In this weeks article I just want to play through a hand that I played recently at $10-$20 heads up. My opponent had been very aggressive and had been trying to move me off pots with check raises and pressure betting. But I already had a good angle on his game after ghosting him a couple of times.
In this hand I have the K-6 and raise to $20 from the small blind (button) and my opponent calls the extra $10 putting $40 in the pot. They had been three betting liberally pre-flop but sometimes would look to play trickily post flop. The flop came 5-9-4 giving me nothing but an overcard and some backdoor draws.
My opponent bets so now I raise to $20. Folding is not a bad play here in many situations because you have nothing but when our opponent is really aggressive then how can you be sure that they have hit the flop? They know that I am not likely to have hit this flop either so their weak lead cannot be trusted too much. If you play heads up games and are folding too much in raised pots on the flop then you are just going to encourage your opponents to bet and raise you more and your play is too weak against this type of player.
Even if they have paired the five or the four then you have six outs to beat that hand. Only if they have flopped top pair are you left drawing thin. So I do not want to lose the initiative here or at the very least be pushed from the pot as early as this. So the choice is now between calling and raising. I would tend to call this if my opponent was not as aggressive simply because I would be facing a pair all too frequently rather than thin air.
But my backdoor draws will also provide me with a few extra outs as well as there are numerous turn cards that will provide me with added draws if I am indeed behind. Instead of slowing him down with my raise, he re-raises again to $30. Is he trying to prove a point or does he really have a hand this time? I decide to slow down and pay respect to his line of play and can call getting odds of almost nine to one. With $100 (minus the rake) in the pot, the turn card is the 7 giving me a straight draw to go with my overcard and other potential outs.
He bets out on the turn on a board of 5-9-4-7 and this represents a chance to raise here and possibly take this pot without a showdown and I am still not 100% certain that my opponent has a hand that can take heat based on their previous history.
But on this occasion it would appear that I am wrong and they do indeed have something because they re-raise to $60 and now it would appear that I have to improve as my opponent must be putting me on some sort of made hand to make this play because of the way that I have played. So I call the $20 and get lucky on the river when the 8 falls. They check, I bet $20 and get called and win the pot.
A quick look at his hand revealed that he had the 9-7. He had flopped top pair after all which was actually rather fortunate for him given the information that I had on him and the context of the game. If the river had not been so lucky for me then I would have paid off his top pair hand very well but that is the nature of the beast with heads up encounters against tough opponents. He then makes two pair on the turn and then gets unlucky on the river.
But these situations happen all the time in heads up games, your aggressive opponent really flops a hand and then plays it no differently to when they have little or no hand. But when they are betting and raising light then the line of play that I took puts an awful lot of pressure on them when they have missed the flop and as we have seen, the escape hatch of my outs both direct and backdoor still let me take pots down and you get to win a lot of pots with aggressive lines of play like this against decent players.
As a final comment on this hand I think that his river check is bad as there is value in betting his two pair here even with me only needing one card for a straight. If he checks then I will not bluff at this pot after the betting sequence that he has just demonstrated but having said that then he may not be aware that I am thinking like this. His check does not expose his hand to a raise and picks off all desperation bluffs but there is still more value in betting given the play. As usual I will be available through the forum to answer any questions.
Carl “The Dean” Sampson can also be found playing free poker