes out betting, representing that he has caught a pair of Aces. Should you call his bet? The pot odds are attractive, but you can’t beat a pair of Aces. Does he have an Ace in the hole? Should you call or fold? Tough decision.
First consider what type of player the bettor is. Your notes indicate, based on how he has played previous hands, he is a tight player – stays to see the flop only with strong hands. Nor has he shown himself to be deceptive – not likely to be bluffing. You look for any tells he might offer, but can’t see any.
Also consider whether he might regard you as a timid player – likely to fold when in doubt. But, he has seen you call other bets on the river with only a single pair. It’s a good idea to look to your left, to observe the Button. Is he picking up a batch of chips to call or re-raise?
Your best bet is to fold and save those chips for a better opportunity. All things considered, most likely you were rivered when the Ace fell on the river. It happens to all of us.