Consider you are doing well in a limit game if you can average winning one big bet per hour. So, it follows, if you can avoid losing two big bets in one hand, that is really quite significant, isn’t it?
Let’s say you are in a $6-12 limit hold’em game, holding A-K in the hole in a late position. The flop brings you a king. There are no pairs and three different suits on the board – rainbow! Your pair of kings with the ace kicker looks pretty good to you.
Sure, an opponent could have connected with a set or two-pair; but those are low-probability events. The odds are you are way ahead of the field – your hand is favored to win at this point. You make the bet and get called by two early position players.
The turn brings a second club on the board, but there are no pairs, and no possible straights based on the four community cards spread out on the board.
Both opponents check. Based on your observations during previous hands, you know one is a tight player; the other is aggressive and deceptive.
You bet your kings. The tight player folds but the aggressive-deceptive player calls after a short hesitation while studying the board. Trying to get a read on his hand, you rationalize that he doesn’t have a big pair because, being aggressive, he certainly would have raised preflop, if he did. Nor is it likely he has two-pair.
If he did, since he is aggressive, he most likely would have bet out or raised after the flop. The short pause seems to indicate he has enough outs to make the call worth his while. It seems apparent he is drawing to the club flush; or, perhaps, he flopped a small pair, and hopes to make trips or two-pair.
On the river, your favorite dealer (at least he was in the past) puts out a third club. Now a flush is quite possible. Your lone opponent, the aggressive-deceptive player, checks to you. You want to believe you have the winning hand – that your kings have held up all the way to the river.
So you show your confidence by making the big bet – $12 in this case. Without hesitation, your opponent then raises. Oh, oh! You fell into his trap. As you call his check-raise, you hope he is trying to bluff. After all, he is deceptive.
No such luck; he shows down the club flush he made on the river. Sure, it was a long shot, but even at card odds of 4-to-1 against him, the pot was big enough to warrant his call to see the river. And it paid off for him.
There was no way you could have avoided losing that hand; that’s poker, as they say. But you could have avoided losing two big bets on the river. When the third club fell on the board, you should have realized he might have the flush. Did you make a wise decision when you bet on the river?
Consider the possibilities: If he had anything less than a big pair, he most likely would have folded when you bet on the river; so your bet would have gone for naught. If he had connected with a flush and believed he had your hand beaten, he was bound to raise.
After all, a check-raise is a typical – and quite acceptable – deceptive strategy to build the pot. The only hand he might have just called your bet on the river was a big/medium pair.
You had little to gain by betting on the river – at most one big bet. But you had the potential to lose two big bets; and you did indeed.
So, readers, what’s your opinion?
“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].